Vatican Corner 07-19-2020

Regarding the Israeli prime minister’s promise to annex portions of the West Bank beginning July 1, 2020, Vatican sources said that they had hoped the United States could act as an honest broker between the Israelis and the Palestinians in the drawing up of a new peace plan. But it appeared that the Trump administration’s support of Israeli’s annexation was going in the wrong direction. The plan would allow Israel to keep 30 percent of the occupied West Bank. The Vatican’s concern was that the annexation would be a serious threat to peace in the Middle East. This concern led to the dramatic decision to call the ambassadors of Israel and the United States to the Vatican on June 30, 2020. They were told that the Vatican disagreed with the annexation and reaffirm its support of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine. The Vatican expressed the hope that “the reopening of direct negotiations, aided by measures that can reestablish reciprocal confidence,” could enable the Israeli and Palestinian sides “to have the courage to say yes to encounter and no to conflict: yes to dialogue and no to violence; yes to negotiations and no to hostilities; yes to respect for agreements and no to acts of provocation; yes to sincerity and no to duplicity.” The Palestinian Authority In response to the planned annexation declared that if the annexation went ahead, the Palestinian state would no longer be bound by the peace and security agreements with the governments of Israel and America, including the Oslo peace process. In early May, Catholic bishops, Orthodox patriarchs, and Protestant leaders in the Holy Land published a letter that said
Israel’s annexation plans “would bring about the loss of any remaining hope for success of the peace process.” Until recently such an annexation would have solid opposition from the international community. However, President Donald Trump’s Israeli-Palestinian peace plan of January, 2020 allows for this Israeli annexation. This was a radical change from previous US positions. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu may be looking at this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to accomplish things that were long been considered taboo in Washington D.C. Netanyahu may be trying to get the annexation completed before the next US presidential election in November, 2020 in case US policy might reverse again. Fierce push back of the annexation plan by the Palestinians, Jordan, the Gulf Arabs, Europe, and criticism from U.S. citizens, Israeli ex-security chiefs and even from Jewish settler leaders has made it look like the annexation move is stopped for now. Also Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner has been quietly trying to stop Netanyahu’s push for annexation out of concern that it could doom the prospects of the entire peace initiative he helped draft. So it looks like annexation will wait for now, and in particularly because Israel, like everyone else, is preoccupied with the COVID-19 virus.