Subj:  CMEP letter to Sen. Mitchell
Date:  4/9/01 11:05:42 AM Pacific Daylight Time

For your information: The following letter was sent to Sen. George Mitchell requesting that the Sharm el-Sheik Fact-Finding Committee, now meeting in Washington to prepare its report,  give due regard to international law, especially to the Fourth Geneva Conventions.  Copies were provided to: VP Cheney, SS Powell, Riedel at NSC, Walker and Miller at State, Sen. Hagel and Wellstone and Rep. Hyde.

(on Churches for Middle East Peace letterhead)
April 6, 2001

The Honorable George Mitchell            COPY
Sharm el-Sheikh Fact-Finding Committee
Meridian International Center
1624 Crescent Place, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009

Dear Senator Mitchell,

Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of the public policy offices of the member denominations and church-related organizations,  appreciates the efforts of the Committee and thanks each participant for their willingness to take on this difficult and important responsibility of looking into and reporting on the outbreak of violence between Israelis and Palestinians that began last September.  We hope and pray that the Committee's effort might encourage  Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations and renounce the use of violence which has resulted in tremendous grief and destroyed their trust in each another as partners in peacemaking.

As the committee prepares its report, we specifically request that due regard be given to international law, especially to the Fourth Geneva Convention.  For a number of years, Churches for Middle East Peace has been emphasizing to the U.S. Administration that the usual norms of international law must be seen as the foundational premise for relations between the State of Israel and the Palestinians irrespective of the strategies for or status of negotiations between the parties. Any final agreement that cannot be integrated into the norms of international law would not result in a lasting peace.

We anticipate that the report will address both precipitating and underlying factors that led to the outbreak of violence as well as the nature of the violence.  Among the underlying factors are Israel's policies of settlement building in the occupied territories.  Even though these settlement activities are a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, they were allowed to expand considerably during the Oslo peace process with apparent disregard for the land-for-peace formula derived from UNSC Res. 242.  The highly visible expansion of the settlements, and the related confiscation of Palestinian land and building of bypass roads, was viewed with growing frustration by Palestinians as evidence that Israel was using the negotiations as a ruse to secure more Palestinian land.  Furthermore, the multitude of checkpoints established to secure the illegal settlements are often where the violent confrontations between Israelis and Palestinians take place.

Clearly peacemaking efforts purchased at the price of ignoring principles of international law and the applicable principles of other international covenants and conventions are built on sand. The negotiating strategy that ignored the relevancy of the Fourth Geneva Convention to Israel's transfer of its population to occupied territory proved to be dangerously flawed.  International law cannot be turned on and turned off depending on the needs of diplomacy and power politics.

We commend your expressed hope that the Committee, by being truthful and fair, might help Israelis and Palestinians renew a dialogue.  Thank you for your consideration of our perspective and appeal.


James H. Matlack             
Churches for Middle East Peace      

Corinne Whitlatch
Churches for Middle East Peace