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The Pope and the Holy Land
Vatican Recognizes State of Palestine

The Holy See has formally recognized Palestine as a state in a new treaty, the AP reports:

The treaty, which concerns the activities of the Catholic Church in Palestinian territory, makes clear that the Holy See has switched its diplomatic recognition from the Palestine Liberation Organization to the state of Palestine.

The Vatican had welcomed the decision by the U.N. General Assembly in 2012 to recognize a Palestinian state. But the treaty is the first legal document negotiated between the Holy See and the Palestinian state and constitutes official diplomatic recognition.

“Yes, it’s a recognition that the state exists,” said the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

The Israelis are, predictably, not happy. Diplomatic recognition is a valuable bargaining chip in the Middle East, where few of Israel’s neighbors recognize its right to exist, and conversely, Palestine is not widely considered to be a state yet. In recent years, Palestinian activists both in and out of the region have pushed for widespread recognition as a way to work around what they see as a stalled peace process. But Israel and its supporters argue that preemptively giving Palestine statehood is bad idea until Palestine has the institutional capacities of a state, particularly the ability to control who within the borders of that state launches violent attacks its neighbors.

Vatican diplomacy, for its part, is complex. Pope Francis has recently come out more strongly than the perceived right-wing Benedict ever did against ISIS and Islamic extremism. This move balances the Holy Father’s tough rhetoric against Islamists killing Christians with a step aimed at conciliating Muslim opinion. And the Pope also has to look after his flock: Palestinian Christians have long played an outsized role in Palestinian nationalism (as they have in other Arab nationalisms) as a way of winning acceptance in their community on a non-religious basis. In the birthplace of Christ, native Christians still have sway, but in the region they are increasingly under attack (as Walter Russell Mead and Cardinal Dolan recently highlighted at a joint Hudson Institute appearance). This gesture may, the Vatican feels, help protect a vulnerable part of the flock by bolstering the communal legitimacy of Palestinian Christians.
On the other hand, for all the tactical considerations, this marks a remarkable change in perceived moral superiority within a fairly short period of time—time during which Palestinian tactics have if anything become more brutal and flailing. Both the background of Francis personally and the milieu of intellectual Europe that many Cardinals marinate in now militate in favor of the Palestinian cause, when a generation ago the international left was broadly pro-Israeli.
This move, all told, though it will certainly annoy Israel, will likely not represent a huge change in the global status quo. It is, however, a sign of the times.
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  • Ellen

    It is indeed a sign of the times, but not in the way you meant. It is a sign of the resurgence of classical anti-Semitism in Europe, in which the Catholic Church played a significant role right up until Vatican II. However, the other sign of the times is more interesting and novel. And that is, as Europe and the European branches of Christianity sink further and further into global irrelevance, they seek to get their last revenge against the Jews by supporting a nonviable and violently repelling PLO in its present form as the PA. Nothing they do will make a difference, as you imply at the end of your piece. During the past 40 years as Europe has become more and more antIsrael, the power and strength of Israel has increased exponentially. Right now, it is possibly the only viable state entity in the entire Levant that is not likely to melt down into nothingness within the next 5 years.

    Here again, the contrast with the rising powers of Asia is instructive. China, India and others are busy solidifying strong and mutually beneficial relationships with the State of Israel, without any regard to the Palestinian issue, which they have lost interest in (if they ever had any real interest in it in the first place). The blackmail power of the oil sheikhs is now very pale, indeed, as their own survival is very much at risk. China and India are not going to prop up the oil states, nor are they going to sacrifice their ties to Israel for the Palestinian issue, or for that matter, over the Iranian issue which is now paramount.

    The Vatican, by this pointless move, is only showing how much they are in decline, right along with the European state system that once took over the powers of the Holy Roman Empire and its central leadership institution. In other words, they are all part of the same sinking ship and this petty little move proves it resoundingly.

    • Dan Greene

      >>”Here again, the contrast with the rising powers of Asia is instructive. China, India and others are busy solidifying strong and mutually beneficial relationships with the State of Israel, without any regard to the Palestinian issue, which they have lost interest in (if they ever had any real interest in it in the first place).”

      Just wait and see if China and India will subsidize the Israeli state, protect it with vetoes in the UNSC, and allow disloyal pro-Israel fifth columns to flourish in their capitals.

      It’s true that they are not terribly interested in the Is-Pal issue per se, but they ARE interested in pursuing their (vice Israel’s) national interests and that means not embarking on self-destructive policies in the region. China may toss a few shekels Israel’s way for the Eilat rail link, but that’s because they see some defense technologies they’d like and can’t get anywhere else in the West AND because they have observe the overlap between the Israel Firsters and the China-skeptical neocons in the US, so dumping a little gilt on Israel is a way to restrain potential anti-Chinese policies in Washington.

      But now, take Israel…Please!!

      • George Von Herman

        the needle got stuck on “israel firster”

        • Dan Greene

          Just give yourself a good smack in the head with a ballpeen hammer and it will come unstuck.

          • Tom

            You first.

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