Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Israeli-Palestinian Peace: Sign Today on House Resolution 130
Please support US leaders on Palestinian/Israeli Peace: George Mitchell, Rep. Ellison, Rep. Baird, Sen. Clinton on need to stop the home demolitions - Support the 32+ co-sponsors of House Res. 130. SIGN here Call as well!
Text for House Resolution 130 and list of the 32 original co-sponsors here
Powerful Recent Brieving - Reports of recent talks with ordinary Gazans:
For more information - Find Special Envoy Sen. Mitchell’s Trip to the Region: A Brief Summary here
Rep. Holt said "you can find wrongs on both sides…and also much to love" and added that, "The United States is not helping enough." In addition, Rep. Ellison has posted video highlights of his trip on his website here
Rep. Baird has pictures that can be viewed online. here
Winds of Change in Washington: Let's Keep Up the Momentum for Peace
By Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Director
Momentum is building in Washington behind robust U.S. efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. Since the Gaza cease-fire and the inauguration, there has been a flurry of resolutions, sign-on letters, statements and Congressional trips that demonstrate a growing recognition of the legitimate needs of both Israelis and Palestinians and a commitment to work for a two-state solution.
Following up on a February visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, including Gaza, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke to a Washington, DC think tank this past week in support of a strong U.S. role in resolving the conflict. He said, "we came closest to peace when we had American leadership that encouraged everyone to make hard choices and earned credibility with all sides." Senator Kerry talked about the importance of the Arab Peace Initiative and the encouraging results of Palestinian security reform efforts and stressed that "nothing will do more to make clear our seriousness about turning the page than demonstrating-with actions rather than words-that we are serious about Israel freezing settlement activity in the West Bank."
Other Congressional visitors to Gaza, Reps. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Brian Baird (D-WA) and Rush Holt (D-NJ), gave a powerful briefing on Thursday March 5th, hosted by the New America Foundation and packed with a Capitol Hill crowd, describing their experiences of viewing firsthand the impact of the conflict on Gaza's civilian population. All three Members had also visited Israel - including Sderot - the West Bank, as well as East Jerusalem, touring the Lutheran-run Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives. ( Find this here )
Rep. Ellison began the event stressing the need to "open the border crossings" to address both Israeli security needs and the desperate humanitarian conditions in Gaza. He concluded his comments with a strong plea for a "constituency for peace" that would go beyond the partisanship of "Israeli security" supporters and those on the "Palestinian side". Commenting on the rocket attacks and Israel's military response, Rep. Baird emphasized that the current situation is a "threat to U.S. security…and to the people of the region" and that "we need to seriously reevaluate the policies that we have seen played out". Rep. Holt said "you can find wrongs on both sides…and also much to love" and added that, "The United States is not helping enough." Click here to watch the video of this important Hill briefing. In addition, Rep. Ellison has posted video highlights of his trip on his website and Rep. Baird has pictures that can be viewed online.
Churches for Middle East Peace, together with our Jewish and Arab-American allies and with our 15,000 member grassroots network, has seen real results in its work to encourage and promote constructive Congressional measures and statements in the first months of 2009 and our pro-peace efforts continue to grow.
During the Gaza crisis, CMEP urged Members to speak out in support of an immediate cease-fire and over 40 Representatives and Senators responded with constructive statements. When the House and Senate resolutions on the crisis passed, even these largely one-sided expressions of unwavering support for Israel, included strong demands for U.S. leadership to reinvigorate the peace process.
In the last five weeks we have seen:
62 House Representatives sign a letter to Secretary Clinton supporting Gaza humanitarian aid;
32 Members introduce H. Res. 130 welcoming the appointment of Special Mideast Envoy Senator Mitchell and as of today there are 85 co-sponsors;
Two pro-Israel leaders in the House, Reps. Gary Ackerman (D-NY) and Robert Wexler (D-FL), criticize settlements as a key contributor to diminished hopes for a two-state peace;
Four prominent Members go to Gaza - the first official visits by U.S. officials in three years - and three also visit Palestinian Christian leaders and institutions in East Jerusalem; and
32 Senators sign a letter to Secretary Clinton expressing support for "tenacious" U.S. efforts to achieve peace.
This Congressional peace momentum is building as the Obama White House demonstrates that Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking is a high priority on their foreign policy agenda. Secretary of State Clinton and Special Envoy Mitchell traveled to Cairo, Israel and the West Bank this past week. At a conference on Gaza reconstruction, Clinton pledged $900 million in U.S. aid for the Palestinians and stressed the need to "foster conditions in which a Palestinian state can be fully realized, saying "Time is of the essence. We cannot afford more setbacks and delays."
The biggest news story of the trip came from Secretary Clinton's answer to a question in Ramallah. When asked about Israeli plans to demolish 88 Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, she called the activity "unhelpful and not in keeping with the obligations entered into under the roadmap", and said the issue "will be taken up with the Israeli government". News stories in The Washington Post on March 5 and 6 highlighted the exchange and its impact: "Clinton Criticizes Israel's Eviction, Demolition Plans" and "Israeli Spurns Criticism from Clinton."
However, as positive as these developments in Congress and with the Administration are, our pro-peace work cannot let up.
In addition to Secretary Clinton's comments on East Jerusalem home demolitions, Haaretz reports that "Israel has received four official complaints from members of the new administration regarding various issues linked to West Bank settlements", however as of yet the Obama Administration has declined from making clear public statements on the need for a settlement freeze.
In a letter to Secretary Clinton on March 2nd, CMEP urged her to "make clear during [her] current Mideast trip that the Obama Administration will not tolerate ongoing Israeli settlement activity" lest the credibility of U.S. peace efforts be called into question, Palestinian Authority security efforts undermined and extremists elements strengthened. So far Clinton and others have hesitated to even utter the word "settlements" publicly, but if that is indeed going to change in the coming weeks and months, there must be public support for the U.S. to hold both Israel and the Palestinians accountable.
In Congress, even with recent positive actions, some Members seem bent on the patterns of anti-Palestinian and anti-peace actions that must soon become a thing of the past if progress is going to be made. Since the Administration has announced its intent to send $900 million in funding to the Palestinians, some Representatives and Senators have introduced measures or made statements urging heavy restrictions on funding for the Palestinians or for UN agencies working in Gaza.
Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week that, "The Administration should withdraw its pledge to provide $900 million in bonus funding to the Palestinian Authority and Gaza reconstruction." Rep. Shelly Berkley (D-NV) is leading a campaign to condition the aid on an end to rocket fire and the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In the Senate, similar initiatives by Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ) have been met with bi-partisan opposition, but advocates of U.S. funding for the Palestinians as a vital part of the peace efforts will need to remain vigilant when the supplemental bill comes up later in the spring.
Let's keep up the momentum for peace… Change cannot come without your active and sustained advocacy.
The work of CMEP advocates is making a difference and there is fertile ground for a new approach to Israeli-Palestinian relations, but we need to keep working if we are going to create the "constituency for peace" that Rep. Ellison called for! Here are a few actions you can take to help keep up the movement towards a just and lasting peace:
Mark your calendars and plan to attend CMEP's annual advocacy conference from June 7-9 in Washington, DC.
When Congress goes home for the Easter and Passover recess from April 6-17, meet with your Senators and Representative and stress the need for bi-partisan support for U.S. engagement to move both sides toward a just peace. If you would like to serve as a recess meeting organizer or participant in your district, please sign up on our district meeting interest form and we will provide you with resources and guidance to help you hold productive meetings.
If you haven't yet urged your Representative to co-sponsor H. Res. 130, please go to CMEP's action page today here
Finally, as Rev. David Johnson wrote in CMEP's recent Lenten Reflection, "Pray for peace, yes! Do those things that contribute to justice, diligently and faithfully. Watch for indicators of equality and dignity breaking out between the two suffering peoples in Israel and Palestine. Measure those signs in a continuing role as peace-makers and reconcilers, celebrating every indication of growth. Encourage those who work for peace, those in the land and those outside."
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, Moravian Church in America, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM).
Churches for Middle East Peace
Web: cmep dot org
Posted by CN at 11:33 AM