Vatican Forced to Rethink Mideast Policy: Temporal Politics Encroaching on 3 Religions in Jerusalem

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Temporal politics encroaching on 3 religions in Jerusalem

Dramatic changes on the global stage are forcing the Vatican to rethink some of the fundamental tenets of its foreign policy in the Middle East.

During the Cold War, the Vatican aligned itself with the United States in its fight against the "red menace." At the time of the creation of the state of Israel, it was perceived by the Vatican as a threat because it was viewed as a fifth column for Stalin and his dictatorial brand of communism.

Moreover, the Vatican was concerned about its control of the holy places of Christianity in the Holy land. The state of Israel and the confrontation it had with Arab states had placed Christian Arabs in jeopardy. The Vatican feared that if Arab Christians were to leave, it would lose any claim or say in the future status of Jerusalem and the holy places

Last September, Monsignor Jean Louis Tauran, secretary for relations with states of the Vaticans Secretariat of State, delivered an important speech to the Order of the Holy Sepulchre in New York regarding the relationship with Judaism and Jews around the world. Tauran posed the question: "Is the state of Israel a state for Jews or a Jewish state?"

He answered saying that if the second hypothesis were true, that if Israel were a Jewish state, it "could cause some serious problems" as it would create "a certain exclusivity with regard to a large portion of the land, which is holy for the three religions" - Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Further, he said, it would complicate social and political conditions.

This is an important issue and one largely ignored by analysts of Israeli affairs. Since 1948, the Israeli government has not decided to solve this question.

A state for Jews would imply the possibility that non-Jews could live in that state as equal citizens. A Jewish state, on the other hand, would preclude the possibility.

So far, the policy tends to demonstrate that only Jews are allowed full-fledged citizenship in the state of Israel. The 800,000 Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship are considered, at most, nuisances.

Regarding the Vatican's relations with Israel, Tauran detailed several problem areas: the juridic condition of the church in Israel; Israel's continued state of war with its neighboring countries; the Palestinian question, especially after the 1967 war; and the lack of a solution to the question of Jerusalem. …