The Honorable William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
Dear Mr. President,
We appreciate the considerable devotion and time that you personally, along with other governmental officials, have given to Israeli-Arab peacemaking. The recent summit meeting at Camp David was a significant step forward in this historic and difficult endeavor.
We have followed with great interest and concern the reports of the discussions related to Jerusalem and its final status. As you know, the unique status of Jerusalem - sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims - has long been a high priority issue for our churches. Some of our American churches - Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran and Episcopal - are directly engaged with partner churches in Jerusalem. But for all, the ties to the Jerusalem churches and the Christian community are deep and strong.
Our concern about Jerusalem and its status extends far beyond our connections with the Jerusalem churches because we recognize, as do you, the profound significance of the Holy City for the whole of humankind, especially for the Abrahamic family, as well as its centrality in peacemaking between Israel, the Palestinians and other Arab states.
As many of us wrote to you on March 6, 1995, "We believe that making Jerusalem a subject for open negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians is essential for reaching an accord on Jerusalem. Representatives of the three Abrahamic religions must also have a role in shaping the ultimate resolution of issues affecting Jerusalem and the commitment of the international community to guaranteeing the living presence of the three religious communities in the Holy City." Now, more than five years later, we are thankful that the negotiations on Jerusalem have begun. However, we must continue to seek your recognition of the constructive advisory and consultative role that the churches, here and in Jerusalem, can bring to the political negotiations. At this time, we do not view the Administration's attention to the American churches' interests, concerns and recommendations or those of the Jerusalem churches' interests and rights to be adequate.
We urge your attention to the July 17 letter from the Jerusalem Patriarchs to you, Mr. Barak and Mr. Arafat. We were heartened to learn that shortly after their letter, officials from both Israel and the Palestinians met with the Jerusalem church leaders. We do appreciate that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright consulted with Vatican officials following the Camp David summit.
We bring your attention to the following perspectives and principles to which we remain committed:
With due regard for the groundbreaking Oslo peace process, we must emphasize that international law relevant to Jerusalem in United Nations resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention cannot be cast aside and is not negated by the Oslo Accords. Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem is illegal according to international law. Furthermore, the resolution of Jerusalem's future and status should not be a matter to be determined solely by the governing officials of Israel and the PLO under the auspices of the United States government. The significance of Jerusalem to the international community must receive higher consideration if a political agreement is to be broadly endorsed and enduring.
The destructive effort by the U.S. Congress to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem prior to an agreement is extremely provocative. The leadership you have exercised by using the legislation's waiver authority has been commended by many of our churches. We are sorely disappointed by recent statements indicating that you might take the unilateral action of authorizing the movement of the embassy before an agreement is reached on Jerusalem's final status.
The current situation of the closure of Jerusalem to Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza unless they obtain a permit for entry from Israel is a totally unacceptable and discriminatory practice. Despite international criticism and your appeals to avoid unilateral actions, Israel has continued to expand its settlements on Palestinian land in and near Jerusalem. We are distressed that these and other Israeli practices, intended to weaken the Palestinian community in Jerusalem and the integral relationship of Jerusalem to the West Bank, have continued during your leadership of the peace process.
The churches' campaign to promote the principle of sharing Jerusalem between the two peoples and three religions is based on our steadfast commitment to an equitable solution for Jerusalem that respects the human and political rights of Israelis and Palestinians as well as the three religious communities. The churches' interest extends to the living communities of believers as well as to the holy sites.
And finally, we appeal to you and the negotiators to accord Jerusalem
a special statute for its governance with international guarantees to ensure
its implementation. In November 1994, the twelve Patriarchs and Bishops
of Jerusalem wrote, "It is necessary to accord Jerusalem a special statute
which will allow Jerusalem not to be victimized by laws imposed as a result
of hostilities or wars and which will allow Jerusalem to be an open city
which transcends local, regional or world political troubles."
We urge you to use your good offices to see that the position of the United States fully reflects the concerns expressed in this letter and that the perspectives of our American churches be taken into consideration.
The Rev. H. George Anderson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
John A. Buehrens
Unitarian Universalist Association
C. Wayne Carter
Friends United Meeting
Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza
National Conference of Catholic Bishops
Stephen Glodek, SM
Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Mens' Institutes
The Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
Reformed Church in America
The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church
The Rev. Richard L. Hamm
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
in the United States and Canada
The Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Ronald J. R. Mathies
Mennonite Central Committee
The Rev. Judy Mills Reimer
Church of the Brethren
Metropolitan Phillip Saliba
Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America
Bishop Melvin G. Talbert
United Methodist Council of Bishops
The Rev. John H. Thomas
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ
The Hon. Andrew Young
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
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