"We Need Vatican´s Support," Says Israeli Official

Rabbi Michael Melchior Tells of Hope for Mideast Peace

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Rabbi Michael Melchior, Israeli Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and leader of the Meimad religious party, met John Paul II today to ask the Vatican´s support for Mideast peace efforts.

Rabbi Melchior explained the reasons for his visit to Rome in the following interview with Catholic television channel Telepace.

Q: It seems that Israel gives the Vatican a key role in the interreligious dialogue, but denies it at the political and diplomatic level.

Rabbi Melchior: Without a doubt, we need the Vatican´s support. This is why I have come to Rome: to meet with the Pope and with my Palestinian interlocutors.

Politicians are not the only ones who believe in the future. Without an opening of hearts, even if the politicians have good will — and they don´t always have it — they cannot be successful. Every time we have seen how the peace process has exploded in our face, even when we had good will.

It is necessary to launch a process of legitimization of peace. We believe the Catholic world, and the Pope as head of the Catholic world, can give us strong support on both fronts.

Q: The Middle East peace process is a history of lost opportunities. Will Israel «lose» the opportunity that the Saudi Arabian peace plan has given it, as the Palestinians lost the offer made by Ehud Barak?

Rabbi Melchior: I was part of the Camp David delegation: Barak´s proposals would have given Palestinians dignity, peace and the future they deserve. While they have no borders, neither will we have borders. While they have no peace, neither will we have peace. It is because of this that we look favorably on every initiative, including the Saudi.

We have yet to understand what it is really all about. We have heard talk of a peace plan, but it was only about an interview with the New York Times. However, this is no reason to diminish its scope. I think the idea is constructive and we must study it further. Perhaps it is no more than a tactic, but we must listen and see what can come out of there. The general opinion in Israel is that it is very interesting.

Naturally, the conditions of peace cannot be established unilaterally. They must be the result of negotiations. But we have been and are disposed to make radical commitments to reach an authentic normalization of relations.

This is the real good news that comes from Saudi Arabia: For the first time we hear that the most conservative of the Arab regimes is prepared to have relations with us. Just the fact of speaking of «normalization» is already positive.

We take advantage of every break, every opening in the wall of hatred against us, to come out of the bloodbath where no one gains anything. And I think that we already know, more or less, the results. It makes no sense to continue to lose human lives. Our commitment, and this is the reason I came to Rome, is to do something to break the wall of hatred.

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