Santo Subito! At the funeral of JP2, Israeli President Moshe Katsav was seated near Syrian President Bashar Assad, and according to Katsav, they shook hands! In fact, Katsav says they shook hands twice, with Assad instigating the second shake!
What was Syria's reaction to this claim? According to The Jerusalem Post, Syrian officials denied that any such thing had ever taken place, and that "the Israelis were operating on the principle of 'the more you lie, the more people believe you.'" After they said that, Assad himself admitted that he and Katsav had shaken hands twice, before and after the funeral ceremony.
But wait! Katsav also claimed to have encountered Iranian President Muhammad Khatami, whose country is dedicated to the annihilation of Israel, and that they too shook hands! Israel's president is a native of Iran, and in fact was born in the same town -- Yazd -- where Iran's president was born. Katsav claimed that while the two shook hands pleasantly, they chatted idly about Yazd, in Farsi!
What was the Iranian reaction to this story when it appeared in the Israeli media? Wrote the JPost, "Khatami strenuously denied any kind of interchange with Katsav," adding that according to the Iranian press, Khatami said that "This claim is like other baseless claims made by the Zionist media." Then, footage appeared of the two presidents shaking hands and chatting idly.
What's all this mean? Katsav says the handshakes had no significance. The denials, however, have sent Beirut's Daily Star into geopolitical despair.