Monday, August 08, 2005

Cavalier diplomatic relations? By Israel? No way!

The Economist adds some useful background to the recent Israel-Vatican spat:
In fact, despite the optimism created by John Paul's historic visit to the Holy Land in 2000, workaday relations between Israel and the Vatican have been quietly fraying for years. The root of the problem may lie in the cavalier way diplomatic relations were established in the early 1990s. (Prior to that, Israel and the Holy See had never exchanged ambassadors—in part because of the Vatican's insistence that Jerusalem and its sacred sites should be under an international regime.)
To get around what Israel saw as obstructionism by the Vatican's Secretariat of State, Israeli negotiators went directly, but secretly, to John Paul. The late pontiff—a “big picture” man—agreed that diplomacy should not be held up by questions of detail. But two main things had to be settled, sooner or later: the status of the Catholic clergy, friars and nuns who are the guardians of many holy sites, and the Vatican's wish for a formal deal on the tax-exempt status of the church. The first issue has been settled in principle, but the deal has yet to be ratified. The tax issue remains unresolved, and at the time the current row broke out the talks had stalled.
In other words, though the two popes may think very much alike, personality is already making a difference; and it's the old sin of Oslo -- leaving the big questions til later just doesn't work.

No comments: