VATICAN CITY (RNS) – Once again, the Vatican issued a statement reinforcing its support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after the recently installed government of Israel announced plans to vote for the annexation of the West Bank territory.
“The Holy See reiterates that respect for international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions, is an indispensable element for the two peoples to live side by side in two States, within the borders internationally recognized before 1967,” read the Vatican statement, sent to journalists on Wednesday (May 20).
The chief negotiator and secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, Saeb Erekat, called the Vatican’s equivalent of the minister for foreign affairs, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, to inform the Holy See of the possibility of Israel unilaterally claiming sovereignty over the contested territories, the statement read.
The statement said the Vatican “is following the situation closely” in the hope that with the help of the international community, Israel and Palestine may resume peaceful negotiation “so peace may finally reign in the Holy Land, so beloved by Jews and Christians and Muslims.”
An emergency government in Israel, set to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic and led by Benjamin Netanyahu of the nationalist Likud Party and Benny Gantz of the centrist Blue and White party, proposed a vote for the annexation of the West Bank in early July.
On Tuesday, the situation escalated further when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestine would consider itself absolved “of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones,” with Israel and the United States.
“The Israeli occupation authority, as of today, has to shoulder all responsibilities and obligations in front of the international community as an occupying power over the territory of the occupied state of Palestine,” he told reporters during an emergency meeting held in Ramallah to discuss the Israeli plans.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters in late April that the annexation is “an Israeli decision.” And he said the U.S. “will work closely with them to share with them our views of this in (a) private setting.”
This built upon President Donald Trump’s “deal of a century,” which proposed a compromise between Israelis and Palestinians but garnered significant backlash for being more beneficial to Israel. The plan was presented during a news conference with Trump and Netanyahu in January.
After the announcement of the Trump plan, the Vatican had pushed back and even Pope Francis seemed to criticize the “unfair” U.S. position, calling out populist governments and encouraging the continuation of fruitful dialogue toward a fair peace.
During an ecumenical meeting to promote peace in the Middle East last January, Francis referred to “the still unresolved conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, with the danger of not fair solutions, and, thus, presaging new crises.”
That wasn’t the first time Francis showed his support for the Palestinian community. In 2015 the Vatican announced its official recognition of the state of Palestine, which formalized the diplomatic relations between the two states that date back to 1948.