Foreign envoys to press Israel on peace process
German chancellor, US vice president, Republican presidential candidate, Russia's foreign minister and Britain's foreign secretary expected to visit Jerusalem this week. Diplomatic tsunami reflects international community's concern over escalation in region
A busy and stressful week packed with visits by foreign diplomats awaits Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The different envoys will try and exert pressure on Israel to uphold understandings reached at the Annapolis peace conference and refrain from engaging in an armed conflict in the Gaza Strip.
During the week Olmert is scheduled to host German Chancellor Angela Merkel as well as eight German ministers, Republican presidential candidate John McCain and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
US Vice President Dick Cheney will land in Israel next Saturday. Britain's Foreign Secretary David Miliband may also visit the country, if his schedule permits.
What has triggered this wave of high-profile visits is the growing concern in the international community over a possible escalation in Gaza and a potential IDF military operation that could have a devastating effect on the peace process.
The foreign nations are also worried regarding the humanitarian situation in the Strip following Israel's blockade on the area.
The diplomats are likely to press Israel over its recently-published decision to build some 2,000 new housing units in east Jerusalem and the West Bank settlements.
Israel denies follow-up to Annapolis in worksThe US believes that both Israel and the Palestinians were not doing enough to promote the diplomatic process. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week that neither side has done "nearly enough" to meet its obligations under a 2003 peace plan, making it difficult to sustain the US push to end the conflict. EU leaders echoed the sentiment during a Brussels conference this week.
Meanwhile, officials in Jerusalem rejected recent reports that a follow-up conference to the Annapolis peace summit was set to take place in Berlin in July and focus on the peace negotiations.
A senior official explained that the conference in question will concentrate on strengthening the Palestinian police, and on technical issues.