Pope Benedict XVI on Wednesday fulfilled the bleak expectations of many Israelis when he turned a visit to Bethlehem into a rallying cry for the creation of a Palestinian Arab state.
Standing beside Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, Benedict fully threw his weight behind the Palestinians in their quest for "a sovereign Palestinian homeland in the land of your forefathers, secure and at peace with its neighbors, within internationally-recognized borders."
Abbas capped the event by presenting the pope with a piece of concrete from the nearby Israeli security barrier built to prevent Palestinian terrorism, but which the Palestinians hold up as a sign of what they call Israeli apartheid. By comparison, Israeli President Shimon Peres presented the pope with a "nano Bible" - the entirety of the Hebrew scriptures etched on a pinhead-sized silicon chip.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called the pope's visit and his speech on Wednesday a clear call to end the "Israeli occupation."