Conspiracy theorists have just gotten more grist. As the papal conclave goes on, the likelihood that the installation of a new pope could ultimately shorten President Obama’s trip to Israel only grows. One surefire way that things will change is if an American is selected to head the Catholic church.

There is no protocol that requires the United States or any other country to send its head of state to Rome for the papal installation – another senior minister can lead the delegation and in the case of the U.S., the senior Catholic in the administration, Vice President Joe Biden, would normally be sufficient, but the nationality of the next pope could change matters.

Among the leading candidates to be the next pope are two Americans Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan and Archbishop of Boston Sean O’Malley. Election of an American pope is unprecedented and there are 75 million Catholics in the U.S., the fourth largest Catholic community in the world.

President Obama is not going to offend a billion Catholics by skipping out on the first installation of an American pope. He might not even skip out for another German pope. And this, my friends, is where the conspiracy grows.

The White House announced that President Obama would be taking his first trip to Israel in early February, just a week before Pope Benedict XVI announced his unprecedented resignation. Did Obama know the Pope was resigning? Was he behind it? How could he not be?

Next, the Pope resigns, saying he will step down at the end of February, and then President Obama secures the dates of March 20-22 for his Israel trip, full well knowing that the papal conclave will be convening just days before, thus making it likely that he will have to cut short or cancel his trip. And all this, just to avoid a trip to Israel.

You know what they say about smoke.

Obama may have to cut Israel trip short due to pope installation [Haaretz]