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Israel and the Holy See: Negotiating the Legal Status of the Church in Israel since 1999

ZION EVRONY Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See  "Beginning this December, we will mark the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Holy See.â? It was back in 1993, under John Paul II that the Holy See and Israel established full diplomatic relations. But another agreement was left pending. The legal status of the Catholic Church in Israel has been negotiated on and off since 1999. The negotiations deal with the rights and privileges of the Church and its parishes in Israel. Everything from taxes to its judicial status. We spoke with the ambassador, before both states held their most recent meeting on January 29 in Jerusalem. ZION EVRONY Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See  "We are going to have another round of negotiations in a few weeks in Israel. We hope to make even more progress, so I think there is a reason for optimism.â? Optimism has been shown over the years, but up until now, an agreement has not been reached.  At this point, there is no specific date for an actual agreement, but Evrony acknowledges that actually reaching an agreement would be a historic moment for both sides. The next meeting is scheduled for June 2013 at the Vatican As far as international attention, Israel has been on the spotlight for the ongoing conflict with Palestine, but more specifically, for its plan to build thousands of Israeli settlements East of Jerusalem. Critics say the plan will be yet another obstacle that could prevent a peace deal with Palestine. The ambassador says that is a misconception. The real obstacle, he says, is a lack of direct negotiations. ZION EVRONY Ambassador of Israel to the Holy See  "The biggest misconception is that the settlements are an obstacle to peace. People forget that until 1967, before the six day war, when there were no so called occupied territories, there were no settlements, yet there was no peace.â? Before coming to Rome,  Evrony served as Israel's ambassador to Ireland. The veteran diplomat was also a Consul General in Houston.  He's been in the foreign service for about 40 years. But despite his lengthy career, he says being Israel's ambassador to the Holy See is unlike any other position he's held in the past. KLH MG JM - PR U:VIC