Pope Francis Invites Israeli, Palestinian Leaders to Vatican to Talk Peace — And They Said Yes
Everyone's favorite Vatican City dweller arrived at the wall separating Palestine from Israel on Sunday with a big invitation. Pope Francis asked Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the Vatican for peace talks — an invitation they've reportedly accepted.
The pope made the remarks in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, where Christians believe Jesus was born.
In this, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, I wish to invite you, President Mahmoud Abbas, together with President Shimon Peres, to join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace. ... I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer.
Aw, Pope Francis. So inviting. So cozy. Don't you just kinda wanna have a cup of tea with him or something? Oh, also in cuddly Pope Francis news: On Saturday, he told a Jordan crowd "I want to hug all of you," according to The New York Times.
Both Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, and Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, have agreed to go. But it's worth noting that Peres' presence in the Vatican will be quite different from that of, say, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli president occupies a mostly ceremonial position, and Peres isn't in a position to negotiate with foreign presidents unless Netanyahu explicitly gives him the go-ahead — which he's unlikely to do.
Notably, Pope Francis arrived in Palestine from Jordan, rather than traveling through Israel. At the dividing wall in the West Bank, which was spray-painted with statements including "Free Palestine," "Bethlehem Look Like Warsaw Ghetto," and "Pope, we need some 1 to speak about justice,” the pope leaned his head against the wall in prayer. The Guardian noted that all previous popes had gone through the Israeli city of Tel Aviv to get to the West Bank and spoke with Hanan Ashrawi, an official with the Palestine Liberation Organization, who said the pope's chosen route was symbolic.
The fact that he is coming straight from Jordan to Bethlehem without going through Israel is a tacit recognition of a Palestinian state.
On his trip, Pope Francis has made other moves that suggest he's sympathetic to the Palestinian point of view, referencing "the State of Palestine" — Israelis say Palestine isn't a state — and called the stalemate between Israel and Palestine "increasingly unacceptable."