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May 13, 2015 5:01 pm

Vatican Recognition of ‘State of Palestine’ Riles Jewish Organizations

avatar by Eliezer Sherman

Pope Francis at the Western Wall. Photo: Kobi Gideon / GPO.

As officials in Israel declared disappointment at the Vatican’s official recognition of the state of Palestine on Wednesday, the move also drew the ire of many in the diaspora Jewish community.

The American Jewish Committee said it “regrets the announcement” of the treaty, in which the Vatican refers to the “state of Palestine” rather than the Palestinian Liberation Organization, as it had in previous documents.

AJC Executive Director David Harris said the move was “counterproductive to all who seek true peace between Israel and the Palestinians.”

He said “peaceful coexistence … is best served, we believe, by encouraging a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, rather than unilateral gestures outside the framework of the negotiating table.”

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Additionally, the Anti-Defamation League “expressed disappointment” at the Vatican’s decision to recognize a Palestinian state, calling the step “premature.”

ADL National Director Abraham H. Foxman said the move would “bolster the Palestinian strategy of seeking statehood through international fora and not through recognition, reconciliation and negotiation with Israel.”

The heads of the Conference of Presidents of the Major Jewish Organizations, Chairman Robert G. Sugarman and Executive Director Malcom Hoenlein, expressed “regret at the recognition of a Palestinian state by the Vatican” and called for direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations as the means for creating peace.

The International Jewish Committee on Interreligious Consultations “expressed concern” at the Vatican’s announcement, and said it was “unhelpful to the cause of a genuine and durable peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

Betty Ehrenberg, chair of the IJCIC, said the “unilateral move is not in keeping with UN resolutions that mandate that a peace agreement be achieved by direct negotiations between the parties.”

The statements from the Jewish community echoed those of the Israeli Foreign Ministry in that the recognition undermines the peace process and allows Palestinians to avoid coming to bilateral agreements with Israel.

The Holy See’s recognition, made just a few days before Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was scheduled to visit the Vatican, follows Sweden, which officially recognized the state of Palestine last October.

According to the Associated Press, the Vatican has actually been referring to the state of Palestine for more than a year, including during Pope Francis’ visit to the Holy Land last year, as well as in reference to the Palestinian ambassador.

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