Jerusalem – Israeli and Vatican delegations, which this week discussed the financial and legal status of Israel’s Christian holy sites, have reached a dead end. According to Vatican sources, relations between the two are on the verge of crisis, and these same sources are also threatening to sever diplomatic ties with Israel.

The Israeli delegation, directed by Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, flew to the Vatican in order to discuss the status of the Vatican’s assets in Israel, and also the Vatican’s demand to receive ownership of the Room of the Last Supper on Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, where, according to Christian tradition, Jesus held the Passover dinner with his 12 disciples before being crucified.

The two committees were unable to reach an agreement on any issue, and decided to postpone their discussions to May 27. A source in the Vatican told the Israeli media that they had been waiting 15 years to reach an agreement with Israel over the status of the holy sites, but that Israeli governments were unable to reach a decision on any matter.

Mr. Ayalon told Ma’ariv that he’d rather not refer to the matter as a crisis, and added that the delegations had decided to part cordially and refrain from speaking of a crisis. “There was no breakthrough, and we therefore agreed to end the meeting with the phrase ‘we have agreed not to agree.’” But the deputy minister also added that “Israeli and Vatican delegations reached an impasse.”

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Mr. Ayalon evinced to the Vatican that Israel would not forfeit its sovereignty and possessions in Mount Zion, where the Room of the Last Supper is located – one of the key issues of contention between the two delegations. The Vatican seeks to be the only body to operate the site and to conduct prayers taking place there, whereas Israel opposes this request seeing that according to Jewish faith, King David is buried under the hall.

Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai opposes granting the Vatican exclusive rights to the hall, and also other officials, among them rabbis and organizations dealing with activities in the Jewish Quarter, have asked that the asset remain in Israeli hands.

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David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

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