Diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican are set to considerably cool following the Pope granting a private audience to Mahmoud Abbas on 17 December.
Their meeting came at a time of growing political crisis engendered by the passage of the UN General Assembly resolution on 29 November that reaffirmed
...the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to independence in their State of Palestine on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967...
The Pope seemingly overlooked any discussion of the implications of this integral part of the resolution that also recognised the State of Palestine as a non-member observer state in the General Assembly - a view confirmed by the following communique issued by the Vatican:
The cordial discussions made reference to the recent Resolution approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations by which Palestine was recognised as a Non-member Observer State of the aforementioned Organisation. It is hoped that this initiative will encourage the commitment of the international community to finding a fair and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which may be reached only by resuming the negotiations between the Parties, in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both.
The Pope was apparently unaware that the only matter left to be negotiated between the parties as a result of "this initiative " was the timing of the eviction of 600000 Jews currently living in this " State of Palestine" as defined by the General Assembly.
Abbas had made this racist view very clear on 28 July 2010 when Wafa - the official Palestinian news agency - reported the following remark by Abbas in Cairo:
I'm willing to agree to a third party that would supervise the agreement, such as Nato forces, but I would not agree to having Jews among the Nato forces, or that there will live among us even a single Israeli on Palestinian land.
Could the Pope have failed to understand that the Resolution also left no room for negotiating the boundaries of this "State of Palestine" - that the General Assembly had preemptively determined that it should comprise 100% of the territory won from Jordan by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War?
Would cordial discussions have occurred had the Pope taken the opportunity to urge Abbas to recognise Israel as the Jewish National Home and offer Palestinian citizenship to those Jews who did not want to leave their current homes?
Resumption of negotiations by "the Parties in good faith and according due respect to the rights of both" in such circumstances is a pure pipe dream.
The Abbas audience was a papal faux pas for several reasons.
David Singer is an Australian Lawyer, a Foundation Member of the International Analyst Network and Convenor of Jordan is Palestine International - an organisation calling for sovereignty of the West Bank and Gaza to be allocated between Israel and Jordan as the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine. Previous articles written by him can be found at www.jordanispalestine.blogspot.com.