Bayit Yehudi denies 'boycott' of pope

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 25, 2014 21:55

Fewer than 10 ministers greeted Pope Francis, much fewer than US president Barack Obama in 2013.

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Pope Francis

Pope arrives at Ben-Gurion Airport. (photo credit:screenshot)

Ministers from across the political spectrum gave excuses Sunday for failing to show up at Ben-Gurion International Airport for the ceremony greeting Pope Francis.

Fewer than 10 ministers greeted the pope, much fewer than US president Barack Obama, who was greeted by every single cabinet minister when he came to Israel in March 2013.

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Among the ministers absent were Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, who is abroad; Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who had meetings in the Treasury; and Religious Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, whose associates said he was engaged in "ministry business" at the Economy and Trade Ministry.

There noticeably was not a single minister from Bayit Yehudi at the ceremony. But sources in the party vigorously denied that there was a planned boycott of the pope.

Pensioners Affairs Minister Uri Orbach was hospitalized last week and is recovering from was hospitalized to undergo what his office called a minor procedure and Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel fell ill Sunday. Deputy Education Minister Avi Wortzman said he was not invited to the ceremony.

"Bennett will meet the pope Monday with the two chief rabbis at the Jerusalem Rabbinate headquarters for an hour and show him the proper respect," a source close to Bennett said. MK Eli Ben-Dahan, Bennett's deputy, will join him at the meeting.

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