Ahead of Prayer Summit, Pope Sees Chance for Peace - but Peres Wary of Palestinian Unity

Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is a 'contradiction that wouldn't last,' Israeli president says as he lands in Rome for historic ceremony in Vatican with Palestinian President Abbas.

Peres arrives in Rome.
Peres arrives in Rome ahead of his visit at the Vatican, June 8, 2014. GPO

Messages of both hope and derision emanated from Rome ahead of a joint prayer meeting with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, as Pope Francis waxed optimistic about Middle East peace on Twitter and President Shimon Peres blasted the new Palestinian government merely hours before the ceremony.

Peres is set to attend together with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas an intricately planned service that will include prayers and meditations by Jews, Christians and Muslims. Incidentally, the historic ceremony will also be the first time Islamic prayer will be heard in Catholicism's global hub, Al Arabiya noted.

Upon his arrival in Rome, Peres remarked on the newly inaugurated Palestinian cabinet, backed by the long estranged Fatah and Hamas, saying the reconciliation between the Palestinian movements is a "contradiction that wouldn't last," according to the Times of Israel.

“One is in favor of terror and one is against terror. That won’t work,” Peres said. “You can’t have water and fire in the same glass.”

Fatah and Hamas signed a reconciliation agreement in April, culminating last week in a jointly-backed Palestinian unity government. While the moderate Fatah has renounced violence against Israel, Hamas still pursues violent struggle and is considered a terrorist organization by Israel.

Though critical of Palestinian politics, Peres was not utterly dismissive of the peace prayer he was about to attend, saying that though it does not have the significance of political negotiations, "it has a lot of importance in the broader sense of the attempt to bring peace.”

In contrast to Peres' careful statement, Pope Francis said in a tweet posted Saturday that "Prayer is all-powerful. Let us use it to bring peace to the Middle East and peace to the world," appending with the hashtag #weprayforpeace.

The pope's tweet, retweeted and favorited thousands of times, is perhaps a turn from previous comments from the Vatican, which said Friday it does not have unrealistic expectations about Sunday's summit, and that "No one thinks peace will break out" after the meeting.