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What Will the Vatican’s Recognition of Palestine Mean?

The pope’s recognition of a Palestinian state was denounced by Israel, but what will its impact in Europe and the Mideast be? How will peace really come?

What Will the Vatican’s Recognition of Palestine Mean?
The Vatican signed a treaty recognizing a Palestinian state Wednesday, May 13.

The National Catholic Reporter said, “The move comes four days before the canonization of two Palestinian nuns and solidifies the standing of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is scheduled to meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Saturday.

“Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told The Times of Israel that the government is ‘disappointed by the decision. We believe that such a decision is not conducive to bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table.’

“Israel insists that for the Palestinians to achieve statehood, they must first end their armed struggle against Israel and recognize its right to exist as the homeland of the Jewish people.”

The pope’s play

Journalist Julian Pecquet wrote May 13, “From the beginning of his papacy Pope Francis hasn’t hesitated to jump into the bloody politics of the Middle East, starting with his September 2013 appeal for a day of fasting and prayer to protest the planned US military strikes on Syria. Since then he has recognized the Armenian slaughter of 1915 as a genocide and repeatedly called for peace in the region, all in the name of defusing conflicts that threaten to tear apart a rich mosaic of cultures in which Christians once thrived.

“‘We cannot resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians, who have professed the name of Jesus there for [2,000] years,’ The New York Times quoted the pope as saying during his visit to Turkey last year.”

Lasting peace will not come to this part of the world as a result of treaties or political negotiations. But it will eventually come—by divine intervention!The pope’s actions have drawn admiration from some—and ire from others. But though his move to recognize a Palestinian state is bold and bound to influence leaders in Europe and elsewhere, in other ways it was apparently not out of step with global public opinion.

Reuters reported, “The Vatican, increasingly proactive in foreign policy under Pope Francis, is far from the only state to have recognized Palestine—135 members of the United Nations already do so, nearly 70 percent of the total. By comparison, 160 of the UN’s 193 members recognize Israel.”

How will Europe respond?

The Reuters report also noted, “The European Union as a whole does not recognize Palestine, taking the same view as the United States that an independent country can emerge only via negotiations with Israel, not through a process of unilateral recognition.

“But with the last talks between Israel and the Palestinians having broken down more than a year ago, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu having pledged the day before his reelection in March that there would be no Palestinian state on his watch, diplomats are wondering what options they have left. …

“The Vatican’s move may not spur an immediate shift in Europe. But the Holy See’s deputy foreign minister said he hoped it would encourage the international community ‘to undertake more decisive action to contribute to a lasting peace and to the hoped-for two-state solution.’

“The senior EU diplomat echoed that point, saying it was time for the EU to take a greater leadership role.

“‘We need proposals to support peace, but also we need to look at what leverage Europe has, what steps Europe could take to exert pressure on Israel,’ he said.”

Bible prophecy indicates Europe will eventually take a decisive role in the Middle East (see our articles “Middle East Conflict” and “The King of the North” for more about this). But can “pressure” really bring the two sides to lasting peace?

What Will the Vatican’s Recognition of Palestine Mean?
Concerns and fears

One can understand both the concerns and the fears as violence and mistrust continue. The western segment of “Palestine,” the Gaza Strip, is ruled by the Islamic Hamas movement, which is irrevocably dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish state.

Many Israelis ask whether the same hostile actions they have seen in Gaza might break forth from the West Bank. Can Palestinian declarations of peace be trusted?

Palestinians look at their miserable condition since the 1967 Six-Day War, and the constant encroachments of Israeli settlements well beyond the pre-1967 boundaries, and wonder if they will ever have their state as a result of direct negotiations. With on-and-off negotiations over nearly 50 years having yielded little, they ask if Israel can be trusted.

Mutual distrust and more troubles

In the midst of mutual distrust, will recent events advance the cause of a lasting and just peace? Common sense suggests no. So does Bible prophecy.

The Bible indicates that this part of the world, and the city of Jerusalem in particular, will continue to be a center of strife and warfare right up to the end of the age. Note what God tells us in Zechariah’s prophecy: “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem” (Zechariah 12:2).

The city so desired by Jews, Muslims and Christians will suffer ongoing warfare in these last days. No human geopolitical designs will succeed: “I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (verse 3).

A new Peacemaker

No, true lasting peace will not come to this part of the world as a result of treaties or political negotiations. But it will eventually come—by divine intervention!

Notice: “Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house [the center of the future government of God] shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Isaiah 2:2-3).

Note the plan to bring real peace: “He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (verse 4).

There is destined to be more war and bloodshed in this part of the world. But eventually the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ the Messiah, will bring an end to wars in the Middle East and throughout the world and bring justice for all the nations.

May God speed that day!

Photo 1 and photo 2 by Michael Swan/CC BY-ND 2.0

About the Author

Ralph Levy and Mike Bennett

Ralph Levy is a minister of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, and an instructor at Foundation Institute who grew up in England and now lives in the United States. Dr. Levy enjoys reading, travel and foreign languages. He has a Ph.D. in biblical studies and has worked in foreign language and religious education for much of his life. Mike Bennett is the editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, and lives in the Dallas, Texas, area. He and his wife, Becky, have two grown daughters.

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