OPINION

Weakness is our strength

The tribulations of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem started in the usual fashion, namely with a series of «revelations» by the media (mainly Greek and then Israeli) that – by means of allusions and «logical deductions» – highlighted an incomprehensible case of corruption allegedly involving Patriarch Irenaios. And these revelations aggravated public opinion in a region where citizens are used to expressing their feelings in a particularly outgoing and boisterous way. Ultimately, however, the whole affair changed from a media event to a major political issue, embroiling the governments of Greece, Jordan and Israel as well as some other powers seeking to play a key role in the Holy Land. The political context of the drama that has unfolded in Jerusalem is as follows: * The Greek nation has played a prominent role in the Holy Land for centuries. Irenaios is the 140th patriarch in Jerusalem, and he is not the only one who proved inept in handling this difficult mission; * The current status quo was determined by a 1958 Jordanian law that recognizes the Greek Orthodox nature of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem; and * In 1967, following the occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel also acquired a say regarding the post of the local patriarch. These three factors provide a sense of legality and status quo that none of those governments would want to threaten. Both Jordan and Israel would prefer the Patriarchate to remain Greek Orthodox, with a Greek cleric at its top. The intrinsic weakness of Greece is actually a key reason for keeping the Patriarchate Greek because – in the event that the status quo is overturned – the alternative solutions are undesirable in case any of the following possibilities come to pass: * The Patriarchate falling into the hands of the Palestinians, which would not only be unacceptable to the Israelis but also to the Jordanians, who account for the majority of the Arab Orthodox flock; * The Patriarchate coming under the influence of Moscow, which would be unacceptable chiefly to the USA and Israel. The imminent visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the region is being seen as an expression of Russia’s interest in the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, among other things; or * The region falling under the influence of the Vatican, an extremely well organized and effective institution – an undesirable development for this very reason. As regards Irenaios, it is clear that he is trying to exploit the concerns of both Jordan and Israel, which may be indifferent about his future at the Patriarchate but who would not want to deal with a chaotic situation if he is toppled from power. The patriarch will not get any direct support from the governments of Amman and Jerusalem. However, Jordanian authorities have accepted three personal declarations made by Irinaios and have not insisted on seeing evidence that property belonging to the Patriarchate was not transferred to Israeli firms. It is hardly surprising that in such an unstable and unpredictable region, the climax of this crisis is being provoked by guesswork. Israeli authorities have not recorded the sale or long-term leasing of property to the Israelis, nor has there been any reference to an Israeli firm that has acquired the majority of these controversial properties. In the miasma of instability and passion that is Jerusalem, Irenaios evidently hopes that ambiguity will save him.