He’s come across as a person who sincerely wants to unify the world. Yet Pope Francis and the Vatican’s official recognition of the state of Palestine Wednesday is doing just the opposite when it comes to a negotiated Middle East peace. Vatican spokesmen have said that the Pope was merely “switching” its diplomatic relations from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine.
“It’s a recognition that the state exists,” said a Vatican spokesman. Yet it gives absolutely no incentive for the Palestinians to come back to the negotiations for a two-state solution. Why negotiate with Israel when the Pope is already granting statehood?
The announcement comes at a convenient time. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who has done his fair share in sabotaging peace talks as well discussions about Palestinian Statehood, is due to visit the Vatican this weekend.
Israeli officials rightly criticized the Vatican announcement. Sadly, the Vatican has been referring at least unofficially to a state of Palestine since the Pope’s 2014 visit to Israel. Then, the Vatican’s official program referred to Abbas as the “president” of the “state of Palestine.”
The entire world has raved about the Pope and his sensitivities to all peoples. Yet, we feel that Israel has been directly thrown under the papal bus by this announcement. A state of Palestine can only be achieved at the negotiation table, and Israel must be seated at that same table. Until then, there is no official Palestinian State even if the Vatican says there is.
Even in the United Nations, the entity known as Palestine is a non-voting observer state and nothing more. Where is the incentive for the Palestinians to return to the peace table? The Holy See’s judgment here is blind.