Saturday 24 March 2018

Israeli anger as Vatican formally recognises state of Palestine in treaty

Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Luke Baker in Jerusalem

The Vatican's decision to recognise the state of Palestine in a treaty for the first time has drawn a stern response from Israel.

The Holy See has referred to Palestine since 2012, but the treaty concluded yesterday, which covers the Church's activities in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, marks a more formal recognition, which Vatican officials said they hoped would benefit Israeli-Palestinian ties in time.

An Israeli foreign ministry official described the Vatican's move as a "disappointment" and indicated that it may lead to reprisals, although he did not say of what kind.

"This does not promote the peace process and a Palestinian return to negotiations," the official said. "Israel will study the agreement and consider its next steps accordingly."

The Vatican, increasingly proactive in foreign policy under Pope Francis, is far from the only state to have recognised Palestine - 135 members of the United Nations already do so, nearly 70pc of the total. By comparison, 160 of the UN's 193 members recognise Israel.

Last October, Sweden became the first major European country to acknowledge Palestine, a decision that drew condemnation from Israel and has since led to tense relations between the two. The EU as a whole does not recognise Palestine, taking the same view as the US that an independent country can emerge only via negotiations with Israel, not through a process of recognition.

But with the last talks between Israel and the Palestinians having broken down more than a year ago, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having pledged the day before his re-election in March that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch, diplomats are wondering what options they have left.

Last year, an EU foreign minister visiting the region asked during closed-door meetings whether it wasn't time to drop the goal of a two-state solution and consider alternatives.

They could include the unilateral recognition of Palestine by the EU as a whole or member states, which might spur Israel into tackling issues long unresolved with the Palestinians.

Irish Independent

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