JERUSALEM — The Vatican announced a treaty Wednesday that reaffirms Palestinian statehood, a step that immediately drew Israeli criticism and stirred alarm that an activist Pope Francis was advancing the Palestinian cause at Israel’s expense.
The agreement, being finalized in Rome by a group called the Bilateral Commission of the Holy See and the State of Palestine, “deals with essential aspects of the life and activity of the Catholic Church in Palestine,” according to a joint statement posted on the Vatican’s Web site. Palestinians said the accord addresses such matters as properties, taxes and protocol at holy sites.
Social media and news reports — as well as some pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian voices — seized on the treaty to suggest that the Vatican had newly recognized the “State of Palestine,” although the Vatican had done so shortly after the United Nations granted Palestine “non-member observer status” in 2012.
News of the pending agreement triggered conflicting statements on its significance for the decades-old Israel-Palestinian conflict. The Israeli Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it was “disappointed.”