Pope Francis found himself at the centre of a propaganda war between Israel and the Palestinians yesterday after agreeing to visit a memorial to victims of terrorism, following his prayer at the West Bank security barrier, reports The Tablet.
Israeli officials were reportedly alarmed on Sunday night after Francis approached the controversial security barrier in Bethlehem and prayed, resting his head on the wall, a gesture that could become the defining image of the Pope's three-day Middle East trip.
In an apparent battle over imagery the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netenyahu, persuaded the Pope to make an unscheduled stop at the Memorial To The Victims of Terror on Mount Zion yesterday, after laying a wreath at the tomb of Theodore Herzl, the founder of modern Zionism.
Mr Netanyahu showed Francis a panel with the names of 85 victims of an attack in Buenos Aires on a Jewish community centre in 1994 . The Pope briefly laid his hand on the memorial and condemned terrorism at the site, calling it 'evil'.
Mr Netenyahu later issued a statement confirming that he had asked the Pope to make the stop and that he had briefed him on the advantages of the security barrier, which Israel claims has prevented suicide bombings.
'I want to thank the Pope for accepting my request to visit this memorial,' he said. 'I explained to the Pope that the establishment of the barrier he visited yesterday has prevented many more victims of Palestinian terrror that continues to this very day and that Palestinian terrorists were planning and continue to plan.'
FULL STORY Pope embroiled in propaganda row between Israel and Palestine as Holy Land trip draws to a close (The Tablet)