.- Religious leaders from across the United States asked the Obama administration to make peace efforts between Israel and Palestine a priority over the next four years.
“American political leadership is needed now more than ever to support both Israelis and Palestinians in creating a resilient and just peace,” said representatives of 35 Christian denominations.
In a Jan. 7 letter to U.S. President Barack Obama, they warned that allowing the status quo to continue could prolong the conflict and bring greater violence to the region.
“As you embark upon your second term, there is an unprecedented opportunity for your Administration to play a catalytic role in the resolution of this conflict,” they told the president.
Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, was one of the signatories of the letter. Other signers included representatives of Episcopalian, Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Lutheran and other religious communities in the United States.
“As faith leaders deeply committed to peace and reconciliation in this land held sacred by so many, we write to ask that you now bring the full energies of your Administration to bear toward facilitating a just, durable, and final negotiated agreement to end the Arab-Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” they said.
The signatories acknowledged the challenges and cost associated with peace efforts, as well as the opposition faced from those on both sides.
An environment of fear and lack of trust make negotiations difficult, they said, “but another generation cannot wait as prospects for peace grow dimmer.”
Offering prayers that the president may be guided with courage and wisdom, the religious leaders urged the U.S. to place “the full weight of its support behind the long-term well-being of Israelis and Palestinians.”
“Proposals put forward must be feasible and convincingly address their separate national aspirations for security and justice,” they stressed.
Leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have also spoken out on the importance of American leadership in the region.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York, president of the bishops’ conference, joined Bishop Pates in calling for “a high profile envoy” to work for peace and justice in the area.
In a Jan. 9 letter to President Obama, the two bishops observed that “our nation has a special obligation to exercise vigorous leadership for Israeli-Palestinian peace.”
Echoing the Holy Father’s calls for peace in the region, they encouraged efforts towards a two-state solution, comprised of “a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.”
The bishops acknowledged that actions by both Palestinians and Israelis “perpetuate an unsustainable status quo” that endangers the entire region.
Recent rocket attacks from Gaza into southern Israel are “morally unjustifiable uses of indiscriminate force against civilians” that undermine the trust needed for negotiations, they said, while Israeli occupation and expansion in the West Bank “compromise the territorial viability of a future Palestinian state.”
At the same time, they emphasized that the lack of peace is taking “a heavy toll on both Israelis and Palestinians, and especially on the indigenous ancient Christian community of the Holy Land that is emigrating at alarming rates.”
“What is urgently needed is indefatigable and insistent leadership,” the bishops said. “The United States, as a consequence of its relationships and potentially significant influence, is poised, in our estimation, to be the most effective arbiter in this tangled situation that portends enormous risk for the world.”
Pledging their support to the U.S. government’s efforts for peace, Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates urged leadership that gives both Israelis and Palestinians “hope for a different future free of the shadows of violence and open to the light of peace.”