It’s in full harmony with the international process of delegitimization of Israel that, after the six resolutions the United Nations voted upon this past Friday against Israel—approved by 156 countries (feeling no shame against eight honest ones) that once again overwhelmingly denied Israel’s sovereignty and the Jews’ historical relationship with Jerusalem—came Pope Francis’s meeting with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Rome on Monday.
And there, with all due respect, he acted like a typical politician.
In other words, Pope Francis’s chosen path has simply been deprived of a sense of responsibility towards history; instead, he related only to immediate consensus—the most obvious, simplest of all lies, completely outside of any realistic analysis, a pointlessly ceremonial act of homage to the so-called “Palestinian cause.”
Wouldn’t it have been better for him to veer towards a path as magnificent and historic as Pope John XXIII’s ban on anti-Semitism or Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Western Wall, with his subsequent recognition of the State of Israel? Why not, on this occasion, ask Abbas to embark on a real move towards reconciliation by recognizing the right of Jews to their state and their millenary capital? This, by the way, would have refreshed the Palestinians’ wishes, if this was what he wished. But that didn’t happen.
In his meeting with Abbas, Pope Francis aligned himself, according to the Holy See press releases that were issued afterwards, with its classic positions, just those that have led nowhere but to the choice of delegitimizing Israel. In the face of the immense changes assailing the Middle East, we would have expected something different, but the word “peace” remained, repeated like an old song—naked, impoverished, consumed. What does “reactivating the peace process” truly mean? Who’s going to reactivate it? To accomplish that, Abbas should at least accept to discuss this and explain why he has refused to engage in peace talks for years. Moreover, he should abandon the fierce, defamatory and delegitimizing incitement that denies Israel’s very existence, along with his absurd accusations that Israel is engaging in ethnic cleansing and is an apartheid state.
The obstacles to peace are his refusals, his exaltation of terrorism and the determination to continue to provide salaries to imprisoned terrorists and to the families of the dead ones.
Pope Francis expressed his hope for a two-state solution. But would it not be better to recognize that today those states would have to be three, given the fact that the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza hate each other more than they hate Israel? There is no possibility that Hamas will submit to Abbas, as it works very hard to destroy the P.A. leader who works day and night to destroy it.
With the benevolent smile Abbas puts on when he meets the Europeans leaders, including ever wider for the pope, it is useful to remember the words he frequently uses at every diplomatic occasion (like at the United Nations), which are always extreme, harsh, definitive, and result in condemnation of Israel and the incitement of Jew-hatred. What is his request of “peace” about; where is it hidden? Israel is full of political groups, songs, ambitions that long for peace, suggest peace. Where is this on the Palestinian side? I have never seen even a hint of that. Anyone who even thinks about peace with Israel is condemned as a traitor in Palestinian eyes.
Has Pope Francis read what is taught in school textbooks used in Ramallah? Has he even seen a Palestinian television program for children?
The P.A. appears to be moderate only because Hamas is a worldwide recognized terrorist organization. Only this past Monday, Hamas sentenced six people to death for “collaborating” with Israel. And perhaps the current pope is not well-informed about the extent to which Christians in Gaza are suffering at the hands of Hamas.
And, finally Jerusalem: Is it so difficult—like the Bible, the Gospels and the Muslims themselves before radicalization—to remember the link between the Jews and their quintessential city? Is it so hard for the church? Why, if Jesus was a Jewish boy, wasn’t he was faithful in his pilgrimages to Jerusalem as any other Jew?
The allusion in the expression used in the Vatican communiqué that calls for “recognizing and preserving the identity and universal value of the Holy City for the three Abrahamic religions” is simply a reminder against the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In Jerusalem, full respect for all religions is already practiced and guaranteed. The Temple Mount, however, is managed by Muslims, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is overseen by Christians. Is full access a given in those places?
And if the city were to be divided, wouldn’t everyone else be as well?
Journalist Fiamma Nirenstein was a member of the Italian Parliament (2008-13), where she served as vice president of the Committee on Foreign Affairs in the Chamber of Deputies, served in the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, and established and chaired the Committee for the Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism. A founding member of the international Friends of Israel Initiative, she has written 13 books, including “Israel Is Us” (2009). Currently, she is a fellow at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Translation by Amy Rosenthal.