US bishops ask modifications in Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act

.- The U.S. bishops have called for modifications to the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 to support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to alleviate the urgent needs of the Palestinian people.

"These goals are in the best interests of both Palestinians and Israelis who long for a just peace," said Bishop Thomas Wenski said in a May 19 letter to Senator Richard Lugar. Lugar is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Bishop Wenski is the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Policy.

Bishop Wenski said the perspective of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on the legislation is shaped by two overriding concerns.

The bill should promote the ultimate goal of a two-state solution "that provides security for Israel and a viable state for the Palestinians, two states living alongside one another in peace," the bishop said. The USCCB is concerned that some of the provisions of the legislation would undermine a two-state solution.

The legislation should also provide for the urgent humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people. Catholic Relief Services and other NGOs say their programs in the Palestinian Territories could be severely curtailed under the proposed legislation, Bishop Wenski said.

"It is not in the best interests of either Israelis or Palestinians for desperation to grow in the West Bank and Gaza. Instead S. 2370 should send a message that Congress supports a wide range of basic assistance programs to the Palestinian people," he said.

Bishop Wenski said the legislation rightly calls upon Hamas to renounce terrorism, to recognize Israel and to accept prior agreements. But he questioned sections of the legislation which discourage contact with all officials of the Palestinian Authority, except for President Abbas and his personal representatives. "These actions discourage contact with the Palestinian leaders whose support is crucial for pursuing a two-state solution," the Bishop said.

Bishop Wenski said the certification described in the bill, which is the basis for all of the bill’s restrictions, should focus on essential reform requirements for the Palestinian Authority.

"Good governance is always a worthy goal, but a laundry list of conditions beyond these essential ones may simply delay and impede a negotiated two-state solution," he said.

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