Within the framework of a conference on persecuted Christians in the Middle East held at the European Parliament in Brussels on Tuesday, December 5th co-organized by Aid to the Church in Need, Mark Riedemann took the opportunity to interview Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. In an unprecedented move, President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday, December 6th that the U.S. will recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s official capital. Here is an extract from the CRTN TV interview about the negotiation status between Israelis and Palestinians and the potential repercussions of Trump’s decision.
ACN: Palestinian and Israeli negotiations are at a standstill. What is the vision or rather what is the lack of vision? Why are things not moving ahead?
The negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians is very frustrating. The points are very clear: The borders, then refugees, and Jerusalem. If there is no agreement it is not because there are no discussions about these points because I think that this is the most discussed issue in the entire world in the last 50 years. It is only because there is no will. … The two peoples are not ready to compromise. Theoretically yes but not in reality. It may be theoretically that they are ready to accept that they have to compromise, but they don’t accept about what they are to compromise – especially about Jerusalem. No one is ready to compromise about Jerusalem. This is very frustrating and our people are tired about these negotiations and what is very sad is that they don’t believe anymore that these negotiations will bring something positive after such long negotiations and so many failures. I don’t know how many intifada’s, the violence, the wars … I think about Gaza but not only … so people are tired of all this and don’t believe. It’s a vicious circle because if people don’t believe politicians are not pushed to do something.”
ACN: Jerusalem, as you mentioned, is the crucial point. Why?
Jerusalem is the holy city for all. It is the heart of the life of the Faith. If you do not understand that in the Middle East, for Arab countries and Israel too, they are religious, that the religious element is part of their identity, you don’t understand the Middle East. And in this religious identity Jerusalem is central. As long as the religious community doesn’t have an inclusive approach it will be almost impossible to compromise on Jerusalem.
ACN: President Trump is reflecting on the idea of Jerusalem being recognized as the capital of Israel?
I think that this will create a big problem, an explosion in all of the Arab countries especially the Muslim countries. Jerusalem should be at the end of these negotiations, not the beginning. And any unilateral decision will create more frustration, and anger and I’m afraid will bring to more violence. I don’t think it is wise to do it in this way.