This week’s visit by Pope Benedict XVI to the Middle East has been controversial, but only partly due to the fact that he was once enrolled in the Hitler Youth movement as a young boy in World War II Germany.
Some in Israel felt that he should have undertaken a more personal mea culpa during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Centre. Others were more inclined to let that slide given his solemnly remorseful comments on the subject in the recent past.
During an interfaith dialogue at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Centre, the Pope exited the room after the Chief Islamic Judge of the Palestinian Authority, Sheikh Tamimi, launched into an anti-Israeli rant and called for Christians and Muslims to rise up together against the ‘murderous Israelis’.
In the West Bank today, Pope Benedict made it clear that he stood behind the establishment of a sovereign, independent Palestinian state. This was actually one of the least controversial moments of his trip because a majority of Israelis and Palestinians happen to feel the same way – as do most other people in the world.
But having the Pope advocate for a Palestinian state is not the same thing as Palestinians declaring their own state. And therein lies the rub. No one can declare independence on someone else’s behalf. It must be self-declared.
The main problem seems to be that the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, et al, cannot decide exactly where that state will be. A solid majority of these organisations appear to believe that a Palestinian state should be established not only in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but right across the entire UN-member state called Israel. And that simply won’t work.