12/13/2006, 00.00
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Holy See-Israel accords are elements of international law

by Arieh Cohen
Bishops and Catholic experts explain and clarify the position of the Holy See in talks with Israel. The Church is not seeking “privileges” but only recognition of those rights that Israel itself has promised several times over to observe.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – The Catholic perspective is understanding more and more that Israel’s difficulties to realize and to fulfil – through enactment of laws –the 1993 Fundamental Agreement hinge on the Israeli government’s conception of this agreement and its ensuing unwillingness to recognize it as an international treaty.

A source of the Israeli Catholic Church and expert in international law, told AsiaNews: “Any student of international law, even first-year students, will immediately see that the Fundamental Agreement is an international treaty and thus a juridical and totally binding agreement. After all, it was negotiated, signed and ratified in this form before the whole world. Whether it should be transferred to Israeli law in all its details is up to the State, but the Israeli government cannot describe the treaty as ‘non-binding’ before courts and the Supreme Court just because it has not been translated into law.”

As for defending the Status Quo for the Catholic Church, several ecclesial personalities in Israel have clarified that the Church is not asking for privileges but simply for the recognition of rights granted by the UN itself when the state of Israel was born (1948) with Resolution 181 and which Israel has promised other nations and churches several times over that it would observe. “The State of Israel should adapt its laws to the stipulations of international law. Besides, over the years, Catholic representatives have often consulted the most prominent Israeli law experts and all of them confirmed that there is no reason to think that an Accord as desired by the Church risks being de-legitimized by Israel’s domestic judicial powers.”

As for the much anticipated Economic Accord, the same expert source said: “It must be stressed that this should be – as stipulated by the Fundamental Agreement – a comprehensive agreement that resolves all questions of an ‘economic’ nature or regarding property, what lawyers would call a ‘settlement of all claims’, precisely to ensure the Church-State ties in Israel may be serene, based on common regulations and will no longer be, as alas they have been so far, a theatre for continued tensions and clashes because of the absence of regulations across the board.

Asked about these issues, Fr David Maria Jaeger, a Franciscan jurist, renowned for his input to the Fundamental Agreement, limited himself to expressing satisfaction about the resumption of negotiations and specified that they should help to “realize the prophetic vision of the Servant of God, John Paul II, who desired to profoundly transform relations between Christian communities and States in the Holy Land and elsewhere in the region, from relations based – in the best scenario – on ‘tolerance’ or ‘protection’ to relations of freedom determined by rules-based relationships".

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