There are indications that the Vatican and Israel may resolve outstanding bilateral issues and finalize the Fundamental Agreement governing relations between the two states.
A joint communiqué following a meeting in Jerusalem Jan. 29 of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and Israel said “significant progress” had been made. It said the meeting had taken place in a “thoughtful and constructive atmosphere” and that both sides looked forward to a “speedy conclusion” of negotiations.
Israel’s deputy foreign minister Danny Ayalon, who took part in the meeting, told the Jerusalem Post that the two sides were “on the verge” of finalizing the accord, which will establish the juridical rights of the Catholic Church in Israel as well as regulate property and taxation issues.
Though the Fundamental Agreement establishing diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See was signed in 1993, these issues had remained unresolved despite years of fitful negotiations.
“In the last four years a lot of ground has been covered, and after long, intensive and serious negotiations we have overcome most if not all the outstanding issues that have prevented signing of this agreement for so long,” Ayalon said. “All the groundwork is finished.”
He added that the accord will be “nothing short of a milestone” in the relationship between Israel and the Holy See.
The accord needs formal government approval from both sides, and Ayalon said that this would have to wait until the new Israeli government is installed. The next plenary meeting of the commission is scheduled for June, at the Vatican.