Vatican-Israel terror battle grows

UPI Story

Carried By Israeli Global News

July 30, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI is immersed in the first big diplomatic crisis of his papacy with Israel.

The row erupted after the Vatican issued an unusually blunt statement criticizing Israel for its response to Palestinian attacks, The Guardian newspaper in Britain reported Friday.

The Vatican's stinging rebuke came after Israel demanded to know why the Pope did not refer to a Palestinian suicide bombing in remarks he made on Sunday condemning terrorist attacks in London and Sharm el-Sheikh.

In a 1,300-word communique, the Vatican said: "It has not always been possible to follow every attack against Israel with a public declaration of condemnation."
It said one reason for this was that "the attacks on Israel were sometimes followed by immediate Israeli reactions not always compatible with the norms of international law ... It would thus be impossible to condemn the [terrorist operations] and pass over the [Israeli retaliation] in silence".

The statement also expressed irritation with the reaction of the Israeli government to the Pope's original comments and said it was not prepared to "take lessons or instructions from any other authority on the content and direction of its own statements".

Israel has repeatedly demanded that other governments recognize Palestinian attacks as part of an international Islamist campaign against western democracy, therefore implicitly not connected to its own actions in the occupied territories.

The Israeli foreign ministry called in the Vatican's envoy on Monday to complain that the Pope, in condemning terrorist attacks in several countries, had "deliberately" omitted mention of a July 12 suicide bombing in the coastal city of Netanya in which five Israelis died. The Pope's spokesman replied that the pontiff had explicitly indicated he was referring to all the recent attacks.