.- During a meeting with his Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI will visit Israel in May.
He did not name specific dates for the trip.
"This May, we will receive a special visitor, Pope Benedict XVI," Olmert said. "President Shimon Peres will accompany him to various sites in Israel."
"We hope that the Pope's visit would be conducted in the proper atmosphere and be as successful as the previous Pope's visit," he added.
Pope John Paul II conducted a successful visit to the Holy Land in 2000, as part of the Jubilee Year.
Pope Benedict also mentioned on Thursday he would go to Israel, but also did not mention any date.
As consequence of the recent Israeli elections, it is very likely that Pope Benedict will find a hard-liner as new Prime Minister. Last Tuesday’s elections ended with a statistical tie between Mrs. Tzipi Livni of the Kadima party and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, a proponent of a much harder line against the Palestinians.
Livni has rejected joining Netanyahu in a “government of unity,” and has announced her decision to either lead the government in coalition with minor parties or become the opposition of a Likud-led government.
Kadima won 28 seats in the 120-member parliament to Likud's 27, but a strong nationalist bloc that unexpectedly emerged in the vote as a consequence of the conflicts in Gaza seems to have given Netanyahu the edge.