Vatican to Sign Treaty with Palestinian State over Israeli Objections

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The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter in the Vatican

The Vatican has reaffirmed its recognition of the “State of Palestine” in a treaty to be signed in the near future. Announced on May 13, 2015, the move has generated consternation amongst Israel’s leadership, though the Holy See has officially recognized a Palestinian state since at least Jan. 2013.

When negotiations over the treaty began between the two parties, early drafts referred to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) rather than the State of Palestine. After 2012, however, when the United Nations (UN) General Assembly granted Palestine the status of an observer non-member state (the Vatican holds the same observer non-member status), the Vatican began official diplomatic relations with the Palestinian state, and the Vatican’s official yearbook, titled the Annuario Pontificio, acknowledged the “State of Palestine.” The Vatican began full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1994.

Monsignor Antoine Camilleri, the Vatican’s Deputy Foreign Minister, told the Vatican’s official newspaper that he hoped the treaty will help to further the Israeli-Palestinian peace process: “It would be positive if the accord could in some way help with the establishment and recognition of an independent, sovereign and democratic State of Palestine which lives in peace and security with Israel and its neighbours.”

Xavier Abu Eid, a PLO spokesperson, said that the move was “nothing new… 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.” However, a senior aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated that the Vatican’s action sets a significant precedent: “This is a very important recognition as the Vatican has a very important political status that stems from its spiritual status. We expect more EU countries to follow.” President Abbas is scheduled to visit the Vatican for the canonization of two Palestinian-born nuns on May 17, 2015.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry stated that it was “disappointed” in the Vatican’s acknowledgement of the Palestinian state: “This move does not promote the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations.” While the US has not responded directly to the Vatican’s move, State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke reasserted the US position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, being that the formation of a Palestinian state must arise from negotiations with Israel rather than being imposed from outside.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) criticized the Vatican’s position, saying the move is “premature.” The ADL’s National Director, Abraham H. Foxman, stated: “We appreciate that the Vatican’s basic intention is to promote Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, but believe that this diplomatic recognition will be unhelpful to that end.”

The text of the treaty itself has not yet been released.

Sources:

Agence France-Presse, “Vatican to Sign First Accord with State of Palestine,” news.yahoo.com, May 13, 2015

William Booth and Michelle Boorstein, “Vatican Causes Stir with Treaty Recognizing Palestine as a State,” washingtonpost.com, May 13, 2015

Krishnadev Calamur, “Vatican Officially Recognizes State of Palestine,” npr.org, May 13, 2015

“Joint Statement of the Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine at the Conclusion of the Plenary Meeting,” press.vatican.va, May 13, 2015

Gavin Jones and Steve Scherer, “Vatican Agrees First Treaty with State of Palestine, Solidifying Relationship,” reuters.com, May 13, 2015

Kia Maharechi, “Pope Francis Continues to Do Whatever He Wants, Because He’s the Pope,” vanityfair.com, May 14, 2015

Francis X. Rocca and Joshua Mitnick, “Vatican to Sign First Treaty with ‘State of Palestine,'” wsj.com, May 13, 2015

Jodi Rudoren and Diaa Hadid, “Vatican to Recognize Palestinian State in New Treaty,” nytimes.com, May 13, 2015

Ishaan Tharoor, “What the Vatican’s Recognition of the State of Palestine Means,” washingtonpost.com, May 13, 2015

Nicole Winfield, “Vatican Recognizes State of Palestine in New Treaty,” bigstory.ap.org, May 13, 2015

Ciny Wooden, Catholic News Service, “Vatican-Palestine Accord Supports ‘Two-State’ Solution,” ncronline.org, May 13, 2015