VATICAN CITY (AP) — A senior Vatican diplomat who served as papal envoy to Israel has described Vatican-Israeli relations as worsening, blaming the Jewish state for failing to keep promises related to church land, taxes and travel restrictions on Arab clergy.

Archbishop Pietro Sambi lashed out at Israel in an interview posted Nov. 16 on, an online publication about the Holy Land.

"If I must be frank, the relations between the Catholic Church and the state of Israel were better when there were no diplomatic ties," which were established in the early 1990s, said Sambi, who was interviewed in Washington, where he now serves as Pope Benedict XVI's envoy to the United States.

Among the issues are the status of expropriated church property, services that Roman Catholic groups perform for Israel's Jewish and Arab population, tax exemptions for the church, and permits for Arab Christian clergy traveling to and around the West Bank.

Israel has rescinded some travel privileges for those clergy, citing security concerns. Israel and the Palestinian territories are home to a small Christian minority.

Sambi blamed the situation on Israel's "absence of political will."