I. First of all, here is the article by Hillel Fendel, reporting on the latest information, including the Foreign Ministry's strenuous denials:
Israel to Transfer Control of Mt. Zion Site to Catholic Church?
(IsraelNN.com) Reports in the Catholic media, buttressed by information from sources in Israel who are close to a ten-year-long negotiation between Israel and the Vatican, imply that an agreement is close on the handover of a holy room on Mount Zion to the Catholic Church.
However, a Foreign Ministry official denies categorically that Israel plans to hand over any properties. At issue are properties in Jerusalem, Caesarea, and around Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
The most prominent site in question is the room said to mark the burial site of Kings Solomon and Hezekiah, known by Catholics as the Last Supper Room. It is also in the same structure that houses King David's Tomb. Said to be the oldest Catholic church in the world, the building has also served as a synagogue and a mosque in the past; Muslim inscriptions still adorn the walls.
Since 1967, however, it has been under Israeli control, part of a complex leased and run by the Diaspora Yeshiva for over 40 years. An estimated 10,000 students have studied in the Yeshiva since then; for many of them, it was their first stop on their way to Judaism and Aliyah [immigration to Israel].
The Catholic Church has long wanted control over part of the area – to turn it into an international religious center for Catholics from all over the world, Diaspora Yeshiva officials say.
"We were forced to give over part of the compound to the Ministry of Religious Affairs," says Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein, founder and Dean of the Yeshiva, "which then gave it over to the Ministry of the Interior. Ever since then, the Church has been making demands and claims on the area, and has been making inroads. Their goal, ultimately, is to conduct religious services here, with hundreds of thousands of Christian tourists coming through.
"This area is very contested, by many different churches," Rabbi Goldstein told Israel National News. "Why should the Catholic Church claim be honored more than that of others? Given such a situation, it is clear that the best solution is the status quo: Everyone is permitted to enter, but no religious services are allowed."
Negotiating Committee: Upbeat About Progress
The Bilateral Permanent Working Commission – a team of Israeli and Vatican representatives who have been negotiating fiscal and property questions since March 1999 – released an optimistic news release at the end of last week. The Commission announced "meaningful progress," "great cordiality," and a mutual commitment to reach a final agreement "as soon as possible."
The communiqué also announced a plenary meeting for this Thursday, April 30, at the Foreign Ministry. The meeting will be chaired by the two states' deputy foreign ministers, Danny Ayalon and Monsignor Pietro Parolin. It is suspected that an agreement will be signed then.
In addition to hints in the Catholic media, a source in a legal office close to the negotiations said that an agreement on the transfer of control of the Last Supper Room is, in fact, close. The source, who did not wish to be named, spoke to a Knesset Member's top aide.
Similarly, Dr. Daisy J. Stern, who has been closely following the matter, reports that government sources confirm that the agreement with the Vatican is ready to be signed.
Strenuous Foreign Ministry Denial
On the other hand, Shmuel Ben-Shmuel, the head of the Religions Department in the Foreign Ministry, says there is no danger of Israel giving away properties. Speaking to Attorney Aviad Visoly, who represents the Diaspora Yeshiva, Ben-Shmuel said that this week's meeting has nothing to do with Mount Zion, adding that the meeting is held annually and will be nothing more than a briefing on the status of the negotiations thus far. He said that Israel's position continues to be one of rejection of Church claims to property on Mt. Zion.
Despite the denial, Diaspora Yeshiva officials and other concerned citizens are not resting easy.
Prof. Hillel Weiss of Bar Ilan University, who met with the Yeshiva directors on Tuesday morning, said afterwards, "I cannot say if a given Foreign Ministry official is saying the truth or not. What I do know is that the Foreign Ministry has long-term policies that are anti-Jewish. We saw the renovations that are being carried out at the Mt. Zion site today at a furious pace, in time for the Pope's upcoming visit, and we know that the Vatican in general has long been working to reduce Jewish rights in Jerusalem and in the Old City. Everything must be seen from this perspective.
"The more we publicize the official denials of the Foreign Ministry that they plan to give away any lands to the Catholic Church, the better for us," Prof. Weiss summed up.
Rabbi Goldstein said plans to prepare the area of his Yeshiva for "all three religions" – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam – are already underway: "They have even been replacing the signs that we put up, with signs in three languages. Here," he pointed to a door leading to David's Tomb, "they took down our sign, leaving it empty, and they don't allow us to put up another one. Over here are candles lit by Jewish visitors in memory of King David – but the officials plan on stopping that as well."
"This is a Jewish area," Rabbi Goldstein emphasizes, "and they want to change the status quo and give them the right to control what goes on here. Control is often more important than actual ownership."
Church Wants Passage Through Yeshiva
The rabbi further said that there is constant pressure upon the Yeshiva – financial and otherwise – to allow the Church to build a passageway through the Yeshiva to enable thousands of Christian visitors and worshipers to more easily access the Last Supper Room each month.
Financial Incentives, No Public Debate
The Tourism Ministry has announced that it expects 15,000 to 20,000 Christians to visit Israel at the same time as the Pope, in mid-May, and a total of 1.2 million to visit during the course of 2009. The financial incentives to make the site "more Christian" are thus very great.
The former director of the Diaspora Yeshiva explained that if the Catholic Church receives control of the area, just a few hundred yards from the Temple Mount and adjacent to the Old City walls, it will turn it into "the international center for Catholics all around the world, and if the pope just gives the word, Christians will be flocking over here en masse."
"This is an enormous issue that is being pushed through without any public debate whatsoever," he said.
Rabbi Goldstein said in the past that "according to their bible, the Land is to return to the Christians and 144,000 Jews are to return to Mt. Zion. Their plan is for them to take control of the site, and then to announce that they are holding a mass reenactment of the Last Supper, with [all types of religious rituals], and to invite millions of Christians to come to Jerusalem and celebrate."
It now remains to be seen what agreement, if any, will be signed on Thursday between Israel and the Vatican.
II. Next: I personally overheard the spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Lior, STRENOUSLY DENYING that any agreement IS BEING SIGNED, or HAS BEEN SIGNED BY ISRAEL re Har Zion, with any representative of the Vatican.
Not only that, LIOR EVEN DENIED THAT ANY MEETING IS TO TAKE PLACE APRIL 30th!
CONFIRMED LIE #1.
However, since there is a very obvious controversy, a few mechanisms were put in place by our team in order to uncover the truth. One of them, of course, was to speak to the Foreign Ministry directly, which is what Aviad Vissouli, the attorney for the Diaspora Yeshiva now, did.
This is part of the response he received. Now you judge for yourselves if the Foreign Ministry people are telling the truth or not.
In brief, Shmuel -Ben Shmuel stated that the next plenary session is a routine one, which occurs once a year; the state doesn't recognize the claims of the Vatican as regards the Cenacle Room and the room adjacent to it, and doesn't intend to sign an agreement as regards this topic.
Actually, the official close to Netanyahu also said that this next session only deals with minor details, that everything has already been signed, So here I guess they agree, just that the ultimate meaning is diametrically different!
He said they don't intend to sign an agreement re: the visit of the pope. Are we dealing with SOPHISTRY HERE, play on words?
Is he saying this:
a) because it has ALREADY been signed, as I was told ,a highly placed official close to Netanyahu said a couple of days ago? and that everybody in the government already knows that, including the chief rabbis...
b) because the agreement to be signed doesn't only refer to Har Zion and Jerusalem; What is to be signed is a COMPREHENSIVE AGREEMENT, covering ALL DISPUTED, UNRESOLVED, OPEN ISSUES SINCE 1993!!!!!
c) because the agreement has nothing to do with the visit of the pope - true, but sophistry, play on words, thereby avoiding the real issues and questions,
d) or because he is lying?
e) the last possibility, that he is telling the truth ( besides item c) , of course) , is too remote to even be considered, in my view.
III. NEXT: Just consider the facts:
.....Quite a different story from what they've been telling us, isn't it????? DS
VATICAN - ISRAEL
Holy See-Israel delegation speeds up work ahead of pope's visit to Holy Land
by Arieh Cohen
The next round of meetings has been scheduled: four in just three months, after years of inaction. The date of the plenary assembly has been moved up, and everything will be completed before May of 2009, when Benedict XVI is expected to arrive in the Holy Land.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The permanent bilateral commission between the Holy See and the state of Israel today concluded its plenary meeting at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem, and decided on a packed schedule of meetings, leading to hopes that some conclusion might be reached before the probable visit of Benedict XVI to the Holy Land in May of 2009.
In the statement released at the end of today's meeting, it is affirmed that "the working-level Commission will hold meetings on 15 January, 18 February, 5 March and 26 March." This is rather unusual, if one considers that the dialogue has been proceeding at a very slow pace for about 10 years, and for almost 5 years (from 2002-2007) has been at a halt. The plenary meeting - which according to custom should have been held in June of 2009 - was also moved up. The statement says that "it was agreed to hold the next Plenary meeting on 23 April 2009," and that the packed agenda is intended to demonstrate the commitment of the two delegations to "accelerate the talks and conclude the agreement at the earliest opportunity."
In ecclesial circles in the Holy Land, this sudden hurry of the mixed commission is seen in connection with the desire to reach some result before the expected visit of Benedict XVI to the Holy Land. Although the Vatican has not yet confirmed or denied this, in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan it is thought that the pope will arrive in the Holy Land in the first half of May.
As in previous statements, the one released today also speaks of "an atmosphere of great cordiality and good will"; of work aimed at "achievement of the mutually desired accord" and of exchanges "significant and helpful" for "both sides." For almost 10 years, the Church and the state of Israel have been trying to reach an agreement to reconfirm the historical tax exemptions for the Church, and to agree on rules for the protection of Church property, especially the holy sites.
Also, I never said the TEMPLE MOUNT is one of the properties mentioned in this accord.
As regards the Temple Mount, that would be part of the INTERNATIONALIZATION OF JERUSALEM, under auspices of the UN, with the Vatican overseeing it. Actually the UN has already started to act upon this, by deliberately restricting building rights for Jews in the Jewish Quarter, by DIRECT ORDER FROM THE UN ( I have a reliable witness whom Prof. Weiss and Rabbi Stein know quite well)
This is an entirely separate issue, which apparently was dealt with separately and personally by Shimon Peres, and there were leaks reported about this; the Italian newspaper La Stampa reported it in 1993, then in 1995 there was a leak re: a cable sent from the Israeli Embassy in Rome to Israel, which was reported by the press here and later buried, according to which Shimon Peres had promised the pope privately to internationalize Jerusalem. He first denied it, and then by accident let it slip out of his mouth.
5, According to Asia News, the meetings were much more frequent recently on purpose, to speed up everything
( Dec. 18, Feb. 18, April 23, )
- and don't forget the meeting at the VATICAN MARCH 31, last day of Olmert in office, for which Foreign ministry people few in, together with the police, to finalize everything before the pope's visit
Breaking News Ahead of pope's visit: Israeli mission leaves for Vatican
An Israeli delegation of police officers and Foreign Ministry officials left for the Vatican Tuesday, ahead of Pope Benedict XVI planned visit to Israel.
The delegation will meet with Vatican officials in order to make the final arrangement for the pope's visit in May. (Efrat Weiss)
6. Also, something here is not quite kosher:
Shmuel -ben-SHmuel said that they only have ONE plenary session per year, and this is a routine one?
Sorry, but the LAST plenary session with the Vatican took place December 18, 2008. That means 4 months ago, not a year ago. So why are they having one again, so soon after the last one? And they deliberately pushed this one closer, see above, to finish everything on time for the pope
CONFIRMED LIE #2
He also said that Jerusalem was not discussed: what about Cesarea?
7.Also, what he said re: the legal personality of the Church is not accurate. The LEGAL PERSONALITY AGREEMENT of the Church was only signed in 1997, by David Levy:
There was one in May 2008 as well:
With the "joint communique" released at the end of its work, yesterday, April 16, at the office of the Israeli foreign ministry, the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission of the Holy See and the state of Israel announced that it will hold its next plenary session on May 28, at the Vatican.
"Plenary" is the name given to the session presided over by the highest levels (just beneath the ministerial level) of the respective foreign dicasteries and also including other officials, in addition to those who take part in the "working" sessions that are held in the meantime, between one plenary session and the other. The plenary sessions have been resumed only since May 21, 2007, after a five year interval (since March 12, 2002 ), and it seems that the two parties intend to hold them every six months, as they have done since the first session of this new series.
8.The most recent announcements, coming from Rome:
VATICAN - ISRAEL
"Meaningful progress" in bilateral talks between the Holy See and Israel
After meeting today, the bilateral commission issued an upbeat press release. Talks between the two sides have been ongoing since 1999. The commission's next meeting is scheduled for 30 April in Israel, just before the Pope's visit. Mgr Pietro Parolin and Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon will be present.
Tel Aviv (AsiaNews) – A meeting took place today in Israel of the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission between the Holy See and the State of Israel, which is currently negotiating (since 11 March 1999) a bilateral treaty on fiscal and property questions.
At the end of the meeting, which was held at an undisclosed location, the delegations published a joint communiqué, which spoke of "meaningful progress" having been achieved "by receiving a Report from a Working Group". For the rest, the communiqué reiterated the assurances that the talks were held in a climate of "great cordiality" and that both parties are committed to the goal concluding the comprehensive agreement "as soon as possible".
The communiqué also announces a plenary meeting, at Israel's Foreign Ministry, for 30 April. Under the commission's rules, the plenary is co-chaired by the respective "deputy foreign ministers", at present, for the Holy See, the Under-Secretary for Relations with States, Monsignor Pietro Parolin, and for the State of Israel, the Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon (a former Ambassador to the US). Apparently this is the plenary that a December 2008 communiqué had scheduled for the 23rd. This is only one of several changes to the calendar announced last December, which foresaw too meetings in March, on the 5th and on the 26th, neither of which appears to have taken place. That, combined with the rumours (never confirmed) of a meeting supposed to have taken place during Holy Week, perhaps 7 April, (though without previous announcement or concluding communiqué), caused some speculation among observers speculation about the direction of the negotiations.
However, today's upbeat, hopeful communiqué has laid to rest those worries, at least for the moment. It is widely known, of course, that these are, by their very nature, very tough, very complex negotiations, and that it must take some more time before they can conclude with the desired agreement.
Is the Agreement possible? To this question everyone today appears to be responding affirmatively, and the new joint communiqué appears to nod its assent.
Headway Made on Holy See-Israel Accords
Progress Intensifies Ahead of Papal Visit
JERUSALEM, APRIL 24, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Ahead of Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land, members of the Israel-Holy See Bilateral Permanent Working Commission report that "meaningful" progress is being made to conclude their agreements.
A working-level meeting of the commission met Thursday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jerusalem to continue negotiations on the economic agreement regarding the fiscal system and Church properties.
"The meeting was characterized by great cordiality and a spirit of cooperation," stated a communiqué published jointly by the Holy See and Israel.
"Meaningful progress was achieved by receiving a report from a working group, and the delegations renewed their joint commitment to conclude the agreement as soon as possible," the note affirmed.
The commission will meet for a plenary session next Thursday at Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Since signing the Fundamental Agreement in 1993, which established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel, the two sides have been negotiating the particulars of tax exemptions and property rights for the Church, in particular for the holy sites. Talks stopped altogether in 2003 for several years, and began again in 2005.
While the negotiations have nothing officially to do with Benedict XVI's visit to the Holy Land, which will take place May 8-15, sources in the Vatican explain that Israel is interested in the good image the Pope's visit can give to the nation, and the Church is interested in consolidating its presence in the Holy Land.
IV: CONCLUSION: it is hard to find any truth to what Shmuel ben Shmuel said,( at least 2 confirmed lies were told by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), except for the fact that he acknowledged that a session will indeed take place April 30th at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Everything else is sophistry, double-speak, and/or outright falsehoods.
And mind you, he was speaking to a lawyer representing the Diaspora Yeshiva.
What do you say to that?????