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Israel’s hopes for the Pope

    Pope Francis will arrive in Jerusalem on Sunday evening for a 27-hour visit and all that Israel will be hoping for is an uneventful trip.

    Israel will welcome declarations on the importance of the Holy Land and general statements on the church’s yearning for peace. But it is concerned that the Pope may delve into the politics of the failed peace process.

    A possible problem could arise from the Pontiff’s language. The Vatican already uses the term “State of Palestine” instead of West Bank, a nod to the Palestinians’ statehood bid. If the Pope makes a point of using this term in his orations, Israel and the US will see it as an attempt to push Palestinian unilateralism to centre stage.

    In a sense, the timing of the trip could not be worse for Israel. With the collapse of the peace process so recent, the Pope will be under heavy pressure from some within the church to point fingers or make bold statements.

    In another sense the timing can be seen as ideal. The Pope will commemorate 50 years since the turning point in relations between the Vatican and Orthodox churches. This could divert attention from the politics.

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