The Israeli government made a decision to prohibit the leader of the Palestinian national administration, Yasser Arafat, from visiting Bethlehem on January 6, where he intended to participate in arrangements timed to the celebrate the Orthodox Christmas.
The Israeli government prohibited Arafat to be present at the Christmas mass in Bethlehem on the eve of the Catholic Christmas.
The diplomatic activity did not settle down on Sunday: the USA, the European Union, and the United Nations were trying to convince Israel to reverse its decision. Arafat himself claimed that he would go to Bethlehem even if he is forced to go on foot. Even the Pope addressed to the Israeli premier Ariel Sharon with a request to let Arafat be present at the Christmas mass, but Sharon was inexorable. Sharon declared in very cynical phrases that Arafat had a lot of things to do regarding his administration, so he could not waste precious time for such trips. “We are not limiting Arafat’s right for religious freedom, as everybody knows he is not a Christian, a spokesman for the Israeli government stated. He simply has more important things to do now, for instance to carry out the arrests that he said he would do.”
This is about the arrests of the leaders of extremist groups and about the disarmament of their gunmen. Arafat claimed that Israel had offended him so much and that he would never forget it. The Muslim Arafat has not missed a Christmas mass since 1995, when Bethlehem started being controlled by the Palestinian administration.
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Dmitry Sudakov