- The Washington Times - Monday, May 11, 2009

JERUSALEM | Pope Benedict XVI began his sensitive trip to Israel Monday with a denunciation of anti-semitism and an immediate call for a Palestinian state.

His remarks looked certain to upset hard-liners in the Jewish state, many of whom are suspicious of the German pontiff.

“The hopes of countless men, women and children for a more secure and stable future depend on the outcome of negotiations for peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” Benedict said on arrival in Tel Aviv following three days in Jordan at the start of his tour of the Holy Land.

“I plead with those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties so that both people may live in peace in a homeland of their own within secure and internationally recognized borders,” he said.

His remarks reflected diplomatic orthodoxy, supported by the United States, United Nations, European Union and, until recently, the government of Israel.



But they clashed with the new right-wing Israeli government which has not endorsed the “two state solution,” pending a policy review to be announced later this month.

There was no immediate sign in Israel of the displays of mass public affection that marked the hugely successful visit here in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

Many Israelis are known to be hostile or suspicious of Benedict because of his recent rehabilitation of a holocaust-denying bishop.

Israeli security personnel kept the pope separated from the general public on his arrival later in Jerusalem.

In his first speech in Israel, Benedict also described anti-semitism as “totally unacceptable.” Relations between the Vatican and Israel remain sensitive due to centuries-old tensions between the Roman Catholic Church and Judaism.

“Sadly anti-semitism continues to rear its ugly head in many parts of the world,” the pope said. “This is totally unacceptable.”

“Every effort must be made to combat anti-semitism wherever it is found, and to promote respect and esteem for the members of every people, tribe, language and nation across the globe.”

The pope also sought to reassure his hosts before visiting the Yad Vashem memorial to victims of Nazi death camps.

“Tragically, the Jewish people have experienced the terrible circumstances of ideologies that deny the fundamental dignity of every human person,” he said. “I will have the opportunity to honor the memory of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Shoah and to pray that humanity will never again witness a crime of such magnitude.” Shoah is the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

The pope’s armored limousine swept him from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport in a convoy of 28 vehicles to the official residence of the Papal Nuncio on the Mount of Olives, where he rested before meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres.

There has been persistent speculation in Israeli media that Mr. Peres would discuss with the pontiff plans that Mr. Peres and moderate Israeli politicians have been promoting to offer some of the holy sites in Jerusalem to Christian Churches to administer.

Israeli diplomatic sources in Rome confirmed that such a plan is under consideration but the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz reported that some more hardline Israeli cabinet ministers oppose the idea.

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