The aggressive incursions into Bethlehem and other Palestinian controlled areas by Israeli forces and the recent political assassinations are the latest and most troubling in a disturbing proliferation of actions by Israelis and Palestinians that further undermine prospects for a just and peaceful settlement in the Middle East.
The indiscriminate violence in the streets of Bethlehem, including Manger Square, in a disturbing way appears to be further evidence of the Israeli government’s apparent indifference to the concerns of the Christian community and other faith communities. I join religious leaders in the Middle East in calling on the Israeli government to “bring this intolerable situation to an immediate end and begin the process of negotiations in order to work toward a peaceful and just solution.” At the same time, it must be clear that the violence perpetrated by Palestinians, including the recent murder of Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, and the failure of the Palestinian Authority to control it are equally intolerable.
Peace requires that both sides accept responsibility for past provocations, including political assassinations and terror bombings, and avoid such tactics in the future. The Palestinian Authority and the Government of Israel must find a way out of the current cycle of violence and resume serious peace negotiations based on respect for the legitimate rights and aspirations of both sides. The welcome new urgency given this effort by the U.S. government needs to be sustained.
At this time of violence and suffering, I reiterate, in a special
way, our prayers and solidarity with the Christian communities in Bethlehem
and other parts of the Holy Land. With God’s grace, may there soon
be peace in the town of Jesus birth and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.