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Israel’s Roman Catholic leader criticized the state for asserting that Palestinians must recognize it as a Jewish state. Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah said in his annual Christmas message Wednesday that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has unleashed the “forces of evil” throughout the Middle East and that it was Israel’s job to fix it. “God made this land for all three of us, so a suitable state is one who can adapt itself to the vocation of this land,” Sabbah said.

Sabbah’s criticism drew ire from Orthodox Jewish groups. “We hope that Catholic Church officials will publicly denounce these remarks by Patriarch Sabbah, whose words are as painful as they are slanderous,” said Rabbi Tzvi Weinreb, the executive vice president of the Orthodox Union. “Under Israeli rule, each Abrahamic faith has full access and control over their holy shrines.

“We are mystified at the suggestion by Patriarch Sabbah that Israel, which has lived each day of its existence under siege and at war, should be the party at fault in his eyes when each day men, women and children are under rocket attack, living in fear of suicide bombings and sniper attacks, and struggling against radical regimes that seek to literally wipe it off the map.”

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