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PA Tries to Use Pope’s Visit for Control in Eastern Jerusalem

Pope Benedict’s ‘Bridge for Peace’ tour was preceded by a dispute as the PA claimed control over media coverage in eastern Jerusalem.
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 5/11/2009, 10:33 AM

Israel News Photo: Flash 90

The Palestinian Authority attempted to seize control of the "Bridge for Peace” visit by Pope Benedict XVI by claiming authority over media coverage of his tour in Jerusalem. It arranged a meeting in the Ambassador Hotel in eastern Jerusalem for journalists covering the visit, but Public Security Minister Yitzchak Aharonovitch (Yisrael Beiteinu) promptly issued an order to close the hotel.

A police order to the hotel was based on the law that prohibits the PA from operating in the capital. Law enforcement officers confiscated documents at the hotel, and no violence or serious resistance was reported.

PA officials maintained that the government order will not stop it from taking responsibility for welcoming the Pope and supervising media coverage in Jerusalem's Old City, arguing that arrangements for the tour are its responsibility.

“Eastern Jerusalem is our responsibility, and we are supposed to take care of all matters there, including the Pope’s visit,” officials told the Hebrew-language web site of the Yediot Acharonot newspaper.

The PA is expecting the Pope to encourage a resumption of talks between Israel and the PA, which wants the discussions to be based on Israel’s accepting in principle a new PA country on all of Judea, Gaza and Samaria, with its capital in eastern Jerusalem.

The Pope’s visit is highly politicized, partly because of his plan to visit Arabs in eastern Jerusalem and in Bethlehem who are living near the separation barrier, which the PA and most international media call the Apartheid Wall.

He also will arrive in Sakhnin, the Arab city in the Galilee whose mayor earlier this year led massive demonstrations highlighted by anti-Israeli incitement during the Operation Cast Lead counterterrorist campaign.

Click for complete coverage of the Pope Israel trip.