For a diplomatic figure to stand up in Jerusalem and declare Israel's occupation of that city to be "illegal" is hardly newsworthy today. Such accusations flow freely from the Arab side of the dispute.
But this was not another ranting PLO leader. It was none other than the pope's own foreign minister, Archbishop Jean Louis Tauran. He was speaking to a symposium on the future of Jerusalem convened by the local Catholic leadership.
The speech was part of an October diplomatic tour of Israel and Egypt by Tauran. When questioned later about the statement, he replied that is what Vatican has always maintained.
For several decades, the Vatican has quietly presented the idea that Jerusalem should be an "international city," protected by "a special internationally guaranteed statute."
According to the pope's logic, no nation can have exclusive control of Jerusalem, since it really belongs to the whole world. It is home to the Jew, holy to the Muslim, and sacred to "Christianity."
In the Vatican's mind, Israel is only a bit player on the scene. Only a few million Jews claim religious roots in Jerusalem. The "big boys" are Roman Catholicism (representing Christianity) and Islam, each with a billion followers.
Now, with the Jewish Arab (Muslim) dispute heating up, the pope sees the opportunity to be the peace maker by placing Jerusalem under some international organization's control. No doubt that would be the United Nations where the Vatican maintains no small influence.
One thing is sure: The Vatican is no friend of the Jew. Over the centuries, Roman Catholicism has been the fountainhead of anti semitism. Ever since Jerusalem was leveled by the Romans in 70 AD, Rome has been enemy to the Jews, carrying out God's curse on them for rejecting their Messiah.
Now, as God has fulfilled his promise to gather them back home in the end time, Rome is quietly conspiring to deny them control of their temple site. The Vatican finally extended diplomatic relations with Israel just a few years ago. Over a hundred other nations were given this recognition before them.
Now, the Vatican's warmth is toward the Arab's side of the dispute. Atevery opportunity the Vatican badgers Israel to make more concessions to Arafat. Even the Jesuit educated U.S. president was engaged to pressure Netanyahu into continued concessions to the PLO.
But Israel fought a bitter battle for control of the other half of Jerusalem in 1967. She is determined to have political and civil control of the whole city and make it her capital. Arafat and the PLO are equally determined that at least the eastern half of the city will be the capital of a new Palestinian state. And the "woman which reigneth over the kings of the earth" wants it placed under her control.
In the next few months the world will witness a historic struggle over tiny Jerusalem. If war is averted, it will be because God gave us a little more time to get the gospel to the two billion deceived people who trust in Mohammed or the pope for salvation.