Pope Francis apparently plans to heed Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's calls, and use his upcoming visit to Israel in May as a propaganda move for the Palestine Authority (PA) against Israel, according to reports in Makor Rishon.
The revelation comes from Rabbi Sergio Bergman, a member of the Argentinian parliament and close friend of Pope Francis, who claimed the pope intends to define himself as the "Che Guevera of the Palestinians" and support their "struggle and rights."
In late December it was similarly noted that the pope will not host "mass" prayer services in Jerusalem during his trip, but instead in PA-controlled Bethlehem as a show of support. The move is slightly ironic, as most Christians have reportedly been driven out of the city by Muslims, while Abbas has claimed "Jesus was Palestinian."
Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin (Likud Beytenu) spoke with Arutz Sheva about the subject, noting that the foreign ministry is preparing for the visit and keeping an eye on developments between representatives from the Vatican and the PA.
Elkin claims Rabbi Bergman's description is exaggerated, and that he doesn't anticipate the pope to reference communist revolutionary Che Guevera as a model, even as he stresses that all official visitors are asked to stay balanced and "not dance at two weddings."
"Our role is to ensure that there won't be an unusual gesture, and we have the tools to do so," remarked Elkin, noting that talks are ongoing with the Vatican, which understands Israel would oppose such statements.
Elkin further claims the Vatican has important interests that would prevent it from taking a blatantly anti-Israel stance as described by Rabbi Bergman, saying "they won't want to endanger those interests."
Last July, Elkin rejected reports that the foreign ministry was planning to sign an agreement transferring all or part of King David's Tomb, located on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, to the Vatican. Above the tomb is located a room in which the Catholic Church claims the "Last Supper" occurred.
Despite Elkin's assurances, Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, founder of the Temple Institute, warned in late January that the pope's visit may be timed for exactly such a transfer of ownership to occur, referencing the 2008 agreement by the government to relinquish control of the historic Russian Compound buildings in Jerusalem to Russian control. The offices of the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel vacated the premises in 2011.