A treaty passed on Wednesday reaffirms Palestine as a state, creating concern, as reported in the Washington Post:
The agreement, being finalized in Rome by a group called the Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine, “deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine,” according to a joint statement posted on the Vatican’s website. Palestinians said the accord addresses such matters as properties, taxes and protocol at holy sites.
Criticism following the treaty has presented the treaty as a statement of recognition of the state of Palestine, when in fact the Vatican recognized it as such soon after the United Nations’ 2012 decision to grant Palestine “non-member observer status,” and Palestinian officials voiced surprise over the announcement:
“There’s nothing new here, in terms of the recognition of Palestine, which was given to us a few years ago by the Holy See. What is new is we are going to sign an agreement with the Vatican,” said Xavier Abu Eid, a spokesman for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
The Israeli government, as well as Jewish leaders in the U.S., have protested the statement:
“I’m shocked by the pope’s appeasement and collapsing in the face of radical Muslims,” said Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America. “I believe this is appeasing radical Muslims in an attempt to mitigate the continuing murdering of Christians in Africa and the Middle East.”
Klein added that the move represents a resurgence of “the historical Catholic enmity towards Jews.”
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the Reform Movement, the largest U.S. denomination of Jews, praised the pope’s “moral leadership” and expressed hope that he can advance Middle East peace, but he said “a unilateral gesture like this is not the right way to do so.”
Vatican Insider reports:
Although the Holy See considers recognition of the new state to be a given, for the first time, the name will appear in an important agreement signed by both sides. But what is really new about it are its contents.
While on the one hand it is true that by now the Holy See takes the recognition of the Holy See as a given: The Vatican declaration issued the day after the vote on November 2012 which accorded Palestine non-Member Observer State status in the United Nations, was welcomed by all in the Vatican and from that moment on, the papa State started using the name “state of Palestine” in all its official documents . It has done so in its communiqués and Francis referred to it as such in the official addresses he gave during his trip to the Holy land in May 2014. On the two occasions when Abu Mazen visited the Vatican following the UN vote, Vatican communiqués always referred to him as the “President of the State of Palestine” and will also do so in his audience with Pope Francis this Saturday. So in a way, the State was recognised by the Vatican over two years ago.
On the other hand, however, there is no denying that there is something new about yesterday’s announcement. The diplomatic agreement reached on the text and the forthcoming joint signing of it, represents an important additional step in that the “State of Palestine” name will appear in a key document of vital importance to relations between the Holy See and the Palestinians. A document that affects numerous concrete aspects of the life of the Catholic Church in the Territories under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian National Authority.
Posted by Ann Fontaine and Cara Ellen Modisett