ISRAEL, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY URGED TO TAKE STEPS TO BREAK PEACE PROCESS IMPASSE

DATE: September 2,1997

FROM; David Early

O 202-541-3200 H 703-534-4775

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

ISRAEL, PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY URGED TO TAKE STEPS TO BREAK PEACE PROCESS IMPASSE

WASHINGTON -- Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must take immediate actions to ensure continued progress in the Middle East peace process, according to the chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee.

Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark today sent a letter to a representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Washington expressing concern about "insufficient efforts on the part of the Palestinian Authority to arrest ard punish terrorist groups and to discourage their sympathizers ..."

In a letter to the Israeli ambassador to the United States delivered Thursday, Archbishop McCarrick urged the Israeli government to lift the closures of the West Bank and Gaza imposed following suicide bombings at the Mahane Yehuda market in July.

"We strongly believe that fulIy lifting the present closures in their multiple dimensions and promising not to resort to closures again would be a serious step in the direction of building a just peace," said Archbishop McCarrick. "There can be no dishonor is renouncing such a repressive tool as closure."

Peace talks in the Middle East are currently at an impasse, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Aibright is scheduled to travel to the region this week in a personal effort break that impasse. Archbishop McCarrick's letters encouraged both parties to take steps to ensure a Just peace.

Archbishop McCarrick admonished both parties for actions that have been seen as counterproductive to the peace process.

"We have for several years defended a negotiated peace resulting in an independent Palestinian homeland, and we have repeatedly protested the closures and other impediments to Palestinian life," he said in his letter to the PLO. "Because of these commitements, we are sorely distressed to see the Palestinian Authority engage in gestures of protest that can be seen on the outside as possible threats to peace."

In his letter to the Israeli ambassador, Archbishop McCarrick condernned the July 30 suicide bombings in Jerusalem, which killed 17, and said that those responsible should be apprehended and held accountable. He warned, however, that "collective punishment of the whole (Palestinian) community is simply wrong and should not be countenanced. Such mass deprivation has to be counterproductive for the cause of peace, fueling resentment and despair about ever reaching a negotiated settlement."

97-187 A, Newark

NOTE; The text of Archbishop McCarrick's letters to the Israeli ambassador and to the PLO are attached.

Department of Social Development and World Peace

3211 4th Street N.E. Washington. DC 20017-1194 (202)541-3339

September 2, 1997

Hasan Abdul Rabman

P.L.O.

1730 K Street N.W.: Suite 1004

Washington. DC 20006

Dear Mr. Rahman:

I am writing to you because of the concern of the Catholic bishops of the United States over the present impasse in the peace process with Israel and our anxiety for the sufferings continued delays in the process place upon the Palestinian people.

We are especially concerned that insufficient efforts on the part of the Palestinian Authority to arrest and punish terrorist groups and to discourage their sympathizers endangers the security of the whole State of Israel and diminishes the prospects of the Palestiniari people. In this respect, President Arafat's public embrace of radical nationalists known to favor terrorisrm was a particularly alarming development.

We have for several years defended a negotiated peace resulting in an independent Palestinian homeland, and we have repeatedly protested the closures and other impediments to Palestlnian life. Because of these commitment, we are sorely distressed to see the Palestinian Authority engage in gestures of protest that can be seen on the outside as possible threats to peace. (For your information I enclose a copy of our recent protest of the closure of the West Bank and Gaza.)

I hope in the future to have an opportunity to meet with you to discuss this and other mutual concerns.

Sincerely yours,

+ Theodore B McCarrick

Archbishop of Newark

Chairman, USCC Committee on

International Policy

Department of Social Development and World Peace 321 1 4th Street. N.E. Washington. DC 20017-1194 FAX (2O2)541 -3339

August 28, 1997

His Excellency Eliahu Ben-Elissar

Embassy of Israel

3514 International Drive NW Washington, D.C. 2Q008

Dear Mr Ambassador:

The deaths of the victims of the suicide bombers at the Mahane Yehuda market a month ago will be remernbered as a terrible tragedy, and we continue to hold all survivors and their families in Our prayers.

At the same time, we are also sorely distressed at the harmful effects to hurnan life of the "super-closure" imposed on the West Bank and Gaza by the Govermnent of Israel in response to the bombing. Last week we observed additional effects of the closure in apparently pushing Palestinian leadership to take steps away from a negotiated peace process and even seemingly abandoning recent assurances to the U.S. mediator, Ambassador Dennis Ross.

Just as we have stated our support for Israel and our opposition to all forms of terrorism, we have been outspoken for several years in our opposition to extended closure as a remedy for terrorism. Closure is no defense against terrorists who come from abroad or from within Israel itself, nor even from the territories. The facts tell another story.

The suffering imposed on millions of people as a result of the closures cannot be justified by military necessity or national security: Emergency medical cases, the chronically ill, and pregnant mothers denied access to hospital or needed medical treatment; two million people cordoned off into their towns and villages like so many prisoners, unable to move from one place to another; professors and students unable to travel to their classrooms; commerce, particularly in foodstuffs, brought to a halt, so there are not even fresh vegetables in the markets.

We appreciate the partial lifting of the closing on Bethlehem. The Bethlehem area, as you know, is of singular concern to us, because it is not only the birthplace of our Lord, but represents the last sizable Christian population on the West Bank. We remain very concerned about the free passage of clergy and church officials between Bethlehem and Jerusalem as well as the unimpeded movement of faculty, staff and students of Bethlehem University.

We are dismayed, moreover, that contrary to the 1993 Fundamental Agreement with the Holy See, busloads of pilgrims were turned back for many days from Bethlehem and other pilgrim sites.

To be sure those connected with the Mahane Yehuda bombing and the bomb factory recently found in Bethlehem some weeks ago need to be apprehended and effective steps taken to prevent similar activities from recurring but collective punishment of the whole community is simply wrong and should not be countenanced. Such mass deprivation has to be counterproductive for the cause of peace fueling resentment and despair about ever reaching a negotiated settlement.

We truly believe that the way to peace will be made smooth not just by diplomatic agrements but by the ability of Israelis to live in security, and the ability of Palestinians to live their daily lives in dignity and security. We appreciate the steps already taken by your governrnent to mitigate the closure in Betlilehern and other areas.

StilI, we strongly believe that fully lifting the present closures in their multiple dimensions and promising not to resort to closures again would be a serious step in the direction of building a just peace. There can be no dishonor in renouncing such a repressive tool as closure.

Mr. Ambassador, while I am traveling for much of the next couple of weeks, I would look forward to an opportunity to meet with you in Washington in the near future to discuss this and other issues.

Sincerely yours,

Theodore E. McCarrick

Archbishop of Newark Chairman, USCC Committee on

International Policy