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from issue no. 01 - 2008

Diplomatic relations between Holy See and PNA

It needs time and good will

by Giovanni Cubeddu

Shawqi Jabriel Armali in audience with Benedict XVI, 10 December 2007

Shawqi Jabriel Armali in audience with Benedict XVI, 10 December 2007

High school at the Christian Brothers, Law studies at the University of Saint Joseph in Beirut, political militancy as a young man. With this background Shawqi Armali, born in Haifa in 1936, entered the world of the diplomacy, to which he has now belonged for more than forty years. From 1984 he was in Brussels, as representative of the PLO to Belgium, Luxemburg and the European Community (then Union). Since 2006 he has been adviser to the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), and now has been sent to Rome.
Diplomatic relations between the PLO and the Holy See opened in 1994, and led in 2000 to the signing of a Basic Agreement, the political success of which for Yasser Arafat lay above all in the fact that the agreement condemned unilateral Israeli decisions that “alter the specific character and status of Jerusalem”. In the Agreement the religious freedom of all citizens and their equality before the law, no matter what religion they belong to, was reaffirmed. Guarantees thereby given also to the Christians.
At the time the Israeli Foreign Ministry held that such an agreement was interference in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, but the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, had subsequently to remind the legislators in Ramallah that the affirmation contained in the rough draft of the Constitution of the future Palestinian State that Islam is the official religion of State could not be accepted sic et simpliciter. Time and goodwill will have to deal with the problem.
The recrudescence of terrorism in Israel is dimming the prospects arising out of the Annapolis Conference, exactly what the Palestinians don’t need, in particular those that do not approve of the extremism of both sides and have found themselves for decades, for no fault of their own, in the refugee camps and now in the open air prison of Gaza. A humanitarian tragedy. And every time there is extremism it is the simple faithful, Christians or Muslims, who pay.
All this is at the top of Ambassador Armali’s agenda. And a comprehensible, continual request to the Vatican Secretariat of State for greater political legitimation for the Palestinian National Authority.

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