The Vatican and one step forward
On May, 10th the Vatican announced that it will be signing a treaty that would include a recognition of “The State of Palestine” in an attempt to play a positive role in stimulating peace with Israel and to encourage other states and institutions to support the sovereignty of Palestine. The International community as a whole (which includes Palestine as well as Israel) knows the stature of Pope Francis and knows that the Vatican does not just represent a state, rather that it represents millions of Christians everywhere around the globe. Needless to say Israel wasn’t delighted.
Shortly after Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced its disappointment by the announcement made by the Vatican claiming that this will hinder the ongoing peace process and will give the Palestinians a reason to leave the negotiations table. The same was being said after many resolutions were drafted by the European Parliamentary concerning the Palestinian Statehood. This comes at a time when many world leaders as well as citizens started questioning Benjamin Netanyahu ‘s dedication to making the two state solution possible.
On June, 26th the Vatican’s Foreign Minister finally took the step and signed the treaty with the Palestinian Foreign Minister, which caused the Israeli Foreign Minister to state that the he will have to study the treaty to see what it would mean and how it would affect Israeli-Vatican cooperation’s. Palestinian Foreign Minister sees the treaty as a historic agreement and one-step forward towards the recognition of the right of self-determination for the Palestinians as well as their freedom and dignity since the treaty shows a clear switch in the diplomatic relations of the Holy See that now recognizes the State of Palestine not the Palestinian Liberation Organization. On the other hand the The US supports the claims made by Israel and argues that such a move undermines the efforts put by the US to achieve peace between the two countries. The Israeli Foreign Minister even argued that the treaty undermined the rights of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. Furthermore he stated that Israel will not accept any form of agreement that does not put Israel’s essential interests into account.
The treaty is concerned with the affairs and dealings of the Church in different places of special interest to the Vatican such as the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. The treaty also mentions the standing of the church courts and taxes on church institutions and lands. However many argue that the practical implementation of the treaty is not what matters, rather its moral weight.
It is worth mentioning that the Vatican, even before signing the treaty, has been dealing officially with Palestine and welcoming a Palestinian ambassador on its territory. This came into being after the United Nations vote n 2012. Moreover during Pope Francis’ visit to Palestine in 2014 the official program of the Vatican referred to Mahmoud Abbas as the president of the State of Palestine.
While it can be argued that the recognition comes from the Christian West, a place that has allowed the current unfair status quo to exist in Palestine for over 70 years, one cannot deny that such a step might perhaps be able to change the mentality or belief that the world is solely divided into two parts one being the pro Palestinian Muslim East and the pro Israeli Christian West and that other factors do not play a role in the equation.
Some questions however remain answered such as whether this recognition will change how the Vatican and other states that recognize Palestine deal with Israel or not and whether this recognition will in fact change Israeli policies towards Palestine.