Did Shimon Peres make a deal with the Vatican?
Consider the evidence:
- On Sept. 10, ’93, just three days before the signing of the Declaration of Principles in Washington, the Italian news magazine La Stampa reported that part of the peace deal was an unwritten understanding that the Vatican would receive political authority over the Old City of Jerusalem by the end of the millenium. The newspaper reported that Shimon Peres had promised the pope to hand over the holy sites of Jerusalem the previous May and that Arafat had accepted the agreement.
- In March ’94, the Israeli newsmagazine Shishi published an interview with Mark Halter, a French intellectual and close friend of Shimon Peres. He said he delivered a letter from Peres to the Pope the previous May, within which Peres offered the Vatican hegemony over the Old City of Jerusalem. The article detailed Peres’s offer which essentially turned Jerusalem into an international city overseen by the Holy See.
- In March ’95, the radio station Arutz Sheva announced that it had seen a cable sent by the Israeli Embassy in Rome to the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem outlining the handover of the Old City of Jerusalem to the Vatican. Two days later Haaretz published the cable on its front page. The Foreign Ministry explained that the cable was genuine but someone had whited out the word “not.” ie We will not transfer authority to the Vatican. Incredibly, numerous Bnei Brak rabbis who had cancelled Passover meetings with Peres over the issue of the cable accepted the explanation and reinvited him to their homes.
The Foreign Ministry’s Legal Affairs Spokesperson, Esther Samilag, publicly complained about “various capitulations” to the Vatican. She was immediately transferred to a post at the Israeli Embassy in Katmandu, Nepal.
MK Avraham Shapira announced in the Knesset that he had information that all Vatican property in Jerusalem was to become tax exempt and that large tracts of real estate on Mount Zion were given to the pope in perpetuity.
Jerusalem’s late Deputy Mayor Shmuel Meir announced that he had received “information that properties promised to the Vatican would be granted extra-territorial status.”
Beilin was forced to answer the accusations. He admitted, “Included in the Vatican Agreement is the issue of papal properties in Israel that will be resolved by a committee of experts that has already been formed.” If so, this committee has not since released any proof of its existence.
With all this in mind, how do we interpret the Vatican’s current position on Jerusalem?
The following report, circulated by MSANews may shed some light on that:
Vatican City, Jun 14, 1997 (VIS) – Archbishop Renato Martino, apostolic nuncio and Holy See permanent observer to the United Nations, spoke June 9 on the status of Jerusalem at the New York headquarters of the Path to Peace Foundation. The archbishop addressed members of this foundation as well as U.S. members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem. He began by briefly summarizing the “well-known and long-standing position of the Holy See with regard to Jerusalem. He stated that Jerusalem “for us, of course, along with the rest of the Holy Land, is that special link between heaven and earth, that place where God walked and ultimately died among men. And of course we recognize that others revere Jerusalem as the city of David and the prophets and the city known to Mohammed…. It is a spiritual treasure for all of humanity, and it is a city of two peoples, Arabs and Jews, and of the three monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.”
Archbishop Martino added that “in recent years it has been increasingly difficult to break through the political and media-imposed stranglehold on the question of Jerusalem.” he recounted Jerusalem’s recent history, recalling in particular the UN’s General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947 calling for Jerusalem to be considered a ‘corpus separatum’ under the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations,” a resolution which Israel accepted. He pointed out that, in addressing the gridlock which has resulted from the 1967 Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, “the Holy See has therefore advocated the granting to Jerusalem of an ‘internationally guaranteed special statute. That is the phrase used by Pope John Paul II in his 1984 Apostolic Letter ‘Redemption is Anno’.”
This statute “asks that regardless of how the problem of sovereignty is resolved and who is called to exercise it, there should be a supra-national and international entity endowed with means adequate to insure the preservation of the special characteristics of the City, its Holy Places, the freedom to visit them, its religious and ethnic communities, a guarantee of their essential liberties, and its city plan’.”
The apostolic nuncio recalled the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel in 1993, when both signed the ‘Fundamental Agreement.” He noted Article 4 of this agreement where “both the Holy See and Israel affirm their continuing commitment to the ‘Status quo’ in the Christian Holy Places.”
He also spoke of the problems sparked by Israel’s recent authorization of “a project for the construction of settlements in occupied territory in East Jerusalem” for which “there was wide-spread international condemnation.” This issue, he reminded those present, was brought before the UN Security Council on March 7 and March 21 of this year, but without resolution “because the sole country on the Security Council which opposed the Resolution was the United States.”
An Emergency Session of the General Assembly, “organized only nine other times in the history of the United Nations” was held on April 24-25. The Holy See delegation was contacted and asked for suggestions for a Resolution, Archbishop Martino said. And he recounted the meetings, rough drafts of proposals and negotiations which followed.
The approved texts of the eventual Resolution, he underlined, contained “those points championed by the Holy See…. The General Assembly has here called for ‘internationally guaranteed provisions’ – the equivalent of the ‘internationally guaranteed special status’ called for by Pope John Paul II. This is particularly noteworthy because in this case, the Arab delegations all voted for this Resolution and therefore for this provision.”
“The Holy Places within Jerusalem,” concluded Archbishop Martino, “are not merely museum relics to be opened and closed by the dominant political authority, no matter who that might be at any given moment. They are living shrines precious to the hearts and faith of believers.” DELSS/STATUS JERUSALEM/UN:MARTINO VIS 970616 (640)
Could that supra-national entity which will oversee the international city of Jerusalem be the Vatican just as Peres promised? And how do we react to Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert’s recent announcement that he will begin negotiations with the Vatican, but “only over holy sites?”