Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - AsiaNews has learnt that the unprecedented personal attack on Pope Benedict XVI launched by Israel's Foreign Ministry on Monday 25 July was meant as a smokescreen for the Ministry's decision to abandon the negotiations with the Holy See planned for the same day. These negotiations, explicitly mandated by Israel's 1993 Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See - the international treaty that is the "magna charta" of all relations between the Jewish State and the Catholic Church - have the purpose of achieving a new treaty to confirm the Church's centuries' old tax exemptions and property rights, which have been eroded by the State since its establishment. The negotiations began officially on 11 March 1999. However, in recent years Israel has been reluctant even to meet the Holy See to negotiate, and on 28 August 2003, the Israeli delegation abandoned the negotiations altogether, and only came back to the table a year later in response to pressure from the Church and the Government of the United States. After agreeing to very few meetings in 2005, Israel agreed to meet on 19 July, only to cancel the meeting at the last moment, and have it transferred to 25 July. Apparently Israeli officials feared the consequences of cancelling this meeting too at the very last moment, so they contrived to find fault with the papal Angelus address to cover up their non-compliance with their treaty obligation to negotiate with the Holy See.
Recently Vatican officials have spoken openly of Israel's persistent failure to comply with any of its treaty obligations vis-a-vis the Holy See. Neither the 1993 Fundamental Agreement nor the1997 "Legal Personality Agreement" has been made into Israeli law, and last year the Government officially informed Israel's Supreme Court that it did not regard itself bound by the Fundamental Agreement at all. In spite of the protests from the Holy See, this position has not changed.
Experts on Church-State relations say that the crisis in relations is the deepest ever, and casts a pall over planned celebrations for the 40th anniversary of "Nostra Aetate".