Vatican remains neutral on Palestinian UN membership bid

The Dome of the Rock as seen from Dominus Flevit church. Credit: Deror Avi
The Dome of the Rock as seen from Dominus Flevit church. Credit: Deror Avi

.- The Vatican is maintaining its neutrality on Palestine’s bid for United Nations membership, despite the move being openly backed the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

“We have nothing to say on the matter, although we have to show respect for the view of the United Nations,” Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi, S.J., told CNA Sept. 19.
Palestinian officials say they will launch their application for full United Nations membership next week at the U.N. headquarters in New York. They intend to ask for international recognition based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as a capital. The idea is strongly opposed by Israel and the United States. In fact, the U.S. is likely to veto any Palestinian resolution at the U.N. Security Council, the first stage of the process.

The Palestinian bid was backed yesterday by Archbishop Michel Sabbah, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, during his Sunday Mass in the Palestinian city of Nablus. A joint statement was also issued by various Palestinian Christian clergy – including Catholic priests - to “support the diplomatic efforts made to achieve international recognition of the state of Palestine.”

This past June Pope Benedict described Palestine’s aspiration to statehood as “legitimate” during a meeting at the Vatican with the President of the Palestinian National Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. The Pope also cautioned that this should be achieved with the “just and lasting respect of everyone’s rights.”

A spokesman for the Apostolic Nuncio to Israel confirmed to CNA that the Vatican backs a “two-state solution” with a sovereign Palestine peacefully co-existing alongside Israel. He refused, however, to comment on the impending Palestinian bid for U.N. membership.

Some observers are suggesting that Palestinian leaders should compromise by trying for “non-member status” at the United Nations. Ironically, this is being referred to as the “Vatican option” since it would give Palestine the same level of diplomatic representation as the Holy See. It’s also a move that would not require the approval of the Security Council, making it easier for the Palestinian Authority to achieve. But President Abbas is thus far ruling out this diplomatic route.

The United States is insisting that any moves towards full Palestinian statehood should be achieved in cooperation with Israel.
Meanwhile, the Israeli government claims that a unilateral move by the United Nations to recognize Palestine would de-facto “delegitimize” the state of Israel.


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