Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah at Church of Na
Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah at Church of NaFlash 90

Three leading Christian clerics in Israel on Friday called on more European governments to recognize "Palestine" as a state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital.

The call from the Arab Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Lutheran prelates came after EU member Sweden last week announced its intention to recognize Palestinian statehood late last Friday during Yom Kippur. The UK is likewise set to vote on recognition on Monday.

The three clergymen wrote in their open letter "from Jerusalem, our occupied capital, we send our urgent message to the whole world and particularly to Europe - we are yearning for justice and peace. Recognizing Palestine and defining Israel's borders is a first step towards that goal."

Former Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah, the Greek Orthodox archbishop of Sebastia, Atallah (Theodosios) Hanna,
and Lutheran World Federation president Bishop Munib Younan were signatories on the letter. The current Latin patriarch, Fouad Twal, was not among those signing.

"We are tired of calls for resumptions of negotiations while we can't reach our churches due to a foreign power and our people continue to be humiliated by an undesirable occupation," the letter read.

It continued "Europe has a moral, legal and political duty to hold Israel accountable and support Palestinian non-violent initiatives to end the Israeli occupation, including the recognition of the State of Palestine on the 1967 border with east Jerusalem as its capital."

Despite its complete lack of any historical presence, and the full legality of Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria, the Biblical heartland of Israel, several EU countries have already recognized "Palestine," including Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Malta, Poland and Romania.

Dr. Jonathan Rynhold, a senior researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, told Arutz Sheva on Tuesday that the move by Sweden and now the UK to recognize "Palestine" shows a prelude to the political war Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas vowed late last month to wage on Israel.

The "war" includes a request that the UN demand Israel withdraw behind the 1949 Armistice lines by 2016.

The criticism on Israel by the Arab Christians is ironic, given the fact that Muslim persecution has nearly emptied Bethlehem of its once-sizable Christian population.

Greek Orthodox priest Father Gabriel Nadaf, a leader of the Aramaean Christian minority in Israel, spoke before the UN Human Rights Council last month, saying "Israel is the only place where Christians in the Middle East are safe."

Nadaf's support of Israel had led the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in Israel to ban him from entering Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation, and repeatedly threatening to dismiss him from his post in Yafia near Nazareth.

AFP contributed to this report.