Teresa once said, "If we have no peace, it is because we have
forgotten we belong to one another.''
As leaders in our respective Jewish,
Christian and Muslim traditions, we are deeply concerned about the
ongoing crisis in Palestine and the prospects for a meaningful, lasting
peace in that troubled region. We recognize that religious traditions
often have been a source of conflict in the Middle East and continue to
be misused to inflame hatred and violence.
It is painful to witness the ongoing
strife, and yet we cannot give into despair. Each of our traditions can
be a strong force for peace and justice. We believe that people of
different faith traditions can and must join together to work in
collaboration for a just and peaceful resolution to the current crisis
in Palestine and Israel.
The violent takeover of Gaza by Hamas
and its subsequent ouster from the Palestinian government has created a
volatile situation that threatens to pit the leaders of Gaza against
those of the West Bank. While many factors have contributed to this
crisis, we recognize that this fundamental conflict is at its heart:
Many Israelis feel they cannot negotiate with those who do not recognize
their right to exist, whereas many Palestinians feel they cannot
recognize a government that has occupied their land for the past 40
years while confiscating significant portions of it.
Ultimately, the success of Hamas is the
result of the failures on all sides - Palestinian, Israeli and American
- to bring meaningful change for the lives of ordinary citizens living
in very difficult circumstances. We are hopeful that the renewed
dialogue between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas
will bring new progress, and yet we are fearful that their efforts will
be to no avail if there is not significant support for change on all
sides in current policies and practices.
We know solving this impasse will be
extremely difficult, yet it is imperative that a solution be found soon.
To that end, we hold the following to
be bedrock principles on which a peaceful future depends:
- All sides must recognize the right
of the other to exist without threats to their own existence.
- The occupation must end as soon as
possible. Israel should return to its pre-1967 borders with minor
border modifications mutually agreed upon.
- This crisis must be resolved
peacefully. There is too much at stake to allow the current
situation to evolve into another war.
- The "two-state solution"
is the only viable solution that offers promise for a peaceful
future. Therefore, there can only be one Palestine, just as there is
The vast majority of Israelis and
Palestinians want to put an end to decades of confrontation and conflict
and to live side by side in two states - in peaceful coexistence, with
mutual dignity and security. They know that their futures are joined at
the hip and that as two proud peoples who have suffered much, whether
they like it or not, Palestinians and Israelis "belong to one
another." What choices the United States makes in the coming weeks
will help determine if, when and at what additional human costs this
vision of peace may be fulfilled.
It's not too late to save the two-state
peace plan - and thus protect Israel, Palestine and important U.S.
interests. Urgent action is required, however, if that plan is to have
any chance of success.
Our three faith traditions guide us to
believe in human responsibility and capacity for making peace, for
establishing justice, and for recognizing the dignity and infinite value
of every person. As religious leaders sharing a common tradition, we
join together to affirm our faith in the one God who is on the side of
peace and reconciliation.
For the sake of all peoples in the
Middle East, we ask our government to make a just peace with respect of
basic human rights for Palestinians and Israelis alike to be its top
Daniel Bryant is the senior minister
of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Eugene. Yitzhak
Husbands-Hankin is the senior rabbi at Temple Beth Israel in Eugene.
Ibrahim Hamide is the president of the Eugene Middle East Peace Group.