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Foreign Ministry Strike May Postpone Pope

Intensifying strike threatens to make British PM Cameron's visit next week 'impossible,' as well as pope's first visit in May.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 3/7/2014, 12:43 PM

Pope Francis
Pope Francis
Reuters

An ongoing partial strike of the Foreign Ministry may make Pope Francis's first visit to Israel in May "impossible," according to Yigal Palmor, a spokesman of the ministry.

"Imminent planned visits by foreign leaders, including (British Prime Minister) David Cameron next week or the pope in May, will be complicated, and perhaps impossible," Palmor told AFP on Friday. The strike stepped up a notch on Tuesday, potentially shutting off the state to diplomatic visits.

Palmor, speaking as an employee and not representing the ministry as spokesman, noted "the leaders could come as tourists, but diplomats will not take care of logistics, protocol or the political dimension of these visits."

The pope announced his visit in January. In response to the strike the Vatican has clarified it has no plans to cancel the trip. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi noted the strike "is likely to cause complications in preparing for the trip. There's nothing more to it."

In February, Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a member of the Argentinian parliament and close friend of Pope Francis, reported that the pope intends to define himself as the "Che Guevera of the Palestinians" and support their "struggle and rights" during his visit, turning it into a propaganda tour.

As for Cameron, a delay next week would add insult to injury given that the British prime minister already delayed his planned Israel visit in mid-February to deal with massive flooding in England.

Cameron was scheduled to speak at the Knesset next Wednesday, in what would have been his first visit to the Jewish state since taking office in 2010.