A recent issue of a local newspaper here in Israel had on its front page a photograph of the Pope of Rome together with the head of the Palestinian Authority, Mohammed Abbas, at the ceremony of the dedication of the Palestinian Embassy at the Vatican and its recognition as a state by the Holy See.
Now the cynics may be forgiven for captioning that picture as one non-state establishing diplomatic relations with another non-state. Be that as it may, I found that photograph to be most disturbing if not even chilling.
The ancient enemy of the Jewish people, that has on its record unending persecution and, directly or indirectly, the blood of millions of innocents, somehow is joined with the more modern enemy in its efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state of Israel and encourage all of them resort to terrorism and diplomatic extremism.
The smiley faces that appear in the photograph have a weirdly smug and self-satisfied look upon them. Whether the Palestinians have an embassy in the Vatican or not probably makes very little difference in the long run, regarding the future of the Palestinian people and/or the Palestinian Authority. The action of the Vatican here certainly does not advance the cause of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and therefore becomes only a symbolic gesture of the bias against Israel, which so pervades the Catholic Church and Europe generally.
Abbas and before him Arafat – remember him? –have been doing this macabre diplomatic dance for the past three decades. So far, only death and destruction, chaos and corruption are the results of these actions, which are purely ritualistic and symbolic but contain no substance and advance little hope for any meaningful solution.
If the Pope and the Church wish to be truly constructive in trying to settle the century old conflict between the Arabs and Jews here in the Land of Israel then they should make it clear to the Palestinian Authority that only Israel can help create a state for them and that their negotiating stance must be realistic, not extreme and subject to flexibility.
Israel naturally also must enter negotiations with a realistic stance and flexible mindset. However, by pandering to the Palestinian Authority, creating false illusions and fake states, the Church and the Western world only make any accommodation or agreement more difficult to achieve. And it is obvious that the Palestinian Authority is more interested in such hollow and public relations victories than in eventually producing a better life for its people and allowing some sort of nonviolent accommodation to exist between it and Israel.
Posturing may bring cheerful headlines and smiling photographs but it cannot really lead to any meaningful accomplishments on the ground. Abbas knows this to be true but as long as the world is willing to play his game and be the patsy of the Palestinians there is no reason for him to change his tactics and come down to earth in reality. He will just continue to flit about the world opening imaginary embassies, flying the flag of a non-state and not really accomplishing solid achievements for his people.
The Catholic Church sees itself as a moral arbitrator of peace and harmony in world society. As such, it could position itself to be a fair and neutral mediator in the Arab – Jewish struggle here in the Land of Israel. But the Church itself, in spite of attempts over the last decades to free itself from its anti-Jewish malevolent past, has not yet escaped from the clutches of its millennia old unwillingness to tolerate Jews, Judaism and certainly a Jewish state.
It maintains diplomatic relations with Israel but is always critical of whatever Israel does. The fact that only in Israel, out of all of the countries of the Middle East, does the Roman Catholic Church operate without restriction and in freedom seems to count for little as far as the diplomacy of the Vatican regarding Israel and the Palestinians is concerned.
This is truly to be regretted for it forfeits an opportunity for the Church to rectify a long history of past wrongs and shameful behavior. It need not be pro-Israel. It need only be no longer anti-Israel.ButapparentlythatisaveryricketybridgefortheChurchto attempt to cross. The Church had a very long way to go in somehow normalizing relations with the Jewish people after the Holocaust and over the last half-century. It has gone part of the way but unless it overcomes its bias against the Jewish state and its legitimate interests and right to exist, the road ahead still lies long and hard.