Reform Jewish Leader Participates in Interreligious Leadership Meeting with Secretary of State Powell to Discuss Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Call for Increased U.S. Leadership
Saperstein: Secretary Powell shared the sense of urgency of addressing the Middle East conflict and the necessity for vigorous U.S. leadership in supporting a peace process... We differed over our group's recommendation to send a high-level Presidential envoy at this time to stay in Jerusalem and try to get the peace process back on track.
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2004 - After participating in a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell organized by the National Interreligious Peace Initiative, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
Today, leaders of diverse faiths in America came together as part of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, putting forward an urgent plea for active U.S. involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Secretary Powell was clearly interested in the group, which represents a unique mix of nationally prominent Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Jewish, and Muslim leaders. Believing they are called by their faith to work toward peace and justice in Israel, the birthplace of all three Abrahamic traditions, the leaders expressed a united view that high-level U.S. leadership in the peace process must restart now and would have the support of majorities in all of their communities.
Specifically, the group requested a special Presidential envoy to deal with the conflict; called for a return to the Road Map with a timetable of reciprocal simultaneous steps to be taken by the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government; and urged that the upcoming election not delay immediate action in pushing forward the peace process. Secretary Powell shared the sense of urgency of addressing the Middle East conflict and the necessity for vigorous U.S. leadership in supporting a peace process. He also recognized that the instability engendered by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict undermines U.S. efforts in many parts of the world. We differed over our group's recommendation to send a high-level Presidential envoy at this time to stay in Jerusalem and try to get the peace process back on track. Secretary Powell preferred to wait until there is some positive movement in the area; the group felt, however, that the deployment of a high-level envoy could help create that positive movement. They cited the example of Senator Danforth's successful effort in the Sudan in bringing about a peace agreement that ended a twenty-year civil war in which nearly two million people died.
Launched in December 2003, the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative unites some of the most prominent religious leaders for determined, direct U.S. leadership in pursuit of Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace. Other Reform Jewish leaders involved include Rabbi Paul Menitoff, executive vice president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), who also attended the meeting today, and Rabbi Janet Marder, president of the CCAR. Additional Jewish leaders attending today included Rabbi Jerome Epstein, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, and Rabbi Amy Small, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis.