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The Vatican recognizes Palestine as a state in new treaty

Pope Francis arrives at the Paul VI Hall private studio for a private audience with President of Cuba Raul Castro on May 10, 2015, in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Pope Francis arrives at the Paul VI Hall private studio for a private audience with President of Cuba Raul Castro on May 10, 2015, in Vatican City, Vatican. (Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
Franco Origlia/Getty Images
  1. The Vatican has agreed to a new treaty with Palestinian representatives that refers to them as the State of Palestine, which the Associated Press is reporting as formal recognition of Palestine as a state. A Vatican spokesman told AP, "Yes, it's a recognition that the state exists."
  2. The Vatican recognized Palestine as a state after a 2012 UN vote, but this is the first official agreement the Vatican has concluded that recognizes "the state of Palestine." The treaty itself appears to mostly cover the role of the Catholic Church in Palestinian territory.
  3. According to the AP, "the treaty is the first legal document negotiated between the Holy See and the Palestinian state."

Why recognizing Palestine matters

Recognizing "the state of Palestine" is mostly a symbolic act: it doesn't in any way make the Palestinian Authority into an independent government. However, Vatican recognition signals to Israel that the Holy See is unhappy with the continued Israeli occupation of territory it sees as Palestinian, and that it sees Palestinian independence as necessary in any peace deal.

Convincing more countries, particularly in Europe, to recognize Palestine is a key part of the new Palestinian strategy to put diplomatic pressure on Israel to end the occupation and negotiate a solution to the conflict that is more favorable to Palestinian interests.

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Update: The headline on this post originally read "Pope Francis just officially recognized Palestine as a state," which as Tablet's Yair Rosenberg notes could be read as overstating the significance of the treaty, given that the Vatican recognized of Palestine in the wake of the UN vote. The headline has been updated.