debkafile report: The rank of delegations to a possible Jerusalem funeral is under intense discussion. It will be a pointer to Ehud Olmert’s standi

The state department spokesman Sean McCormack sharply dismissed as inappropriate media questions put to him Friday, Jan 7, on whether Condoleezza Rice had cancelled her visits to Indonesia and Australia in order to be available for a possible funeral – should the worst happens and the Israeli prime minister fails to recover.
Saturday, Sharon underwent another CT test while still in a medically-induced coma and in critical condition.
debkafile reports that the correspondents’ questions were prompted by preparations known to be going forward in Jerusalem and in other world capitals for the attendance of a large number of world leaders. The convergence of the world media represented by top correspondents camped outside Hadassah hospital is not a favorable augur; their reports are far more pessimistic than the local coverage. A reporter for the Arabic TV Al Jazeera said bluntly that the Israeli telephone company Bezek had been instructed to lay more optic fibers to expand the communication network for the use of high-ranking international delegations and their security teams in the coming week. Jerusalem’s hotels have filled up with security personnel from the US, Britain, France and Germany and other countries.
Heads of state and government are expected to lead most foreign delegations. debkafile‘s Washington sources report that much will depend on George W. Bush, who has not yet decided whether he will head the American delegation.
In recent months, Israel has not topped his administration’s strategic agenda for the Middle East. Ariel Sharon’s public support for the road map was perceived as his most important contribution to Washington’s interests, even though the ailing prime minister’s unilateral disengagement policy superseded that blueprint. There is nothing in the road map about a unilateral pull-back from the Gaza Strip which is oriented on dialogue with the Palestinians. But anyway, for the moment, the Bush administration is far more focused on US-French moves to unseat Syrian president Bashar Assad. Washington’s helpers in the region are Saudi king Abdullah and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. Israel plays no role in this drive.
Nonetheless, the US president may decide to repeat Bill Clinton’s gesture in 1995 when he attended the funeral of the late Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin as an act of leave-taking from a personal friend.
Bush’s decision will guide fellow world leaders. If the US delegation is led by the secretary of state, some other countries will be satisfied with sending foreign ministers. This will in no way detract from the high respect Ariel Sharon has earned worldwide, but rather denote a diplomatically cautious attitude towards his successor until he has had time to demonstrate the authority to step into very large shoes.

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