A senior Vatican diplomat has reiterated the Holy See’s call for a two-State solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, at a time when there are conflict reports about whether the two sides are inching closer to resuming negotiations.
“Durable peace will remain a distant dream and security will remain an illusion if Israel and Palestine do not agree to exist side-by-side reconciled and sovereign within mutually agreed and internationally recognized borders,” said Archbishop Bernardito Auza.
Auza, who serves as the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the U.N., was speaking at a gathering of the Security Council devoted to the situation in the Middle East.
“Let the two States be created now, for the sake of the Israelis and Palestinians who, in the depths of their hearts, desire nothing greater than peace and security,” he said.
Since a U.S. attempt to broker a deal in 2014 fell apart, the Israelis and Palestinians have not been engaged in direct talks. Reportedly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leery of French and US efforts to relaunch negotiations, fearing they may attempt to pressure Israel to accept terms he would find unacceptable.
Israeli media accounts suggest Netanyahu may be more receptive to a proposal by Egypt to sponsor talks, feeling Israel may get better treatment from the government of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, a former military chief who’s made a hard line on Islamic radicalism a cornerstone of his program.
The Vatican began referring to a “State of Palestine” in 2012, when the General Assembly of the United Nations voted to admit the Palestinians as a non-member observer state, and in 2015 signed its first treaty with what it recognizes as the “State of Palestine.”
In general, Auza told the Security Council, if peace is to be achieved in the Middle East it will require a joint effort among political authorities, religious leaders and civilians.
“The Holy See believes that peace processes do not depend solely on formal negotiations, no matter how indispensable these may be,” he said
With its rich cultural, religious and intellectual history, the Middle East has the resources to be a fertile ground for civil society and diplomacy, he said.
This includes faith-based “informal diplomacy,” he said, which must play a part “in promoting the values of encounter and mutual acceptance, thereby equipping all citizens to become active protagonists in peacemaking and peace-building in the region.”
The archbishop spoke July 12, delivering remarks during the U.N. Security Council’s discussion on the situation in the Middle East.
“Religions and believers, in particular, must prove themselves worthy of their rightful place in the whole process of pacification in the region,” he said. “They must put an end to any form of mutual hatred that could lend credence to a ‘clash of civilizations’.”
Auza stressed that “the more religion is manipulated to justify acts of terror and violence, the more religious leaders must be engaged in the overall effort to defeat the violence that attempts to hijack it for purposes antithetical to its nature.”
“Spurious religious fervour must be countered by authentic religious instruction and by the example of true communities of faith. It is only then that faith-based ‘informal diplomacy’ can fruitfully compliment the formal diplomacy of States and multilateral bodies.”
Focusing his attention on Syria and the “unspeakable suffering” of its people, the archbishop highlighted “the continued persecution of Christians, Yazidis and other ethnic and religious minority groups by non-State actors in parts of Syria and Iraq.”
He noted Pope Francis’ strong denunciation of all those participating in “the senseless slaughter of civilians,” on whatever side of the conflict.
“The pope also denounces those who supply substantial amounts of money and weaponry to the fighters who kill and maim the innocent population and destroy civilian institutions and infrastructure,” he said. “One cannot but lament the duplicity of simultaneously talking peace while supplying arms to those who kill, on every side of the conflict.”
Auza asked the international community to end the illegal supply of weapons to non-state actors, who have committed crimes against humanity and other atrocities.
He raised ethical and legal questions about technologically advanced weapons, including remote-controlled assassinations that lack due process of law and cause collateral damage to civilians.