Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas joined Pope Francis on Saturday to celebrate the opening of the Embassy of Palestine in Vatican City. Palestine’s ambassador to the Holy See, Issa Kassissieh, hailed the inauguration of the embassy as “a significant achievement for the Palestinian people,” adding that Pope Francis has taken “a moral, legal and political stand through recognizing the state of Palestine along the pre-1967 borders.”
The Vatican has long-standing relations with Palestine, and simultaneously with Israel. Palestine has had diplomatic relations with the Vatican since 2000. Under the leadership of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Vatican first acknowledged Palestinian statehood when the United Nations voted and recognized Palestine as a nonmember observer state in November 2012. In a largely political gesture, the Holy See formalized the acknowledgement vis-à-vis a legal document in May 2015. This was immediately followed by the religio-poltical gesture of the canonization of nuns Marie Alphonsine Ghattas and Mariam Baouardy into sainthood by Pope Francis.
The creation of the Embassy of Palestine in Vatican City came after a historic U.N. Security Council vote in December 2016, which unanimously condemned Israel’s flagrant violation of international law through the settlement and colonization of Palestinian land.
The creation of the Embassy of Palestine in Vatican City came after a historic U.N. Security Council vote in December 2016, which unanimously condemned Israel’s flagrant violation of international law through the settlement and colonization of Palestinian land. More than half a million Israelis live in Jewish-only settlements and outposts in the West Bank. In a speech before the chamber, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Powers stated, “This resolution reflects trends that will permanently destroy the two-state solution if they continue on their current course.”
The celebration also came on the eve of the Paris Peace Conference, which hosted 70 nations to maintain support for a two-state solution whilst bringing the Palestinian Authority and Israel to the negotiating table since the collapse of talks in 2014. Prime Minister Netanyahu refused an invitation and described the conference as “useless.” Netanyahu elaborated to his Cabinet that “this conference is among the last twitches of yesterday’s world. Tomorrow’s world will be different — and it is very near,” in reference to the upcoming inauguration of U.S. President-elect, Donald Trump.
In preparation for “tomorrow’s world,” President-elect Trump has nominated David Friedman as future U.S. Ambassador to Israel. Friedman has publicly stated that the U.S. Embassy in Israel will move to Jerusalem, from Tel Aviv (in gross violation of international law), refers to the West Bank by its Biblical name of Judea and Samaria (questioning the right of Palestine to exist in any form), has dismissed the two-state solution (in a column he wrote for the Israel National News), and raises funds for a yeshiva in a settlement in the West Bank led by a militant rabbi.
In welcoming the new embassy, the Vatican joins more than 90 nations with diplomatic relations to Palestine. Shortly after the opening of the new embassy in Vatican City, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas left a meeting with Pope Francis explaining that “We are waiting to see if [the move] happens. If it does, it will not help peace and we hope it does not happen.” Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki has announced that President Abbas is “hoping that the Pope will participate in sending a strong message” to Trump about the violations of the anticipated move.