Condi Rice --
SECRETARY RICE: Well, I’m so gratified that we are leaving a much better situation on Israeli-Palestinian issues than we found. In 2001, the Camp David effort had collapsed, the second intifada had broken out, hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians were dying in multiple suicide bombings against Passover Seders and along the pier in Tel Aviv. We forget – suicide bombers in Tel Aviv.
The Palestinians were governed – or ruled – by Yasser Arafat, who was dealing with Iran, stealing the Palestinian people blind, and rejecting peace. Ariel Sharon had come to power not to make peace with Palestinians, but to defeat the intifada. And so you had massive Israeli military operations in the West Bank. I will never forget the – when a mortar shell blew a hole in the Church of the Nativity.
Condi may never forget it. But the rest of us will never remember it. Because it never happened. She's referring to the siege at the Church in April 2002 when Palestinians fleeing Israeli soldiers went into the Church. When they eventually left as part of an internationally brokered deal, the church had suffered minor damage from the prolonged occupation and a few Israeli smoke grenades. But there was never any mortar shell. Where does Condi get her facts from?
UPDATE: Condi did an interview with Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal --
Ms. Rice then begins a world tour. "What we inherited were the failed Camp David Accords, and as a result the Second Intifada." She recalls Palestinian bombings of clubs and pizza parlors, the shelling of the Bethlehem Church of the Nativity.
Maybe the Wall Street Journal readers will notice that she's referring to an event that never happened. The editors didn't.
FINAL UPDATE 14 JANUARY: Condi has yet again claimed that Israel shelled the Church of the Nativity but this time has provided enough information to pin down what she's talking about --
QUESTION [Mike Schneider of Bloomberg TV]: But does he – does Abu Mazen have the clout – I mean, there were those who say he’s been – that Hamas prior to this was actually being degraded, that it was weak, it was – its stand in the polls, it was low, and that, in fact, it’s been bolstered by what’s happened here, and Abu Mazen and Fatah have been weakened.
SECRETARY RICE: Well, you hear that, but if you look at the West Bank, the Palestinian people have got to be able to see that the West Bank economy has actually been growing for the first time in years. It’s far more peaceful. Nativity Square in Bethlehem, where in 2002, completely by accident, an Israeli tank shell hit the Church of the Nativity
CNN, April 2002:
Bullets flying in Manger Square
In Bethlehem, witnesses said Israeli helicopter gunships flying over Manger Square exchanged fire with Palestinian gunmen near the Church of the Nativity.
There was also a heavy exchange of fire near a convent and a tank shell struck the main mosque in Bethlehem, just outside the church, according to witnesses
And in March of 2002, St Vincent's in Bethlehem was hit by a tank shell.