Vatican Officially Recognizes 'State of Palestine'
JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli leaders expressed disappointment with the Vatican's decision to officially recognize a Palestinian state.
"This move does not promote the peace process and distances the Palestinian leadership from returning to direct and bilateral negotiations," Israel's Foreign Ministry responded. "Israel will study the agreement and will consider its steps accordingly."
One former Israeli diplomat told CBN News, "There was no need for the Vatican to jump ahead."
"Given their record in World War II, they should be more careful," he said. "The Vatican should show more responsibility and not interfere with the future of the Jewish people."
Does this move by the Vatican mean the Catholic Church is taking sides against Israel? Dr. Paul Bonicelli, a professor of government at Regent University, addressed that question and more with CBN's Efrem Graham. Click play to watch.
A statement released by the Vatican Wednesday said the decision "deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine."
The treaty replaces the Palestine Liberation Organization as the address for its diplomatic interaction with the Palestinian Authority unity government, made up of Fatah in Ramallah and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
"We have recognized the state of Palestine ever since it was given recognition by the United Nations and it is already listed as the state of Palestine in our official yearbook," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said.
Pope Francis referred to Mahmoud Abbas as the president of the Palestinian state last year during his visit to Israel. The Pope will receive Abbas at the Vatican Saturday, a day before bestowing sainthood on two Arab nuns who lived during the Ottoman occupation.
Meanwhile, several American Jewish groups also expressed disappointment with the Pope's decision. The American Jewish Committee called the move "counterproductive."
"Formal Vatican recognition of Palestine, a state that, in reality, does not yet exist, is a regrettable move and is counterproductive to all who seek true peace between Israel and the Palestinians," AJC Executive Director David Harris said.
"There is a reason why the U.S., the European Union and others have long agreed that statehood can only be achieved through direct, bilateral negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," he continued.
"Meanwhile, the West Bank [Judea and Samaria] is ruled by the Palestinian Authority, whose leader, Mahmoud Abbas, just marked the tenth anniversary of what was meant to be a four-year term, and Gaza is governed by Hamas, a terror organization. What and where exactly is the 'State of Palestine' today?" Harris queried.
"We are fully cognizant of the Pope's good will and desire to be a voice for peaceful coexistence, which is best served, we believe, by encouraging a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, rather than unilateral gestures outside the framework of the negotiating table," Harris concluded.