Vatican summons Israel, US ambassadors over West Bank annexation

The Vatican's secretary of state met with US Ambassador Callista Gingrich and Israeli Ambassador Oren David on Tuesday.

al-monitor Palestinian girls walk past a mural of Pope Francis in the Jabal al-Baba Bedouin encampment near the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank on the outskirts of Jerusalem, Nov. 23, 2017. Photo by AHMAD GHARABLI/AFP via Getty Images.

Jul 2, 2020

In an extremely rare move, the Vatican announced it summoned the ambassadors of both the United States and Israel over the latter’s plan to annex parts of the West Bank.  

According to a statement from the Holy See, Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin met with US Ambassador Callista Gingrich and Israeli Ambassador Oren David on Tuesday. 

A senior diplomatic source told Reuters that Parolin met with the two ambassadors separately

The meetings were arranged “in order to express the concern of the Holy See regarding possible unilateral actions that may further jeopardize the search for peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” read a Vatican statement. “The Holy See reiterates that the State of Israel and the State of Palestine have the right to exist and to live in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.”

The Vatican last waded into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in November, when it issued a rare statement that reiterated its support for a two-state solution after the Donald Trump administration gave its approval to Israel’s building of settlements in the West Bank. 

The Vatican has recognized Palestine as an independent state since February 2013. Parolin’s outreach comes as Israel is preparing to annex parts of the West Bank, land the Palestinians have long sought for a future state. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said his government will begin the process of annexation this month, conditional on US approval. Under the plan, Israel would extend its sovereignty over up to 30% of the disputed territory, including Jewish settlements and the fertile Jordan Valley. 

But Netanyahu’s coalition government missed its self-imposed deadline of July 1 to begin annexation talks. Defense Minister Benny Gantz reportedly told US diplomats that the Wednesday target was not “a sacred date” and that annexation may need to wait until after Israel has dealt with its novel coronavirus outbreak.

Israel’s plan to lay permanent claim to the land has been met with widespread condemnation from the United Nations, Arab League and much of the international community. It has also drawn criticism from the leaders of the Catholic and Anglican churches in the United Kingdom.

In an op-ed published this week, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote that annexation would violate international law and be “contrary to Israel’s own long-term interests.” Last month, the UAE’s ambassador to the United States argued that annexation would hurt chances for rapprochement between Israel and the Arab world. 

Thousands of Palestinians gathered in Gaza City on Wednesday for a “day of rage” protest led by the militant group Hamas. Other protesters took to the streets for smaller, peaceful demonstrations across the West Bank.

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