Church of Holy Sepulchre 58.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Jerusalem and the Vatican have made significant progress in the ongoing
negotiations between the sides after a breakthrough on the issue of taxation of
the Holy See’s property in Israel.
According to conclusions reached
Tuesday at the Bilateral Permanent Working Commission taking place in the
Vatican, religious institutions owned by the Holy See in Israel will be exempted
from tax, in the same manner synagogues and mosques are.
businesses, however, will not be afforded that dispensation.
communique issued following the meeting headed by Ettore Balestrero,
under-secretary for relations with states, and Deputy Foreign Minister- Danny
Ayalon said “the negotiations took place in an open, friendly and constructive
atmosphere, and very significant progress was made.” The next plenary meeting
will be held this December at the Foreign Ministry.
Hope has been
expressed that now that the taxation issue seems to be resolved, other topics,
such as sovereignty over sites and appropriation of Vatican- owned land by
Israel – might be resolved. The Vatican had demanded sovereignty over sites,
including the Cenacle – or the Upper Room, the site of the Last Supper, which is
outside Zion Gate in Jerusalem.
Last year, the sides agreed to take the
contentious issue of sovereignty over the Cenacle out of the bilateral issues
being discussed, to facilitate movement in the negotiations.
remains firm in its refusal to relinquish ownership over the Cenacle and other
sites, certain gestures might be made to provide the Holy See with
“Israel will not give up sovereignty over any of the holy
places,” Ayalon said on Tuesday.
“However we will always keep freedom of
worship and free access to all religions to their holy places.”Herb
Keinon contributed to this story.