Leading clerics of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths called
Monday for an immediate cease-fire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
and the implementation of the Mitchell and Tenet recommendations.
At the end of a two-day conference organized by Archbishop of
Canterbury George Carey, the clerics issued a seven-point declaration
that included a pledge to establish a permanent committee of
representatives of the three religions that would work for peace in the
"We will not accept (the bloodshed) anymore. There cannot be peace if
we don't have a new language between religions and we have started this
new language here," Rabbi Michael Melchior, a deputy foreign minister
and leader of Israel's delegation, told a press conference at the end
of the conference. Carey said the three faiths had a "shared duty" to
promote peace and harmony in Israel and the Palestinian territories.
"The Holy Land is holy to us all - Christian, Muslim and Jew," Carey
said in a statement.
The conference at an old seaside palace in Alexandria was also attended
by Al-Azhar Grand Sheik Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of Egypt, Latin
Patriarch Michel Sabbah of Jerusalem, Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron - one
of Israel's two chief rabbis, and clerics from the Palestinian
Authority such as Cabinet minister Sheik Talal Sidr.
It received the support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon,
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak,
who was due to meet some of the participants in Cairo on Tuesday.
"As a first step now, we call for a religiously sanctioned cease-fire,
respected and observed on all sides, and for the implementation of the
Mitchell and Tenet recommendations, including the lifting of
restrictions (on the Palestinians) and a return to negotiations," the
Drawn up by an international panel chaired by former U.S. Senator
George Mitchell, the Mitchell recommendations call for an unconditional
end to violence, a serious Palestinian effort to prevent attacks on
Israelis, a freeze of all construction in Jewish settlements and the
lifting of Israel's travel bans on Palestinians. The recommendations of
CIA director George Tenet set out plans for a lasting cease-fire.
Archbishop Carey told reporters that no declaration could be "a magic
wand" to end the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians, "but it is
our duty and our desire to do what we can to bring forth good from
evil, hope from despair."
Reporters were barred from the conference sessions, reflecting concern
about how the meeting would be received. Five years ago, the grand
sheik of Sunni Islam's prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, who
was hosting Sunday's conference, came under fire in Egypt and elsewhere
in the Arab world when word leaked out he had met with a top Israeli
Egyptian newspapers virtually ignored the conference's first day in
their Monday editions, with only one paper running a short report.
Carey described the conference Sunday as an "unprecedented" gathering
of leaders of the three faiths at a time of crisis.