In June last year, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met Pope Francis at the Vatican to pray for peace. Christian, Jewish and Muslim prayers were said in the Vatican gardens and an olive tree was planted.
Reports in the New York Times and the Financial Times summarised:
The Vatican said on Wednesday that it had concluded a treaty to recognize Palestinian statehood, before a visit by Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president, to the Vatican on Saturday. It is concerned about the situation of Christians living in the region and Christian holy sites in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories,
There has been increasing international acceptance of Palestine as a state since the United Nations upgraded the Palestinian delegation’s status in 2012 to that of a non-member observer state, after a vote in the General Assembly.
Pope Francis has long expressed a wish for a Palestinian state and of late the Vatican Year Book has referred to the Palestinian envoy to the Holy See as representing the “State of Palestine”. The pope also used the words “state of Palestine” on the visit to the Holy Land in 2014, when he prayed at the Israeli wall, three storeys high, that runs through Bethlehem.
An Israeli diplomatic source is reported to have said: “We are disappointed by the use of the term ‘State of Palestine’. It does nothing to advance the cause of peace. In fact the opposite — it further distances the Palestinians from returning to negotiations.
Some 138 countries now recognise Palestine as a state, and governments in Britain, Ireland, France and Spain held ‘symbolic’ [non-binding] votes calling on their leaders to follow the example of Sweden. The European Parliament has voted to recognise the state of Palestine “in principle”, describing it as key to the advancement of peace talks in the region.
This treaty is the latest sign of Pope Francis’ constructive foreign policy, following an earlier encyclical on climate change and human ecology and his recent meeting with Cuban president Raúl Castro; according to President Obama, this helped to broker the easing of diplomatic relations between Havana and Washington.
Not swords but ploughshares:
“Israel should have nothing to fear. The surest guarantee of its security is peaceful coexistence with a Palestinian state”: Philip Stephens, associate editor of the Financial Times (16.9.14).
As Girish Kotwal from Louisville, Kentucky commented [New York Times], we hope this will serve as “a catalyst for permanent peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and an end to all violence, rockets and bombardment. Shalom and Salaam”.