Monday, May 30, 2011

Catholic official says Israeli-Palestinian peace 'will take a long time'

The priest charged with looking after Christianity’s most holy sites in both Palestine and Israel says reaching a peace settlement in the region “will take a long time.”

The comments of Franciscan Father Pierbattista Pizzaballa follow a tense week in which the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a tour of the U.S., clashed with President Obama over the road to the peace for Israel and Palestine. 

“The situation here in the Holy Land after the speech of Obama and the speech of Netanyahu hasn’t changed dramatically. We are still waiting for ‘facts on the ground’ as we say,” Father Pizzaballa told Vatican Radio.

“We are happy that after years of no positions, no declarations and no negotiations something now is moving again. But we think that the difference between the two parties is still too big and it will take a long time – not a short time, for sure – in order to reach a possible agreement.”

In his speech last week on U.S. policy in the Middle East, President Obama called on the two sides to agree to negotiations that would begin with the borders that existed before the Six Day War in 1967, along with land swaps. 

But the plan was flatly rejected by visiting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu during a heated meeting at the White House.

This coming September, Palestinian leaders plan to ask the United Nations to recognize their statehood. 

That move will be sure to put the spotlight on the tensions between Israel and Palestine and is a prospect that the Obama administration is seeking to avoid.

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