From Rome to Jerusalem

I have already highlighted my concerns that outgoing US Secretary of State John Kerry, in his meandering 73-minute tongue-lashing of Israel, among other things, raises the spectre not only of of division of the city but the establishment of a form of internationalization regime of the holy sites of the three monotheistic religions.

The relevant section is here:

Now, Jerusalem is the most sensitive issue for both sides, and the solution will have to meet the needs not only of the parties, but of all three monotheistic faiths. That is why the holy sites that are sacred to billions of people around the world must be protected and remain accessible and the established status quo maintained.

I now see that Pope Francis is to have a private audience with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas this Jan. 14.

Abbas will inaugurate the new Palestinian embassy to the Holy See, one year after the Vatican recognized the State of Palestine.

Although at a recent Catholic-Jewish joint meeting, the Holy See backed a final document that implicitly criticized a UNESCO resolution that failed to call by their Hebrew names some of the most sacred places of Jerusalem, like Temple Mount, and called on world leaders to rescind UNESCO’s vote to deny the connection between the Jewish people and their holy sites in Jerusalem, it would be naïve to presume that Abbas would not put out feelers for Kerry’s initiative.

Abbas had already proven his ability to yield on the issue of the Temple Mount when he signed the agreement with Jordan’s King in March 2013 acknowledging his role as “custodian” over Jerusalem’s holy sites for Muslims and Christians.  All this will be coordinated through the Palestinian Authority’s Higher Presidential Committee of Churches Affairs.

In a speech delivered to the diplomatic corps on January 9, Pope Francis underscored that the Holy See renewed its urgent appeal for the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians towards “a stable and enduring solution that guarantees the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders.”

Abbas, in announcing his visit to Rome, indicated his meeting with the Pope will zero in on “the advancement of justice and peace in the region, as well as encouraging interfaith dialogue towards more understanding and respect.”

Abbas also said one of the main topics of the meeting will be “the historic agreement between the State of Palestine and the Holy See as an example for the rest of the region on how to strengthen the presence of Christians and their institutions…We will continue to cooperate with the heads of Churches in Jerusalem, who are part of Palestine and its people, to advance these mutual goals.”

The October 13, 2016 UNESCO resolution drew no Vatican comment. As reported, a source within the Holy See diplomacy explained that “the Holy See does not enter into a political questions” such as those raised by the resolution, which was significantly titled “Occupied Palestine.”

Other Christians are concerned about this meeting.

I hope Israel’s Foreign Ministry is watching for any possible developments in Rome.

About the Author
Yisrael Medad, currently is a Research Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem and Deputy Editor of the English Language Anthology of Jabotinsky's Writings. American-born, he and his wife made Aliyah in 1970. He resides in Shiloh since 1981. He was a member of the Betar Youth Movement World Executive and is a volunteer spokesperson for the Yesha Council. He holds a MA in Political Science from the Hebrew University and is active is many Zionist and Jewish projects and initiatives.
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