Sources in the Vatican said yesterday that at the last minute an Israeli delegation canceled its scheduled talks for Thursday.
A Vatican spokesperson described it as “sudden and unexpected.” Due to scheduling difficulties in the past, the talks, which began in March of 1999, had stopped for five years. But tomorrow's dialogue was approved of by all parties and was considered extremely important.
The issue at hand was the properties of the the Catholic Church, which Israel began controlling upon the creation of the country in 1948. The control was increased with the annexation of East Jerusalem in 1967. Along with that control came property tax which Israel insists on imposing upon the Catholic, and other, churches.
The Vatican has called upon Israel to respect agreements it signed in 1948 regarding the property of the Catholic Church, in addition to restoring some of the churches and other religiously significant sites that have been confiscated by successive Israeli governments.
The Israeli authorities demolished a major Catholic church in the 1950s. The Israeli delegation did not comment. However, Franciscan priest, David Yeager, a senior expert who has worked as a negotiator between the two parties since the inception, expressed his regret at Israel's unwillingness to attend.