Vatican To Recognize Palestinian State

The Vatican has announced that it will recognize Palestinian statehood, but this is not going to resolve the underlying issues that prevent a Palestinian state from actually coming into existence.

Pope Palestine

Vatican City will recognize the existence of a Palestinian state:

ROME — The Vatican said Wednesday that it had concluded a treaty to recognize Palestinian statehood, a symbolic but significant step welcomed by Palestinians but upsetting to the Israeli government.

Formal recognition of a Palestinian state by the Vatican, which has deep religious interests in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories that include Christian holy sites, lends a powerful signal of legitimacy to the efforts by the Palestinian Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, to achieve statehood despite the long paralyzed Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Israel has grown increasingly alarmed about the increased international acceptance of Palestine as a state since the United Nations upgraded the Palestinian delegation’s status in 2012 to that of a nonmember observer state. A number of European countries have also signaled their acceptance of Palestinian statehood.

A statement from a joint commission of Vatican and Palestinian diplomatic officials, posted on the Vatican news website, said “the work of the commission on the text of the agreement has been concluded,” and that it would be submitted for formal approval and for signing “in the near future.”

Hanna Amireh, head of a Palestinian committee on church affairs, said the treaty was a broad one regarding the Vatican’s interests in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, including the standing of churches and church courts and taxes on church charities, institutions and lands, as well as other cultural and diplomatic matters. He said it had been under negotiation for about a year.

“The Vatican is the spiritual capital of the Catholics, and they are recognizing Palestine, that’s the chief importance,” said Mr. Amireh, who is also a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee. The move counters an image of Palestinians as militants or terrorists, he added, as a “recognition of the Palestinian character that has a clear message for coexistence and peace.”

A senior Israeli Foreign Ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under diplomatic protocol, said Israel was “disappointed to hear” about the Vatican’s use of the term “state” in its new treaty.

“This step does not advance the peace process and pushes the Palestinian leadership further away from returning to a direct and bilateral negotiation,” the official said in a statement, echoing Israel’s reactions to a series of recent parliamentary resolutions on Palestinian statehood in European nations. “Israel will study the agreement and consider its next steps accordingly.”

Recognition by the Vatican is likely to add some credibility to the efforts by the Palestinian Authority to seek recognition of their status as a state by other nations of the world or even by the United Nations. So far, a Palestinian State has been recognized by approximately 135 of the 193 nations that are members of the United Nations. Additionally, the Palestinians have recognition from some international entities not affiliated with the United Nations. However, most of the major nations of Europe, along with the United States, as well as major American allies such as Japan, South Korea, Australia have Canada have not recognized Palestine as a state, although most of them do have some form of diplomatic relationship with the Palestinian Authority. It’s unlikely that most of those nations will recognize a Palestinian state, though, until the underlying disputes with Israel are resolved.

In reality, though, there is not going to be final resolution of this matter unless and until the Israelis and the Palestinians agree to a final resolution that includes the establishment of a Palestinian state along with guarantees for Israel’s legitimate security concerns. There haven’t been fruitful negotiations on this issue for years, of course. Palestinians blame that largely on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and specifically his insistence on continuing the construction of new settlements in areas around Jerusalem. Israelis, meanwhile, argue that final resolution of the Palestinian issue can’t happen as long as Hamas continues to control Gaza and continues to have the destruction of Israel as its founding goal. Given the war in Gaza last year, which started because Hamas was lobbing rockets into Israel on a regular basis, it’s hard to deny the legitimacy of Israel’s security concerns. With the talks at an effective stalemate, though, and policy unlikely to change in either Jerusalem or Ramallah in the foreseeable future, it would appear that this issue will remain unresolved and largely ignored by the world until the next war.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    but this is not going to resolve the underlying issues that prevent a Palestinian state from actually coming into existence.

    That would be Likud.

  2. michael reynolds says:


    The talks are stalemated because Likud has zero intention of ever, ever, ever allowing a Palestinian state. The Israelis take our money, lie to our faces, and then try to manipulate our domestic politics. They are a useless appendage at this point, useless and treacherous.

    Yes, they have very real security issues, and yes they are surrounded by some of the worst regimes on earth, but all that really argues for Likud to stop treating us with contempt. The fact that they feel free to crap all over their only friends suggests they are ready to manage their own security with no further assistance from us.

    This is just the beginning. The Europeans will go next and we won’t stop them. This is the predictable result of Likud’s arrogance, ingratitude and contempt. Maybe the Israeli voters will wake up.

  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    I see absolutely no reason to grant the Palestinians statehood; they have repeatedly demonstrated that, when given the choice between caring for their own people and killing Jews, they almost always choose the latter. They have a lengthy tradition of “never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” And they have reneged on every single agreement they have ever made.

    But on the flip side, I see a decided advantage here. Should they become a state, then any future terrorist attacks become acts of war by one state against another, and free up Israel to retaliate fully. Because along with the privileges of statehood come responsibilities, and among them is to preserve a monopoly on violence within their territory. They will either have to rein in the violent groups, or answer for them.

    It’s kind of like a teenage punk who demands to be treated like a man and respected, then gets caught committing a crime. That’s when they once again start demanding and begging to NOT be treated as an adult,but a juvenile.

  4. grumpy realist says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13: The same argument can be used about Israel. They want to be the big he-man in the MidEast? Let them take care of their own problems.

    (And stop nattering on about Israel being a “democracy”. Given how they’ve been indulging the Ultra-Orthodox I really wonder how long this will last.)

  5. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    @grumpy realist: The same argument can be used about Israel.

    Please, make that case. I’m begging you. I need some good laughs.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    Should they become a state, then any future terrorist attacks become acts of war by one state against another, and free up Israel to retaliate fully.

    Exactly, and duh. This has been one of the arguments people have been making for decades. A Palestinian state would need to maintain that state and would be less likely to invite retaliation. People who have something to lose are more easily managed than those with nothing to lose.

    So thanks for making the dove’s argument.

  7. Andre Kenji says:

    @michael reynolds: Palestine is not viable as a state. Gaza definitely is not. It´s too easy to complain that the Palestinians don´t take care of themselves, but they don´t have the means to do that.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    Half the countries on earth aren’t viable by rational standards. Burkina Faso anyone? Haiti? Bangladesh? Palestine is no less viable than Jordan – neither has much of anything. Palestine could in theory develop an educated and hardworking population and struggle along for decades.

  9. Andre Kenji says:

    @michael reynolds: Bangladesh is a viable as state. It´s hundreds of times larger than either Gaza or the West Bank. Bangladesh was not viable as East Pakistan, and that´s only proves my point.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Andre Kenji:

    So a Palestinian state lives on Saudi charity – as they do now. If you had a corridor connecting Gaza and the West Bank they’d have a reasonably viable state – ports, airports, cities, a power grid, internet. There’s no reason they couldn’t stumble along.