News

Israel-Holy See Talks: Substantive Progress Made But Why No More Details?


by Edward Pentin |  January 27, 2012

The bilateral permanent working commission between the State of Israel and the Holy See appears to have made significant progress, according to a statement released this afternoon. The plenary meeting, hosted by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, concerned the ongoing quest to reach an accord concerning part of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement dealing with economic and fiscal matters.


(Milan) - The bilateral permanent working commission between the State of Israel and the Holy See appears to have made significant progress, according to a statement released this afternoon.

In a joint communique, the Holy See and Israel said “substantive progress was made on issues of significance” and that the talks were held in an “open, friendly and constructive atmosphere.”

The plenary meeting, hosted by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, concerned the ongoing quest to reach an accord concerning part of the 1993 Fundamental Agreement dealing with economic and fiscal matters.

However, such positive statements are not unusual to anyone following progress of the talks. Despite regular meetings, optimistic statements have often been issued but no agreement has been forthcoming since the bilateral commission was established in 1999.

Little is known precisely what is being discussed, nor exactly how close an agreement might be. According to Msgr. David-Maria Jaeger OFM, a member of the Holy See delegation until last year, this is because from the outset of the talks both parties made a “gentleman's agreement” to keep a strict silence and reveal as little as possible to the press.

Msgr. Jaeger said in a speech given last October that this unwritten confidentiality rule was introduced to prevent leaks and media manipulation by either side which could scupper the talks. He stressed it was also introduced for another intrinsic reason: “The principle that governs negotiations is that nothing is considered agreed until everything is.”

This is why both sides have always insisted that the statements released after the negotiations should “say nothing of the contents of the session, and especially nothing about the content of any "progress" that the statements sometimes refer to,” said Msgr. Jaeger, who is now a prelate judge of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota, the Vatican's highest court.

The Holy See and Israel agreed today to hold the commission's next plenary meeting on 11 June 2012 at the Vatican.

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