Israel is preparing to receive the Pope Francis cultivated his Christian Arab minority to convert to his cause against the Muslim majority in a Middle East beset by sectarian conflict.
This charm offensive has recently crystallized on calls for voluntary recruitment launched for the first time by the army with young Arab Christians . Christians only, not Muslims.
It also led to a controversial law , unprecedented in Israel , established a division between Arab citizens of Muslim and Christian faith to face discrimination in employment .
"We have a lot in common with Christians. They are our natural allies , a counterweight to Muslims who want to destroy the country from within ," said the sponsor of this legislation , Yariv Levin, Likud ( right Nationalist Party) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A speech inspired by the neo-conservative rhetoric of " clash of civilizations " , which is sensitive " Bibi American " , close to the Republican right in the U.S. and Zionist friend evangelists .
This is not the first time Israel tries to ally with minorities in a region dominated by Islam , as evidenced by his past support , Lebanon, the Maronite Phalangists and the South Lebanon Army (SLA ) . The coming of the Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara Rai , to welcome the Pope Francis has also raised the ire of the Shiite Hezbollah .
"There has been a significant deterioration in the condition of Christians in the Middle East," says Professor Gabriel Ben- Dor , director of the Center for National Security Studies at the University of Haifa.
" This is a good time for Israel to improve the lot of its Christian minority , as it is now more motivated to cooperate with the Jewish state. And that greatly enhance the international reputation of Israel," he told AFP.
- Divide and conquer -
The response of the churches did not expect , when the Holy Father - concerned about the fate of Eastern Christians - performed his first pilgrimage ecumenical but also political in the Holy Land .
The Greek Orthodox Church has removed one of his priests of Nazareth , the main Arab city in Israel , Father Gabriel Nadaf , who had publicly encouraged very young Christian Arabs to enlist in the army in order to " serve the country where they live, which protects them and they are full citizens . "
The number of 1, 4 million people , including 130,000 Christians, the Arab minority represents 20% of the population. Subjected to discrimination , including in employment and housing, with the exception of the wealthy class , it descends the 160,000 Palestinians who remained on their land after the creation of Israel in 1948.
The Latin Patriarchate ( Roman Catholic ) Jerusalem is also mounted to the plate against the decision of the army hopes to attract nearly a thousand Christian recruits into its ranks, against a hundred now .
"The main problem is that these Christians are Palestinians ," said the Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah , the first Palestinian to lead the Catholic Church in Jerusalem ( 1988-2008) .
" If we accept as Palestinian , we are not going in an army that keeps the occupation or kills Palestinians ," ruled Mgr Sabbah .
"We must be good citizens within Israel, but being a good citizen does not mean to obey an order to kill his brothers, who are Palestinians ," he has decided.
The nationalist right in power in Israel plays the card of " sectarianism " within the same people, between Christians and Muslims in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to its opponents.
"This is clearly an attempt to divide the Arab- Palestinian minority in Israel," told AFP Wadie Abu Nassar political analyst , who predicts " very limited success " of this policy.
As for "stability in a turbulent Middle East " that dangled Israel Christians tempted by exile, it rests on a false security , argues this former spokesman of the Catholic Bishops of the Holy Land .
" Israel is a strategic mistake by not responding to regional instability by positive action ," argues Mr. Abou Nassar : " Make peace with the Palestinians and offer full equality to all its citizens are the best guarantees for the future of Israel in the region. "