david welch 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
The nation will go to the polls on Tuesday, and already by Wednesday top US diplomatic officials will be here trying to get a new lay of the land.
Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams and Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Welch are scheduled to arrive Wednesday for three days of talks here and in the Palestinian Authority.
US diplomatic officials said that now that the elections were coming to a close, the visibility of the US diplomatic role would increase. For the last few months the US was hesitant about taking too visible a role, concerned it would be interpreted as intervention in the election campaign.
"Welch and Abrams were obviously looking to come, but the election season was obviously not the time," one official said.
He said they would deal with issues such as how to aid the PA without helping Hamas and how best to manage the border crossings into the Gaza Strip.
James Kunder, the assistant administrator for Asia and the Near East at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), arrived Wednesday for a two-day visit to "familiarize" himself with the aid situation in the PA.
His visit comes as the US is reevaluating all its aid programs to the Palestinians, and looking for ways to funnel money to them while bypassing the Hamas-led PA. One US diplomatic official said the US was adamant that no assistance would flow through a PA-controlled Hamas.
Regarding the crossing points, diplomatic officials said the US had become convinced that Karni was the only viable solution to providing long-term humanitarian assistance to the PA.
In a related development, Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn is scheduled to arrive Monday for three days of meetings. He has been a key player in trying to broker arrangements between Israel and the PA at the border crossings.
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, meanwhile, phoned Paul Wolfowitz, Wolfensohn's successor as president of the World Bank, and asked for the bank's involvement in encouraging poultry growers in Gaza to immediately destroy their infected fowl. Livni's call came amid growing Israeli concern that without international intervention - both in compensating the farmers and physically helping them destroy the poultry - the necessary steps to stop the spread of bird flu would not be taken.