Of all the things Republicans hate, and they hate nearly everything, it is non-compliance with Israel’s agenda they regard as throwing Israel under the proverbial bus. They also hate any religious leader that fails to support their neo-conservative economic and social agenda. Recently, although Republicans love the Vatican’s support for opposition to equal rights for women and the LGBT community, there has been growing enmity over the Pope’s opposition to income inequality and anthropogenic climate change. The Pope finally went too far this past week when he failed to comply with Israel’s agenda that Palestine will never be a sovereign state.
When Pope Francis announced on Wednesday that the Vatican, as an independent sovereign state, would be signing a treaty officially recognizing the “state of Palestine,” it bolstered the growing international support for Palestinian sovereignty since negotiations have been paralyzed by Israeli obstinance. In fact, while Republicans and Israelis were claiming Papal betrayal and expressed outrage at his humanitarian sensibilities, Palestinian leaders celebrated the Vatican endorsement due to the Pope’s international standing and popularity.
Israelis are offended because Francis allegedly has a close relationship with Jews dating back decades, and because Christians, particularly Republican Christians, are crucial support for Israel’s continuing inhumane enterprises targeting Arabs in general, but Palestinians in particular. As a senior Palestinian foreign-affairs official, Husam Zomlo, noted, “The Vatican is not just a state. The Vatican represents hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide, including Palestinians, and has vast moral significance.” Official or not, the Pope’s endorsement does not grant Palestinian Statehood, but it was important not only from a religious leader, but from another sovereign State.
The idea that the Vatican is a “State” is lost on Republicans who regard the Vatican, and the Pope, as a powerful Christian ally to use as a legislative and judicial weapon against American women and the LGBT community. It is curious that Republican Representative Jeff Duncan (SC), a Christian hawkish defender of Israel, said “It’s interesting how the Vatican has gotten so political when ultimately the Vatican ought to be working to lead people to Jesus Christ and salvation, and that’s what the Church is supposed to do.” If Duncan is correct, and he is not; then why in dog’s name do Republicans use the Vatican for their un-Jesus-like political assaults on women and gays? Every time this new Pope announces Jesus-like policies, Republicans go ballistic and cry religious foul. Obviously, recognizing the Palestinian State as a means to expedite a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian homeland issue will go a long way toward peace in the entire region; it is another Christ-like approach by Pope Francis.
It is possible the Vatican move was partially in response to Netanyahu’s statement last March that as long as he controls Israel there will never be a Palestinian state because it is impossible under current conditions. It is likely he meant under current conditions of his newly formed neo-conservative Arab-hostile government. Netanyahu’s remarks inspired President Obama to “reassess” Washington’s longstanding rubber-stamp policy of defending Israel in international forums no matter its inhumanity and warmongering towards Palestinians.
Ever the optimist, in an interview with the pan-Arab news outlet Asharq al-Awsat on Wednesday, the President said he still looked forward “to the new Israeli government and the Palestinians, through policies and actions, to demonstrate a genuine commitment to a two-state solution.” After the Vatican announcement and Israeli response, it seems unlikely the Israelis are committed to any kind of solution that involves peace; particularly in light of recent threats by Netanyahu confidante and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon to slaughter Palestinian Arabs and launch a nuclear strike on Iran.
While Palestinians were heartened by the Vatican announcement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry said the Pope’s endorsement was “disappointing” and that recognizing a Palestinian state “would not advance the peace process.” They are the same Israeli sentiments after last fall’s “wave of European Parliamentary resolutions” on Palestinian statehood to encourage Israel to go to the negotiating table and away from hostility and encroachment into Palestinian territory.
Israeli analysts claimed that the Pope’s recognition was even more painful than those of European nations. The editor of the “Times of Israel,” David Horovitz said “Even this philo-Semitic pope, this pope who cares about the Jews, even he doesn’t get it. Every time something like this happens, there’s this sense of anguish. Why don’t you understand? We want to separate from the Palestinians, but on terms that don’t threaten our security.” Horovitz is parroting the same weary Israeli line that everything threatens their security. If Israel was truly interested in “separating from the Palestinians” they would stop expanding settlements into Gaza and the West Bank and sit down with Palestinian leaders and negotiate a solution that does not decrease the walled-in reservation Palestinians are forced to live in.
As a sign that Israel will find any reason to complain about or oppose any support of statehood or a homeland for Palestinians like the one America and Great Britain created for Jews, some Israelis found a religious reason to claim Papal betrayal. According to a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, Yossi Klein Halevi, the Pope could have had the common decency to wait to announce the Vatican’s treaty with “the Palestinian State” until after the Nostra Aetate celebration. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the official Catholic Church declaration absolving Jews of their “guilt” for killing Jesus Christ.
It is unlikely that many Jews, either in Israel, America, or elsewhere in the world feel the need for absolution over biblical mythos claiming their ancestors crucified another Jew. Israelis certainly have not asked to be absolved for the recent rash of Israeli attacks on Christians in Palestine and Israel, and perhaps that played a part in the Vatican recognition of the Palestinian State.
It is more likely that many Israelis are intolerant of any perceived opposition to their anti-Palestinian policy regardless their stated reasons; reasons that always include their right to self-defense. Mr. Halevi made that point very clear when he complained that the Pope prevented Israelis from celebrating being forgiven for killing Jesus Christ. He said, “Why not let us all savor that spiritual achievement? Why muck it up with politics? On the one hand, the Catholic Church has made profound progress in its theology toward the Jewish people and toward the Jewish return home. On the other hand, there’s this deep insensitivity here to the fears of Israelis that a solution will be imposed on us that could undermine our ability to defend ourselves in a radically unstable Middle East.”
First, no-one is forcing a solution on Israel just because they support or recognize that the Palestinian people believe they have a right to their own State; especially not recognition by the Vatican. It is noteworthy that a solution for a Jewish state was forced on the Palestinian people and despite being displaced their only request is to be recognized as an independent state. It is something that Israel, and Republicans, adamantly opposed and now that the Pope has announced the Vatican’s official recognition of a “Palestine State,” he has incurred the wrath of both Israel and Republicans who only hate the Pope when he cannot be used as a weapon.