Questions about the U.S. role as a HONEST BROKER in the Peace process

by Theodore E Mccarric

Archbishop of Newark

Chairman, USCC Committee

on International Policy

Department of Social Devetopment and World Peace

3211 4th Street N.E. Washington, DC 2OOI7-1194

March 2l, 1997

The Honorable Madeleine Albright

Secretary of State Departrnent 0f State

2201 C Street NW

Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Albright:

I write in my capacity as chairman of the United States bishops' Committee on International Policy to express our deep concerns over recent developcnents in the Middle East and the grave threat they pose to the very fragile and vulnerable peace process.

Once again, the US. Bishops Conference condemns acts of violence directed against civilians - whatever their source or intention. The bombing this week not only killed and maimed innocent people, it also wounds the peace process. The world must clearly and unequivocally condemn and stand against all terrorist vioence.

The United Statss and the world community must also support the peace process actively and effectively as the best way to combat violence and terror. The recurring cycles of violence in the Middle East must be ended through a clear commitment to negotiations which seek to protect and affirm the lives, dignity and rights of all Israelis and Palestinians. Everything must be done to advance the peace process and nothing to undermine it while all acts of terror must be unequivocally condemned and cannot be justified, they are not the only threats to the peace process.

The lack of real progress towards peace and, in fact1 recent actions which set back the cause of justice, and peace in the Middle East contribute to a climate where peacemakers in both communities are overwhelmed by the forces at violence, hostility and continuing conflict.

After the hope stirred by the Israeli redeployment from Hebron, the determination of the Israeli governatent to undertake settlement construction at Jabel Abu Ghneirn/ Har Horna, in defiance of world opinion and at the risk of derailing the peace process, is terribly troubling.

As Pope John Paul II said March 9, the Israeli government has taken "grave decisions" in Jerusalern which "could seriously harm the peace process and the spirit of trust necessary for its continuation" .

The decisions are all the more serious because of the context in which they were announced and the fact that they would be seen by Palestinians as strong provocation.

This decision is particularly disturbing to us because of its affects on the Christian population of the Bethlehem -Beit sahour- -Beit Jala enclave. The constrnctton of the settlement and the surrounding infrastructure (roads security zones, etc.) has the effect of cutting those towns off frorn Jerusalern, still the center of their religious life, and damaging their viability by faurther reducing land for housing and econcrnic expansion.

With the whole church, we are sorely concerned for the futur of the small Christian population in the Holy Land which has suffred many disappointments and difficulties. Settlernent construction at Har Homa can only be seen as another setback for the peace process and for their hopes for it.

I urge you to do all in your power to have the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority commit thernselves to refrain from all actions, especially in relation to Jerusalem, which pre-empt the final status talks and insist that they engage in genuine and just negotiations with one another.

The U.S. veto of the Security Council resolution on Har Uoma and your recent reticence on the matter raises questions about the US. role as a honest broker in the peace process.

Unless the U.S. leads in establishing genuine respect for the Interests of both sides, no negotiation can expect to result in a just and lasting peace.

In this context1 I would recall to your attention the position of the Holy See on the question of Jerusalern as a matter that needs the serious consideration of the United States government:.

The Holy See calls for

(1) an equitable solution based on negotiation, in which (2) the parties acknowledge the universal religious significance of Jerusalem (3) provide guarantees for the rights of the three religious comnunities in the Holy City on the same level and (4) further assures those rights with wider international agreement. The NCCI /USCC fully shares the Holy See' sposition on this vital matter.

The Catholic church in the United States has been a defender of the State of Israel, an advocate of a PalestInian homeland, and a firm supporter of the peace process. I write you in the hope that the United States government, as tha major sponsor of the peace process, will find a way to preseve a just negotiation as a means toward a just and stable peace.

In these terrible days off renewed violence, increased tension and growing conflict, we urge the United States not only to condemn terror which it must, but also to act unequivocly and clearly to revive the peace process and to oppose actions by any of the parties which undermine the essential search for a just and lasting peace in the land believers call "holy" Clear and principled U.S leadership tar a just peace is essential in these very difficrult days

Sincerely yours,

+ Theodore E. Mccarrick, Archbishop of Newark.

Chairman, USCC Committee on International Policy

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