Pope Francis has invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to the Vatican to revive peace talks between the two dueling states in an effort to to move towards a two-state solution. The two sides presidents have both accepted the Pope’s invitation to meet at the Vatican next month to join him to pray for peace in the region.
Pope Francis met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and assured him of the Vatican’s support of an independent Palestinian state. The Pope’s comments also raised the pressure on both sides to resume talks after the US backed talks collapsed last month. Both sides were quick in accepting the Pope’s invitation.
Israeli President Shimon Peres, who’s title is mostly symbolic and who’s term is over at the end of next month and a strong supporter of peace talks stated that he welcomes the invitation by the 77-year-old Pontiff, saying that he supports all avenues to move towards peace.
While President Peres, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, supports a road to peace between the two states shows a stark contrast to that of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who has been extremely upset and has refused to revive negotiations due to the Palestinian Authorities alignment with Hamas, a group with Israel and the United States deems a terrorist organization.
“I offer my home in the Vatican as a place for this encounter of prayer,” the Pontiff said. After his arrival in Bethlehem, Pope Francis met with leaders of the Palestinian Authority, saying that the situation in the region is becoming more and more unacceptable and that it was time for a “just solution.”
“The time has come for everyone to find the courage, to forge a peace that rests on the acknowledgment by all of the right of two states to exist and to live in peace and security within internationally recognized borders,” he said during the meeting with Palestinian lawmakers.
Francis also acknowledged that it will be a difficult road to travel in regards to forging peace between Israel and Palestine, however he signaled that he remained hopeful that it is possible, saying “The men and women of these lands, and of the entire world, all of them, ask us to bring before God their fervent hopes for peace.”
Although the Pope assured Palestinian President Abbas that he supported the right of the Palestinian state to exist, he also assured Israel that the Vatican also supports their right to exist as well. He said in his meeting with Abbas that both states had the right to exist in peace and security within their own borders, which should also be internationally recognized as well.
Since the US lead peace talks collapsed after a series of unilateral moves by both sides, with Palestine seeking international recognition by 15 UN treaties and alignment with Hamas and Israel’s refusal to disperse taxes collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority and the continued settlement of Israelis’ on Palestinian land, the Pope urged both sides to refrain from such political back and forth moves which will only damage the process going forward saying, “I can only express my profound hope that all will refrain from initiatives and actions which contradict the stated desire to reach a true agreement, and that peace will be pursued with tireless determination and tenacity.”
By Nathaniel Pownell