A “diplomatic embarrassment” has arisen following the refusal of Pope Francis I to meet with Israel’s prime minister at short notice. Benjamin Netanyahu’s office had already announced that a meeting would take place during his visit to Italy, reported Haaretz, but the pope has no plans in this regard.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met the Pope during his recent visit to Rome where he received a pen as a gift, with the wish that he will use it to sign a peace agreement with Israel.
According to Haaretz, the Vatican became aware of Netanyahu’s visit to Rome and his supposed meeting with Pope Francis through the media. “The Prime Minister’s Office worked hard to hold the meeting and to avoid any embarrassment but to no avail,” claimed the newspaper.
The Vatican informed Israel’s ambassador to Italy, Naor Gilon, on Sunday that the prime minister will not meet the Pope; Netanyahu’s advisors are said to be “outraged”. Gilon said that the Vatican protocol for meetings is very complex. “To arrange for such a meeting within a week is regarded as an insult, so it has never happened,” he explained.
Israel Radio reported that a new date for a meeting is to be set “as soon as possible”.