Vat­i­can un­der fire from Is­rael over his­toric first ac­cord with Palestine


The Vat­i­can came un­der fire from Is­rael Fri­day af­ter sign­ing a his­toric first ac­cord with Palestine, two years af­ter of­fi­cially rec­og­niz­ing it as a state.

The ac­cord, which cov­ers the ac­tiv­i­ties of the Church in the parts of the Holy Land un­der Pales­tinian con­trol, was the first since the Vat­i­can rec­og­nized Palestine as a state in Fe­bru­ary 2013.

The prod­uct of 15 years of dis­cus­sions, the agree­ment was fi­nal­ized in prin­ci­ple last month de­spite Is­rael’s op­po­si­tion to both the sym­bol­ism of Palestine sign­ing in­ter­na­tional ac­cords and the spe­cific con­tent of the agree­ment.

“This hasty step dam­ages the prospects for ad­vanc­ing a peace agree­ment, and harms the in­ter­na­tional ef­fort to con­vince the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity to re­turn to di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions with Is­rael,” Is­raeli for­eign min­istry spokesman Em­manuel Nahshon said in a state­ment.

Pales­tinian For­eign Min­is­ter Riad Al-Ma­liki said at Fri­day’s sign­ing cer­e­mony that it would “not have been pos­si­ble with­out the bless­ing of his Ho­li­ness Pope Fran­cis for our ef­forts to reach it.”

The min­is­ter said the “his­toric” ac­cord en­shrined Palestine’s spe­cial sta­tus as the birthplace of Chris­tian­ity and the cra­dle of the monothe­is­tic re­li­gions (Chris­tian­ity, Is­lam, Ju­daism).

Paul Gal­lagher, the Bri­tish arch­bishop who is the Vat­i­can’s de facto for­eign min­is­ter, signed the ac­cord on be­half of the Holy See in the pres­ence of guests in­clud­ing Vera Baboun, the mayor of Beth­le­hem, the Pales­tinian town con­sid­ered to be the birthplace of Je­sus Christ.

Model Text or One-sided

Gal­lagher said the ac­cord’s pro­vi­sions to en­sure the rights of Chris­tians should serve as a model for other Arab and Mus­lim states in their re­la­tions with Chris­tian mi­nori­ties fac­ing in­creas­ing per­se­cu­tion in the Mid­dle East.

He said it was “in­dica­tive of the progress made by the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity in re­cent years, and above all of the level of in­ter­na­tional sup­port (for recog­ni­tion).”

“In this con­text, it is my hope that the present agree­ment may in some way be a stim­u­lus to bring­ing a de­fin­i­tive end to the long­stand­ing Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict, which con­tin­ues to cause suf­fer­ing for both Par­ties.

“I also hope that the much de­sired two-State so­lu­tion may be­come a re­al­ity as soon as pos­si­ble. The peace process can move for­ward only if it is di­rectly ne­go­ti­ated be­tween the par­ties, with the sup­port of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity,” Gal­lagher said.

“This cer­tainly re­quires coura­geous de­ci­sions, but it will also of­fer a ma­jor con­tri­bu­tion to peace and sta­bil­ity in the re­gion.”

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