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» 01/10/2005
PALESTINE – ISRAEL – HOLY LAND
Abbas's win, an invitation and challenge to Israel
by Arieh Cohen
People voted for him "because the US and Israel want him, and we hope they can start to negotiate an end to the occupation. Catholics hope for full freedom and equality between Muslims and Christians. The return of the lock to the Basilica of the Nativity is a sign of good will towards the Catholic Church.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The election of Mahmoud Abbas (aka Abu Mazen) to the presidency of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) came to no one's surprise. Voters chose him to invite if not challenge Israel to restart peace talks with its Palestinian neighbour in order to find a final solution to their conflict. This is what emerges from a survey of the Palestinian and Israeli press and discussions with experts and ordinary Palestinian citizens.

Hitherto Israel and the West saw the late Yasser Arafat as an unreliable partner. Objectively, they were wrong because Mr Arafat not only was the historic leader of the Palestinian national movement but was also the democratically elected of the PNA (in 1996).

In recent months, Israel and the US had almost openly endorsed Mahmoud Abbas. This outside support played a key role in the election since Mr Abbas is not a charismatic figure and is not known for whipping up crowds.

The most commonly heard comment among Palestinian is: "We elected him because the US and Israel want him, and we hope they are happy and can start to negotiate to end the occupation and make us free".

Surveys show that most Palestinians want nothing more than fast-track negotiations to reach a peace treaty that would free them from Israeli occupation which has lasted since 1967.

Everyone—experts and ordinary people—agrees that if Israel does not take up the challenge and jumpstarts peace talks, which broke down in early 2001 when Sharon was first elected Prime Minister, Abbas's administration would be short-lived, its legitimacy in tatters, its raison d'être gone. However, after this election, some optimism is possible.

For its part, the Catholic Church expects the new PNA President to fully respect the agreement the Palestinian Authority signed with the Holy See in February 2000 which guarantees full freedom to the Church and equality to Palestinian Christians (just over 1 per cent of the population) as well as a special legal status to the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

As a sign of good will, the Church expects Mr Abbas to have the lock to the Basilica that was stolen two years ago by Bethlehem Greek Orthodox returned.

The Catholic Church officially asked then President Arafat for the lock's return in accordance with the 2000 agreement but he was unable to do it in time. This obligation to the Catholic world now falls on Mr Arafat's successor.

The reliability of the new Palestinian administration is now at stake, at least in its relations to the Catholic Church.

Good will by Abbas's new government is all it takes to respect the Church's title to the lock. In no way can the authorities hide behind economic difficulties, the occupation or international problems.


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See also
02/08/2005 ISRAEL – PALESTINE – HOLY LAND
Fasting as jihad for Sharon and Abbas, says Patriarch Sabbah
02/08/2005 ISRAEL – PALESTINE – HOLY LAND
Sharm el-Sheikh summit, a positive and encouraging step, says Nuncio in Jerusalem
11/11/2004 palestine
After Arafat, an opportunity for non-violence
11/20/2004 PALESTINE - ISRAEL
We shall stop those who engage in violence in order to hold peaceful elections, Abu Mazen says
12/18/2004 ISRAEL – PALESTINE – HOLY LAND
Uncertainty on Christmas Eve for the peoples and governments of Israel and Palestine
by Arieh Cohen

Editor's choices
VATICAN
"Stop! I am asking you with all my heart. Stop!" says pope as he speaks out on the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine He mentions children, victims of war, "from whom we take away the hope for a decent life," urging the parties to address "every diatribe with the tenacity of dialogue and negotiation and the power of reconciliation". As tomorrow marks 100 years since the outbreak of the First World War, "a day of mourning," we should learn the lessons of history. The Gospel makes us know the true Jesus, the living Jesus, who speaks to the heart and is a life changer as he was for Saint Francis of Assisi. "The joy of finding the treasure of the Kingdom of God comes through, can be seen. Christians cannot hide their faith."
IRAQ - VATICAN
Saddened by "the timidity of the civilised world," Baghdad patriarch's heart bleeding "for the innocent in Iraq, Syria and Gaza" "Forget us not!" says Mar Louis Sako in a message to Card Barbarin on the occasion of the march of solidarity with Iraqi Christians, held today in Lyon.
VATICAN
Pope: I am with the persecuted Christians of Mosul and the Middle East "May the God of peace inspire in all a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated with violence. Violence is defeated with peace." At the Sunday Angelus Francis comments on the parable of the wheat and the weeds. God is "patient" He knows "the same weeds in the end, may become good wheat". But "at the time of the harvest, that is, of judgment, the reapers will execute the order of the master separating the weeds to be burned".

Dossier
by Giulio Aleni / (a cura di) Gianni Criveller
pp. 176
by Lazzarotto Angelo S.
pp. 528
by Bernardo Cervellera
pp. 240
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