Pope Francis.
Pope Francis waves after his general audience in St. Peter's square at the Vatican, September 18, 2013. Photo by AFP
Text size

The announcement made six days ago that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would arrive in Rome to sit with Pope Francis has turned into a diplomatic embarrassment for Israel, after it emerged that the meeting was never scheduled to take place. 

The Holy See never had a plan to meet with Netanyahu during his visit in Rome, despite a statement made by the Prime Minister's Office to the contrary.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met with the Pope during a recent trip to Rome, and even received a pen as a gift that he said he hoped to use to sign a peace agreement with Israel.

Netanyahu also wanted to meet with the Pope and reporters were even informed that he is interested in discussing the Pope's planned visit to Israel, despite the fact that no specific date has been set yet.

Senior officials in Jerusalem said that when the Prime Minister's Office made the announcement last Wednesday of the supposed meeting, no actual meeting had been set.

The Vatican found out from media outlets about Netanyahu's arrival in Rome and that an apparent meeting was scheduled. In recent days the PMO has scrambled to avoid the embarrassment and somehow find a way to make the meeting to take place.

The issue even reached National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror, who exerted heavy pressure on foreign minister director general Raphael Barak and Israel's ambassador to the Vatican Zion Evrony.

Netanyahu's office even tried to go around the foreign ministry and Evrony and reach the Vatican another route, but to no avail. On Sunday, the Vatican officially informed the Israeli ambassador that Netanyahu would not meet with the Pope.

Ambassador Evrony updated Netanyahu's advisers, who were furious over the matter. Evrony tried to explain the Vatican protocol is highly complex and conservative and a request for a meeting only a week in advance is unheard of and even insulting. Despite trying to explain, Netanyahu's advisers gave him an undeserved hazing.

The Prime Minister Office's said in a statement: "As opposed to what was claimed, a meeting was planned this week between the prime minister and the Pope during his trip in Italy, but due to a scheduling conflict, it was postponed."