Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – In Israel, confirmation is available of the surprise statement of Israeli diplomats, at a press conference they convened in Rome yesterday (Monday, 27 November), that Israel and the Holy See have agreed to hold negotiating sessions of their "Bilateral Permanent Working Commission" in December and in January - after the Olmert Government had, in effect, declined to do so ever since taking office last spring. The officials of Israel's Foreign Ministry, led by the Director General, had just concluded a previously unannounced visit to the Holy See's Secretariat of State, at the Vatican Palace. The news is being received with relief, and with cautious optimism, in Church circles. Ever since the incoming Israeli Government cancelled the negotiating sessions that had been planned for May this year, there were apprehensions that the protracted negotiations ( begun on 11 March 1999) required by the 1993 Fundamental Agreement between the Holy See and the State of Israel, might be suspended indefinitely - with incalculable consequences, both for the Catholic institutions in Israel and for the bilateral relationship, which is entirely founded on the Fundamental Agreement and its implementation.
The article goes on to describe the discreet diplomatic efforts of the Vatican along with pressure from the US Church, the US Government and an organization (Church and Israel Public Education Initiative) headed by one of the negotiators of the original 1993 agreement, Father Jaeger.
"The announced resumption of the negotiations is very important, and gives reason for renewed hope," says its President, Franciscan Father David-Maria A. Jaeger, who admits happily that he is "delighted" with Israel's own announcement of the imminent re-starting of the talks. "Whatever the difficulties," says Father Jaeger - himself an experienced negotiator, who is much respected in Israel, and elsewhere, for his role in helping to shape the historic accord of 1993 - "everything can always be resolved by negotiating, while nothing can be resolved by not negotiating...".
This is a positive sign, though there have been plenty of false starts before. I get the feeling sometimes that Israel wants to hold the Catholic Church hostage much the same way it does the Orthodox Church in Jerusalem. The Pope has no battalions, but he has the political action of a billion Catholics on his side.