Bethlehem mayor criticizes Netanyahu

BETHLEHEM — In an opinion piece published Oct. 15 in Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, Bethlehem Mayor Anton Salman suggested Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is using Israel’s Christian community for political purposes.

Salman was responding to comments made by Netanyahu on Oct. 14 at the Christian Media Summit in Jerusalem, a gathering of Christian journalists from around the world.

In his speech Netanyahu criticized treatment of Israeli Christians by the Palestinian Authority, noting that Bethlehem’s Christian population has shrunk from 80 percent to 20 percent since the city was transferred to Palestinian control. Netanyahu said the change happened because “Christians are being constricted, pressured … [and] persecuted,” Haaretz reported.

In his response, Salman, a Palestinian Christian, said Bethlehem has been cut off from Jerusalem by illegal Israeli settlements. He said Netanyahu’s use of the Bible to justify Israeli occupation continues to rankle Palestinians, and is part of a “dangerous trend that aims at turning a political question into a religious war.” (TAB)