U.S. Churches Urge Presidential Candidates to Promise Leadership on Holy Land Peace and Rise above Polemical Rhetoric

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Corinne Whitlatch, 202-543-1222; cmep@cmep.org      

[Washington, D.C. Aug. 9]   With the 2008 Presidential campaign in high gear in the early caucus and primary states, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) sent a letter today to Republican and Democratic candidates. The letters were signed by the CMEP Board, who represent the Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant organizations in the coalition, and by members of the CMEP Leadership Council, prominent individuals who each hold a particular expertise and connection to the region.  

The signers urge the 9 Republican and 8 Democratic contenders currently campaigning, as a candidate, and if successful, as President, "to support a two- state peace between Israel and the Palestinians as a top priority from the beginning of your administration and to commit yourself to stronger American diplomatic leadership toward the goal of a comprehensive regional settlement."

The campaigners are asked "to promise strong Presidential leadership in resolving the conflict, the appointment of a special envoy who can act with your full authority, and a balanced policy that addresses the basic needs of both Israelis and Palestinians."  

"The United States must show empathy and support for both Israelis and Palestinians if we are to help resolve this terrible conflict.  We appeal to you, therefore, to rise above the polemical rhetoric that has too often characterized political commentary on this conflict."  

The signers, who include a number of retired ambassadors, note that "Such American leadership is needed, not only as a moral imperative on behalf of suffering protagonists, but to restore the goodwill that the United States once enjoyed in the region. The unwillingness of the U.S. government to engage constructively to resolve the conflict has created deep distrust and hostility toward our country in the Arab and Muslim world, and elsewhere. Our principles of justice, equality and peace are at risk, and our security interests depend on more effective leadership in helping resolve this historic struggle."

Rejecting the view that this conflict cannot be resolved, the signers write that, "Years of discussions and polling reveal that both Israel and Palestinian majorities are willing to make concessions for peace and understand that it can only be achieved through two states, a withdrawal from settlements, and a shared Jerusalem as the capitals of Israel and of Palestine."

Special attention is brought to the future of the small and diminishing Palestinian Christian community whose future in the Holy Land is at particular risk. "Lacking peace and economic opportunity, Christians are prone to emigrate, depleting the Palestinian population of its natural religious diversity."

 
 
Text of Presidential Candidates Letter

Letter with Signers in PDF format
August 9, 2007

The Honorable...
Campaign Headquarters
Address

Dear Sen./Gov./Rep./Mayor...,

We write as Board members of a coalition of 22 Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant denominations, churches and agencies, for whom peace in the Holy Land and the welfare of Christians - as well as Jews and Muslims - are vitally important. Our church members and congregations are deeply concerned over the continued impasse between Israel and the Palestinians in their struggles for security, identity, and acceptance. We are joined in this appeal to you by members of our Leadership Council, prominent individuals who each hold a particular expertise and connection to the Middle East.

Churches for Middle East Peace urges you - as a candidate, and if you succeed, as President - to support a two-state peace between Israelis and Palestinians as a top priority from the beginning of your administration and to commit yourself to stronger American diplomatic leadership toward the goal of a comprehensive regional settlement.

The tragic, century-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a struggle between two proud peoples who have, thus far, been denied the blessings of peace and security. Both have been victims of epic tragedies and repeated wars and violence. Both sides have made serious mistakes. Neither has grasped the suffering of the other, and peace making efforts by the United States and the international community have been inadequate.

In the absence of effective mediation, especially after the collapse of the Oslo peace process, each side has resorted to force. Nevertheless, many experts share our conviction that this conflict can be resolved. Years of discussions and polls reveal that Israeli and Palestinian majorities are willing to make concessions for peace and understand that it can only be achieved through two states, a withdrawal from settlements, and a shared Jerusalem as the capitals of Israel and of Palestine. Even the refugee issue is soluble in the context of a comprehensive regional agreement.

We urge that in your campaign you promise strong Presidential leadership in resolving this conflict, the appointment of a special envoy who can act with your full authority, and a balanced policy that addresses the basic needs of both Israelis and Palestinians, in the context of a broader Middle East peace. In reality, their respective interests are interdependent. All Israelis and Palestinians will continue to suffer without peace and security for Israel, and freedom, dignity and sovereignty for Palestinians in a viable state of their own. The future of the Palestinian Christian community is at particular risk. Lacking peace and economic opportunity, Christians are prone to emigrate, depleting the Palestinian population of its natural religious diversity.

The United States must show empathy and support for both Israelis and Palestinians if we are to help resolve this terrible conflict. We appeal to you, therefore, to rise above the polemical rhetoric that has too often characterized political commentary on this conflict.

Such American leadership is needed, not only as moral imperative on behalf of suffering protagonists, but to restore the goodwill that the United States once enjoyed in the region. The unwillingness of the U.S. government to engage constructively to resolve the conflict has created deep mistrust and hostility toward our country in the Arab and Muslim world, and elsewhere. Our principles of justice, equality and peace are at risk, and our security interests depend on more effective leadership in helping resolve this historic struggle.

We know that a great many American Christians would respond very positively to your promise to make Israeli-Palestinian peace a high and urgent priority for your Administration. Moreover, based on our long experience and cooperation with other American religious communities, we are persuaded that you would also find strong support in the American Jewish and American Muslim communities for such leadership.

Respectfully yours,

Churches for Middle East Peace Board
Churches for Middle East Peace Leadership Council

(see PDF file for names and affiliations of signatories
 
 
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).