Pope arrives in Israel calling for two-state solution; Next week's Obama-Netanyahu talks previewed; Japanese Opposition leader resigns; hundreds of thousands flee Swat Valley; and more
Top of the Agenda: Pope Israel Trip
Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Israel today on what is likely to be the most sensitive stop on his tour of the Middle East. In his initial speech upon landing, the Pope "pleaded" with regional leaders (Ynet) to find a "just" two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He also urged fighting anti-semitism in his speech. In the days to come, the pope will meet with both Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the latter of whom has yet to state his support for a two-state solution, and with Palestinian leaders.
The Pope's talks could be overshadowed, however, by tensions between the Vatican and Israel. The BBC notes that the pontiff has angered some in Israel by readmitting to the Church a bishop who denied the extent of the Holocaust, and by pushing to beatify Pope Pius XII, who led the Roman Catholic Church during World War II and whom many Jews believe did not do enough to prevent the persecution of Jews.
Whatever happens on the Pope's trip, it will set the stage for critical meetings next week between Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama--meetings which many observers say could set the tone of diplomacy in the region during Obama's tenure.
- This Backgrounder surveys relations between the Vatican and Israel.
- A news analysis in Haaretz says the Pope faces an "impossible balancing act" given the scrutiny he will face on his tour of the Holy Land.
- Looking forward to next week's meetings between Obama and Netanyahu, Jordanian President King Abdullah tells the Times of London that Obama must make a firm push for peace now--or the region will likely face another war in the next year or two.
- CFR's Elliott Abrams, writing in the Wall Street Journal, says the Obama administration's meetings with Netanyahu will have profound implications for the future of relations with Iran.
PACIFIC RIM: Japan Opposition Leader to Quit
Ichiro Ozawa, the leader of Japan's opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan, announced today that he will resign (Asahi) over a scandal involving allegedly illegal political donations.
CHINA: China confirmed its first case of swine flu (Xinhua) after an intense effort to keep the virus out of the country.
N.KOREA: Officials from Seoul and the UN's nuclear watchdog group are meeting today (Yonhap) to discuss how to move forward with respect to North Korea's nuclear programme.