Dep. Foreign Minister to Defend Israel's Rights at David's Tomb
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon says he will assert Israel's right to all parts of the King David's Tomb compound if the issue is raised during upcoming meetings at the Vatican.
Ayalon left Wednesday afternoon for the Vatican, where he will take part in a diplomatic session concerning the economic relationship between Israel and the Catholic city-state.
At the head of Israel's delegation are experts from the Foreign Ministry, the Treasury and the Justice Ministry.
Ayalon's bureau stated "diplomacy between Israel and the Vatican is a central issue on the agenda for our relations with the Vatican and the Catholic world, numbering over a billion people, and our central goal is to set the financial and legal status of the church and its institutions in Israel.
"Protracted negotiations, upwards of ten years, are now at a final stage; this, after achievements made in the last few months," said the office.
Ayalon's staff said they are working on minimizing differences "at the head of which are taxes and expropriations, the solution for which is to reach a diplomatic agreement, followed by upgrading relations and improving Israel's standing in the international arena."
Ayalon will also use the visit to discuss other key issues, such as the Iranian threat, combatting anti-Semitism, and the delegitimization of Israel in the world and in the diplomatic realm.
If a sensitive subject between the countries comes up – the ownership and claim to a room in the compound of the Tomb of King David, in which the Catholic Church claims the "Last Supper" occurred – Ayalon has promised he will defend Israel's sovereignty there.
The Foreign Ministry notes that among the accomplishments achieved thus far are: an agreement regarding property and other taxes after years in which the Vatican refused to pay, an agreement regarding the clergy and payment of Social Security, an agreement about their status and ability to avail themselves of the court system, and the right of Israel to appropriate lands currently under the control of the Church.
The Catholic Church will enjoy some allowances, said the Foreign Ministry's office, but Israel will maintain its prerogative to requisition lands for the country's infrastructure needs, according to Israeli law and per the sovereignty of the state.