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Israeli regime attacks Vatican neutrality

Not interested in carrying on a public mudslinging match with the pope, the Foreign Ministry did not respond to a sharp Vatican rebuttal Thursday to Israel's protest that Pope Benedict XVI did not include attacks in Israel recently when condemning world terrorism.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel would not comment on the Vatican statement that said it "has not always been possible to follow every attack against Israel with a public declaration of condemnation."

One of the reasons, according to the Vatican's unusually long and strident statement, is 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 1,300 word statement added that "the Holy See cannot take lessons or instructions from any other authority on the tone and content of its statements."

The Vatican's statement, according to press reports, was prompted by an interview last Tuesday in The Jerusalem Post where senior Foreign Ministry official Nimrod Barkan said that Israel had for years quietly protested that John Paul had refrained from condemning attacks in Israel and was now going public with its protest in hopes that the new pope would change the policy.

"Since they never paid a price for the lack of a condemnation, they continued to do it. But if they understand we won't let this pass quietly, I assume they will change their ways," Barkan said.

He said he wasn't concerned that public protest would damage relations with Benedict, saying, "What could be worse than implying that it is okay to kill Jews?"

Barkan, the director of the Foreign Ministry's World Jewish Affairs Bureau, called Vatican Archbishop Pietro Sambi into his office last Monday to protest that the pope, who prayed for God to stop the "murderous hand" of terrorists, referred to the recent "abhorrent terrorist attacks" in Egypt, Britain, Turkey and Iraq, but left out the July 12 suicide bombing that killed five people in Netanya.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who issued Thursday's Vatican rebuttal, responded to Barkan's comment that previous popes refrained from condemning attacks in Israel by issuing a two-page list of the times John Paul condemned attacks against Jews and calling Barkan's accusations "groundless" and invented.

Jewish leaders on Friday urged the Vatican and Israel to tone down the rhetoric in the escalating dispute over papal pronouncements on terrorism, saying they feared the feud could do lasting damage to relations.

Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, said the dispute was "only damaging for both parties," adding that he hoped it would end quickly.

"As a religious leader, I am really worried about the escalating level of this debate and that we stop as soon as possible," he said.

Seymour Reich, who has been involved in Jewish-Vatican negotiations in the past, said both sides had "overreacted" and urged them to "take a deep breath and look at the bigger picture regarding Israel-Vatican relations and the Vatican's world Jewry relations."

Reich, who is past chairman of the New York-based International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, an umbrella group of major Jewish organizations, said he thought the issue would die down and that the pope's upcoming visit to a synagogue in Cologne would go ahead as planned.

He said he also didn't think the spat would affect celebrations this fall commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Vatican's "Nostra Aetate" declaration that revolutionized the Vatican's relations with Jews. In the document, the Vatican rejected anti-Semitism and the notion that Jews were collectively responsible for the death of Christ.

"'Nostra Aetate is a monumental event that will go ahead without any distractions," he said.


Jerusalem Post, "Israel wants truce with Vatican", 31 July 2005.

"The Insider" mailing list article, 30 July 2005.

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Tags: Israel, Vatican, neutral, Pope, Israel, Palestine, terrorism, Israeli, government, , conspiracy theories.

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