Pope Lands in Israel, Calls for Free Palestine

Pontiff steps into controversy immediately upon arrival
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted May 11, 2009 4:44 AM CDT
Pope Benedict XVI gestures yesterday during his visit to Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the site where some think that Jesus was baptized by St. John the Baptist.   (AP Photo/Pier Paolo Cito)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Israel today and immediately called for the creation of an independent Palestine, reports AP. The pontiff also vowed to "honor the memory" of the 6 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Benedict's support for a free Palestine puts him at odds with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is opposed to a two-state solution.

"I plead with all those responsible to explore every possible avenue in the search for a just resolution of the outstanding difficulties, so that both peoples may live in peace in a homeland of their own, within secure and internationally recognized borders," the pope said shortly at the Tel Aviv airport. Although the pope refrained from using the word "state," his statement reaffirmed earlier Vatican support for an independent Palestine.