Vatican renews call for peace, negotiated solution on Jerusalem

| December 11, 2017 | 4 Comments

Israeli security forces get orders in Bethlehem, West Bank, as Palestinians protest U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. CNS photo/CNS photo/Debbie Hill

Following days of violence and backlash after U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Vatican appealed for “wisdom and prudence” to prevail.

The Holy See “reiterates its own conviction that only a negotiated solution between Israelis and Palestinians can bring a stable and lasting peace and guarantee the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders,” the Vatican said in a Dec. 10 statement.

President Trump announced his decision Dec. 6 to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, fulfilling a promise he made during his presidential campaign.

The announcement sparked anti-U.S. protests throughout Asia and the Middle East, including a four-day protest in the Palestinian territories, Reuters reported. An Israeli security guard in Jerusalem, the report said, was in critical condition after he was stabbed by a Palestinian man at the city’s bus station.

Pope Francis expressed his “sorrow for the clashes in recent days” and called for world leaders to renew their commitment for peace in the Holy Land, the Vatican said.

The pope “raises fervent prayers so that the leaders of nations, in this time of special gravity, commit themselves to avert a new spiral of violence, responding with words and deeds to the desires of peace, justice and security for the populations of that battered land,” the Vatican said.

Trump’s decision also drew warnings from Middle Eastern and European leaders that overturning the United States’ long-standing policy would further complicate peace negotiations.

Former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush had made similar promises to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital during their presidential campaigns. However, once in office, they did not carry through with the move, citing its potential negative impact on Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The Arab League, a regional organization consisting of 22 Arabic-speaking member states, held an emergency meeting in Cairo, Egypt, Dec. 9 to discuss Trump’s announcement, calling it “dangerous and unacceptable.”

Recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital goes “against international law and raises questions over American efforts to support peace,” said Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the Arab League’s secretary-general.

Just hours before Trump had announced his decision, Pope Francis urged respect for “the status quo of the city in accordance with the relevant resolutions of the United Nations.”

In his appeal, Pope Francis said, “Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims who venerate the holy places of their respective religions, and has a special vocation to peace.”

The Vatican consistently has called for a special status for Jerusalem, particularly its Old City, in order to protect and guarantee access to the holy sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

“The Holy See is attentive to these concerns and, recalling the heartfelt words of Pope Francis, reiterates its well-known position concerning the singular character of the Holy City and the essential need for respecting the status quo, in conformity with the deliberations of the international community and the repeated requests of the hierarchies of the churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land,” said the Vatican’s Dec. 10 statement.

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  • Charles C.

    From Trump’s statement:

    “In making these announcements, I also want to make one point very clear: This decision is not intended, in any way, to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace agreement. We want an agreement that is a great deal for the Israelis and a great deal for the Palestinians. We are not taking a position of any final status issues, including the specific boundaries of the Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, or the resolution of contested borders. Those questions are
    up to the parties involved.

    “The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides. I intend to do everything in my power to help forge such an agreement. Without question, Jerusalem is one of the most sensitive issues in those talks. The United States would support a two-state solution if agreed to by
    both sides.

    “In the meantime, I call on all parties to maintain the status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites, including the Temple Mount, also known as Haram al-Sharif.”

    Seems like he’s got the bases covered.

  • DebraBrunsberg

    Yes, the numerous peace agreements offered by Israel to the Palestinians have gone over so well. I think Pope Frances would do well to study the history of Israel. It is hard to have peace when one side has only one goal, to eliminate you from the face of the earth. Palestinians do not want peace, they want death to all Jews. I think it is time to stop pretending. Kudos to Trump.

  • Dominic Deus

    Dominic Deus here. Unmitigated disaster. Diplomacy is not about setting things straight or evening the score. Diplomacy is the alternative to war and all the things that lead up to it. Donald Trump has made the Middle East less stable and reduced American influence around the world.

    • Charles C.

      Dear Dominic,

      It might be interesting to spend some time discussing what “diplomacy” is, but I think a bigger question is whether American influence in the world has been reduced, and whether the Middle-East is less stable.

      Our influence around the world seems to have grown. We’ve brought China on board to help us with sanctions against North Korea, received trade concessions from them, and Trump was the first foreign leader to be honored with a state dinner in China’s Forbidden City since the founding of modern China in 1949.

      In the Mid-East, we’ve made more progress in removing ISIS terrorists in one year than Obama did in eight. Saudi Arabia was reassured by Trump’s visit to repair damage to our relationship caused during the previous administration.

      Our NATO allies are bringing their defense spending up to the 2% of GDP required by membership. Other presidents were unable to bring this about.

      The bombing of a Syrian air base after Assad’s planes carrying Sarin gas left from there to attack a city. Allies applauded Trump’s move and America was reestablished as a trustworthy country after the damage taken by president Obama when he failed to act when Syria crossed his chemical weapons “Red line.”

      From the New York Times:

      “In particular, Trump has avoided the temptation often afflicting Republican uber-hawks, in which we’re supposed to fight all bad actors on 16 fronts at once. Instead he’s slow-walked his hawkish instincts on Iran, tolerated Assad and avoided dialing up tensions with Russia. The last issue is of course entangled with the great collusion debate — but it’s still a good thing that our mini-cold war has remained relatively cool and we aren’t strafing each other over Syria.

      “But if you had told me in late 2016 that almost a year into the Trump era the caliphate would be all-but-beaten without something far worse happening in the Middle East, I would have been surprised and gratified. So very provisionally, credit belongs where it’s due — to our soldiers and diplomats, yes, but to our president as well.”

      I don’t think President Trump has done as badly in foreign affairs as many seem to think. That may be because of the way the press covers the issue. Again, from the New York Times:

      “Other reasons for the lack of attention are suggested by National Review’s David French, in a piece that helped inspire this one: a war-weary assumption that if you crush one terrorist group another just springs up (true to a point, but crushing an ambitious terrorist state is still a real achievement); a popular appetite for bad news that leaves little room for celebrating victory; and the inability of Trump himself to take credit for anything without immediately firing up some unrelated controversy.

      “But this is also a press failure, a case where the media is not adequately reporting an important success because it does not fit into the narrative of Trumpian disaster in which our journalistic entities are all invested.”

      Even the UN resolution rejecting the US acceptance of Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol is seen by many as a surprising triumph for Trump and Ambassador Haley. Sixty-five countries refused to vote to reject Trump’s decision. That was much more support than was expected, and more than the US can generally get on Palestinian resolutions.