Francesco Sisci observes that Pope Francis, like any pope, has a religious obligation to pursue peace that transcends politics, and that this motivates his warm reception of Palestine Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. It is important to observe that the pope’s position has been distorted by English-language media: contrary to an initial (and virally circulated) report he did not call Abbas “an angel of peace,” but rather said, “May you be an angel of peace,” which has quite a different meaning. Nonetheless, Pope Francis cannot hover above political reality if he wishes to intervene in such matters; the Vatican is a state, and recognition of a putative “State of Palestine” has real-world consequences as a state matter. Abbas has refused to recognize the State of Israel, or even offer a final settlement of claims, as President Obama pointed out in an interview yesterday with Al-Arabiya. That is why peace negotiations have gotten nowhere; to exclude a final settlement of claims from the agenda is to refuse to negotiate. Some observers had hoped that Abbas might withhold recognition of Israel but accept an “end of claims” statement, but he has refused even that.

Having refused in effect to offer peace with Israel in return for territorial concessions, Abbas now wants the UN Security Council to give him what he wants in return for no concessions whatever on his part. That would leave the Middle East in a state of permanent war, by removing any incentive the Palestinian Arabs might have to agree to an “end of claims” statement and a final peace settlement. To encourage Abbas in this behavior (which means de facto accepting Hamas as the arbiter of power in the Palestinian camp) is not a step towards peace. Rather, it reinforces the war party in the Muslim world, specifically Hamas and its sole backer, Iran.

One wonders why the Vatican engages in such exercises; my presumption is that Rome believes that it will buy some relief for the beleaguered Arab Christians of Palestines by endorsing the Palestinian position. As we say in Yiddish, es soll gor nisht helfen.


David Paul Goldman (born September 27, 1951) is an American economist, music critic, and author, best known for his series of online essays in the Asia Times under the pseudonym Spengler. Goldman sits on the board of Asia Times Holdings.

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