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Israel Rejects Pope’s Statement on Jerusalem

A call by Pope John Paul II for a “special internationally guaranteed status” for Jerusalem “so that one side or the other cannot place it under discrimination” has been rejected by Israel.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yosef Amihoud told reporters Friday that “Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people throughout history and will remain Israel’s capital forever. For the first time in history, all believers in Jerusalem can enjoy full, free access to holy places and freedom of worship.”

The Pope made the suggestion about Jerusalem in a comprehensive apostolic letter addressed to Catholics in Israel and to all people of the Middle East. The letter was released last Thursday as Roman Catholics around the world began ceremonies commemorating the death of Jesus in Jerusalem.

Noting that Jerusalem was a holy city for Christianity, Islam and Judaism, the Pope called for a lasting and “just solution” to the status of the city, which Israel declared its “united and eternal capital” in 1980. He said he was “convinced the lack of efforts to find a just solution to the question of Jerusalem would only compromise the search for a peaceful solution to the Middle East conflict.”

In 1980, when the Knesset enacted the Jerusalem Law, which affirmed that Jerusalem was Israel’s united and eternal capital, the Vatican criticized the move and said that Israeli guarantees of free access for all to the city’s holy places were insufficient.

SECURITY FOR ISRAEL, HOMELAND FOR PALESTINIANS

The Pope, in his apostolic letter, said that in addition to maintaining Jerusalem as an open city, a Palestinian homeland and security for Israel were fundamental requirements for a lasting Mideast peace.

“For the Jewish people who live in the State of Israel … we must invoke the desired security and just tranquility that is the prerogative of every nation,” the Pope wrote. “The Palestinian people, which have their historic roots in that land and for tens of years have been dispersed, have the natural right, out of justice, to again find a homeland and to be able to live in peace and tranquility with all other people of the region.”

In 1980, then Israeli Premier Menachem Begin invited the Pope to visit Israel. Vatican sources said over the weekend that the possibility of a visit in the near future was extremely remote. In 1982, the Pope met with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat.

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