The Road map
+ The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal, Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem

May 6, 2003

Dear Friends,
Salaam and grace in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and greetings from Jerusalem,

By now, most of you probably have heard about the “Road Map” that proposes to create a Palestinian state by 2005. As you can well imagine, this is an issue that lies very near to our hearts, as the people here have suffered more than 50 years under Israeli occupation.

But is this Road Map really the solution to our problems? Israeli journalist Uri Avnery answered the question with a resounding “no” in an article he recently wrote about the proposal, titled “Much Ado About Nothing.” In the article, he notes that political realities, such as Israel’s refusal to cease building settlements, the United States’ reluctance to exert serious pressure on Israel, and the lack of power in Europe and the United Nations, already make the plan dead in the water.

However, he also noted that the Road Map goes further than the Oslo agreement, laying out a firm “Declaration of Principles.” It also confirms that most people in world have now come to a consensus on these issues. Though he found a few gaping holes in the document, such as failing to lay out the borders for a Palestinian state, he believed the largest problem with the plan is the “Quartet” of nations set up to enforce it. Any of the four players – the United Nations, the United States, Europe and Russia – must make all decisions unanimously. Because the Americans have a veto, their ally, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, will be able to veto at any point in the process.

There are other holes in the document that Avnery did not describe. For example, there is hardly a mention of “independence” when speaking of a viable state. Also, it does not address the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees left to suffer in the refugee camps for more than 50 years. Finally, there is no mention of what to do with the Israeli settlements or the settlers that occupy them.

What we need is not another feel-good plan, but a serious effort on the part of all players to seek peace and justice for all people who live in this land – Christian, Muslim and Jew alike. This will require making political sacrifices, including an absolute end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine and the implementation of UN Resolutions 242, 338, and 194.

Just as Christ sacrificed his life for us to reconcile the world to himself, those who claim to follow him must make sacrifices as they carry out the work of reconciliation.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us in this regard and has spread the message of our trials in this land. Know that this comes with my prayers and best wishes.

In Christ,
+ The Rt. Rev. Riah Abu El-Assal