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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
04VATICAN2949 2004-07-29 15:30:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Vatican
Cable title:  

ISRAEL: VATICAN PESSIMISTIC ON SOURING RELATIONS

Tags:   IS KIRF KPAL PREL VT UNGA 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L  VATICAN 002949 

SIPDIS


DEPT FOR EUR/WE: LEVIN; NEA/IPA; IO/UNP; EUR/OHI: BRAUM;
DRL/IRF: ABRAMSON

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/15/2013
TAGS: IS KIRF KPAL PREL VT UNGA
SUBJECT: ISRAEL: VATICAN PESSIMISTIC ON SOURING RELATIONS

REF: A. VATICAN 2934


B. VATICAN 1445

Classified By: Ambassador Jim Nicholson for reasons 1.5 (b) and (d)

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Summary
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1. (C) Holy See Country Director for the Middle East Coppola
elaborated on his foreign minister's frustrations with
Vatican-Israel relations July 22, pointing to stalled
negotiations on issues related to the 1994 Fundamental
Agreement between the two governments as the main source of
contention. Coppola was pessimistic about the next round of
talks scheduled for September and warned that Israel's stance
endangered the future of the Christian community in the Holy
Land. He also criticized the construction of Israel's
security barrier, suggesting a parallel between what the Holy
See regards as intransigence on that issue and the problems
in bilateral relations with the Vatican. End Summary.



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Frustration Not Surprising


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2. (C) Holy See Country Director for the Middle East
Monsignor Franco Coppola expressed frustration with the state
of Holy See-Israel relations in a July 22 meeting. Coppola
expanded on criticisms of the GOI leveled by Holy See Foreign
Minister Giovanni Lajolo during a July 17 meeting with
visiting Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) (ref a). Coppola said
he was not surprised that Lajolo became animated in his
description of current ills in Vatican-Israel relations, as
he has seen what the Vatican considers Israeli insincerity in
negotiations "for some time now."



--------------------------



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Coppola: Catholics Not Trying to Avoid Fair Share


--------------------------



--------------------------





3. (C) Coppola agreed with Lajolo that frustrations between
the Holy See and Israel had reached a new level with the
controversy surrounding the July 5 negotiating session
between delegations from the two governments. A number of
issues that formed part of the 1994 Fundamental Agreement
that established full diplomatic relations between the two
governments remain unresolved, including some related to
taxation, property, and visas for religious workers (ref b).
Coppola insisted that Catholic groups in Israel were not
simply trying to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
Rather, the rates Israel is demanding are in many cases much
higher than similar taxes paid in Europe. Further, he
claimed, the government of Israel was demanding funds from
institutions that had little or no income, such as churches
that did not charge tourists or others for entry. As a
result, some institutions had been withholding tax payment
for about two years. The situation was untenable, Coppola
said, and threatened the future of the Christian community in
the Holy Land.



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September Talks


--------------------------





4. (C) The Israelis now claim to have completed some of the
technical work on outstanding aspects of the Fundamental
Agreement and maintain that they are simply awaiting
government clearance to move forward, Coppola said. But he
did not seem convinced that this would translate into
progress when negotiations resumed in September. "You cannot
predict it," Coppola concluded. "No one can say what's in
their minds."



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Security Barrier


--------------------------





5. (C) Coppola implied a connection between Israel's
inflexibility on issues with the Holy See, and what the
Vatican sees as the GOI's obstinate position on the security
barrier. "Of course no one doubts the right of the Israelis
to defend themselves," he said. "But they cannot just build
a wall in disputed territory." According to Coppola, Israel
can automatically count on U.S. support, and is able to stand
against the international community partially because of this
backing. He emphasized that world opinion had to count for
something in a case like this. "Look at the UN vote (on the
opinion of the International Court of Justice) -- 150 in
favor and six against," he said. "It's no accident that

opinion is so one-sided on this issue."

NICHOLSON


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2004VATICA02949 - Classification: CONFIDENTIAL