Forwarded message: From:


Churches for Middle East Peace 110 Maryland Ave., NE, Suite 108 Washington, DC 20002

May 27, 1997

To: Aaron David Miller (Deputy to Dennis Ross)

From: Churches for Middle East: represented by Terence Miller, Mark Brown, Daryl Byler, Corinne Whitlatch

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is deeply concerned with the deterioration of the peace process, both at the level of negotiations between leaders and at the psychological level between the peoples. We continue to promote, as we did in ads in The New York Times and Roll Call, the concept of a shared Jerusalem and believe it holds a healing capacity for all the children of Abraham. We are motivated by the belief that lasting peace and security in Jerusalem can become a reality only through negotiations and that such negotiations must not be undermined by unilateral actions and human rights violations.

Similarly, we believe reconciliation and an enduring peace between the Palestinians, Israel, and the Arab states is only possible through a peace process with integrity, one that upholds equally the rights of the parties in conflict, protects those who are vulnerable as the negotiations unfold and preserves the goal of peace throughout the process of peacemaking.

þ The responsibility given, and taken by, the United States at Madrid to sponsor the peace talks is of such monumental international dimension that it must supercede ordinary partisan or domestic political considerations. Given the exclusion by the U.S. of a role for the United Nations or European Union, U.S. policy represents the only realistic counterweight to the disproportions of power that exist in the situation and therefore the US must be strident in its bipartisan role.

þ As a strategy and as a matter of principle, CMEP agrees with the Administration's decision to enhance its relationship with the Palestinians to better balance its alliance and friendship with Israel. Making clear a U.S. committment to Palestinian self-determination including the possibility of a Palestinian state, as well as to the security of Israel, would be a great contribution to peace.

þ We believe it is necessary for the Administration to prevent the current Israeli government from destroying this historic opportunity for their future and that of the Palestinians. For our government to continue giving unwavering support to Israel regardless of its goals and actions will only undermine the hopes of a genuine, lasting peace among peoples. The U.S. Consul General's report on vacancies in settlements is useful in that regard if it leads to an end of settlement expansion, road building, and land acquisition. That means saying a firm "no" to some Israeli strategies and tactics and mobilizing the political and economic power to make U.S. opinion felt.

þ We encourage the Administration in its demonstration of friendship toward Palestinian civil society as well as toward the Palestinian Authority (PA). We support the provision of U.S. financial assistance to Palestinian NGOs and to the Authority with constructive requirements and oversight. The AID funded project to broadcast sessions of the Legislative Council is commended. The abuse of power by Mr. Arafat and other Palestinian officials has not been ignored by the U.S., nor should it be. But the emphasis by the U.S Congress, through MEPFA, and the Administration on preventing violence and punishing terrorists, lacks appropriate concern for human rights and has laid the foundation for an authoritarian police state. We question whether MEPFA is necessary and believe the Administration has the authority already to waive the restrictions.

þ The Administration should insist that Mr. Arafat ratify the basic law and other laws passed by the Legislative Council. Furthermore, the PA's corruption, abuse of human rights and repression of civil society coupled with Mr. Arafat's authoritarian leadership makes it incumbent upon both donor countries and NGOs, including our church organizations, to champion the fledgling rights of the Palestinian people. þ The Administration has supported as confidence building measures the opening of the Palestinian airport and Gaza seaport, both important to the PA. We ask that a higher priority be given to fostering measures that impact ordinary people. The Israeli Defense Ministry stated on May 18 that 500 more Palestinian homes have been targeted for demolition in Areas A because of location near Israeli installations. Over 179 West Bank homes have been demolished since the election of Mr. Netanyahu.

þ The failure to prevent construction of Har Homa is a particularly discouraging defeat for Palestinian Christians and their partners in the United States. Since 1994, when CMEP took Ghassan Andoni from Beit Sahour to meet with David Satterfield at the NSC, the prevention of Har Homa has been a priority objective of both the Palestinian and U.S. Christian communities. The Christian community in Bethlehem, dependent on tourism and cut off from Jerusalem, is losing all hope other than emigration.

þ The "closure" of Jerusalem has seriously damaged Palestinian institutions, separating them from their staff and those they serve. The situation is untenable for the Christian schools and hospitals and could force their demise. The revocation of Jerusalem IDs and residency rights of Palestinians is a practice clearly intended to alter permanently the demographic character of the city in support of Israel's exclusive claim.

þ In the U.S., the policies advocated by the Christian Right - that the U.S. not pressure Israel to negotiate or concede on Jerusalem and that the "battle for Jerusalem" has begun - should not become this Administration's policy by decision or default. The actions and rhetoric of the U.S. Congress make it even more important for the Administration to project the hope and vision for a shared Jerusalem that can embody the aspirations of both peoples.

þ The threat of terrorist attack pervades daily life in Israel, killing not only innocents but the will and hope for peace with the Palestinians. It is understandably a matter of the highest priority for the Israeli security services to prevent such attacks. However, the legalization and institutionalization by either Israel or the PA of torture, even for such purposes, cannot be accepted or justified. Additionally, the practice by Israeli authorities of humiliation, provocation and degrading treatment of Palestinians is widespread and fosters the perpetuation of hatred and hate-filled rhetoric by Palestinians.

þ Since the 1980s and accelerated by the end of the Cold War, most of the regions of the world have been coalescing into free trade zones and developing long range strategies for the future of trade and economic development in these regions. The Middle East is falling further and further behind as it remains bogged down in conflict and national, ethnic, and religious rivalries. The progress of the peace process was energized by the hopes throughout the Middle East that past barriers to open regional trade and difficulties for investors might be lessened by growing stability and the prospect of the end of hostilities. The present impasse threatens to dash those hopes. Use of the expertise of the Commerce Department and the office of the U.S. Trade Representative to dramatize by economic models the tragic consequences of the present impasse for the future of the Middle East and to help the parties clarify their commercial interests in peace could help refocus and re-energize the Peace Process for commercial reasons even if political reasons are presently of no avail. Sometimes shifting the paradigm helps to break deadlock and impasse.

The goal of U.S. policy should not be the signing of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians; rather, the goal should be the achievement of a lasting peace.

Because of the preponderance of military and economic power held by Israel and the authoritarian style of Yasser Arafat it is possible that a formal agreement may be signed that will never be owned and honored by significant elements of the Palestinian people. Unless a political agreement is built upon principles that Palestinians broadly recognize as embodying a modicum of justice, there will be no peace, only a change in tactics of struggle.

Corinne Whitlatch Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP)