Papal trip to Israel encounters mounting difficulties
Employees of Israel's diplomatic service still on strike bringing all Foreign Affairs activities to a grinding halt. Cameron's visit has already been cancelled, planned trips by Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres also at risk.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews / Agencies) - An ongoing strike by employees of the Israeli diplomatic service risks becoming entrenched and could bring the activity of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to a grinding halt. British Prime Minister David Cameron was due to visit this week but his trip has already been cancelled as has a planned speech to the UN to denounce shipments of Iranian weapons and future engagements are also at risk, such as President Shimon Peres trip to Austria, scheduled for the end of this month, that of prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Colombia and Mexico in April and Pope Francis' trip in May.

Because of the strike - which could become a general strike, warn unions - the diplomatic missions are not issuing documents or diplomatic passports.  Neither are they sending reports, not even to the intelligence services, or interacting with states and international institutions on political or economic issues. And the government can not even manage to appoint Ambassadors.

At the origin of the long dispute, which last week seemed to have been resolved thanks to mediation between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of Finance, are economic issues, but also the restructuring of the diplomatic service. Under the planned reform officials would be assigned to overseas locations according to the dictates of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Currently, diplomats are forced to accept only the first appointment, whatever or wherever it is.  The reform would also limit the duration of positions based at the Ministry itself to four years and make foreign missions a prerequisite for promotions.

Regarding the visit of Pope Francis, March 4, at the resumption of the strike, there was talk of the possibility that the visit would have to be canceled. On March 7, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office stated that the trip "remains on schedule", though, he added, the strikes of the diplomatic service in Israel could create difficulties in its preparation.

On March 10 , however, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Israel, Igal Palmor, said the Vatican delegation that was due to arrive in Israel to prepare for the Pope's visit only visited Jordan and the West Bank.

To date it seems nothing has been finalized.