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Reform Jewish Movement Adopts New Resolution on Israeli Unilateral Withdrawal, Security Barrier; Urges Secretary Powell to Promote Peace Process as Disengagement Unfolds

Contact: Alexis Rice or Rob Levy
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Saperstein: For peace to emerge, unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank must be matched by the United States' vigorous pursuit of a return to the peace process.

WASHINGTON, August 3, 2004 - Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, sent a letter today to Secretary of State Colin Powell informing him of a new resolution passed by the Union for Reform Judaism's Board of Trustees, entitled "Unilateral Withdrawals, Security Barriers, and Home Demolitions: Striving for Security and Peace in Israel and the Middle East." The resolution was included with the letter along with a copy of the new issue of Reform Judaism, which features several articles on the security barrier, including one by Rabbi Saperstein.

The Union's new resolution addresses Palestinian terrorism, Israeli security, unilateral withdrawal, the security barrier, and administrative home demolitions. The letter to Secretary Powell explains these new positions, expresses support and concern for recent Congressional actions regarding Israel, and urges the Secretary to support increased U.S. involvement in the peace process. The letter concludes, "For peace to emerge, unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank must be matched by the United States' vigorous pursuit of a return to the peace process."

The Union resolution on Israel is available on the RAC's site, and Reform Judaism's articles on the security barrier, including Rabbi Saperstein's article "High-Stakes Gamble," can be found at www.urj.org/rjmag.

The letter to Secretary Powell follows:


Dear Mr. Secretary:

On behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, I write to inform you of our newly-passed resolution on the difficult challenges currently facing Israel. I also want to express some concerns about recently passed Congressional resolutions pertaining to the Middle East conflict, as well as to share an article I wrote about the security barrier for the summer issue of Reform Judaism. On a personal note, I wish to thank you for meeting with us last month as part of the National Interreligious Delegation for Middle East Peace.

The Union for Reform Judaism's new resolution, "Unilateral Withdrawals, Security Barriers, and Home Demolitions: Striving for Security and Peace in Israel and the Middle East," was passed by our Board of Trustees in June and establishes Reform Movement policy on these three critical issues. The resolution reaffirms the Union's complete and unqualified condemnation of Palestinian terrorism against innocent Israeli civilians. These attacks are particularly pernicious in that they are the result of an explicit policy of targeting sites frequented by children and families: school buses, discos, beaches, pizza parlors, seders, bar mitzvahs, etc. One notes the intentional killings of a forty-nine-year-old man and a four-year-old boy in Sderot last month. The unwavering support of the U.S. government has been critical to Israel's fight against this deplorable form of violence.

In addition, the Union's new resolution strongly supports Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan of unilateral military withdrawal and the removal of all Israeli settlements from the Gaza Strip as well as from parts of the West Bank. While recognizing the risks, we applaud this initiative as a vital step in bringing about the opportunity for a return to the peace process and removing a major obstacle to a two-state solution. We further support the construction of the security barrier, as close as possible to the Green Line, as a defensive measure against terrorism, while requesting that the Israeli government operate the barrier in a way that minimizes undue hardship for Palestinians. Last week, the International Court of Justice of the United Nations ruled that the barrier violates international law and must be torn down where it exceeds the Green Line. Israel is correct to ignore this ruling as it fails to even consider the primary reason for the barrier, Palestinian terrorism. Rather, we support Israel's decision to heed the ruling of its own High Court of Justice that last month found that the barrier has been constructed for security, not political, reasons but also ordered changes to the planned route so as to minimize Palestinian hardship. This decision reaffirms Israel's commitment to democracy and to finding the proper balance between security and humanitarian concerns. The Union resolution also raises opposition to the Israeli government's policy of administrative home demolitions, which is most often applied preferentially to Jews and discriminatorily against Arabs.

Finally, the resolution urges the American government to stay actively involved in moving the peace process and negotiations forward toward a two-state solution and to support the unilateral withdrawal plan and the security barrier as described within.

On a related topic, I would like to reference two recently-passed Congressional resolutions supporting President Bush's April 14th letter to Prime Minister Sharon and endorsing his plan of unilateral withdrawal. While we supported these resolutions, despite clearly establishing Congress's support for tangible steps toward peace, they fail to recognize the need for withdrawal to be directly linked to a return to the negotiating table. They also fail to address the troubling humanitarian conditions of the Palestinians. For peace to emerge, unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank must be matched by the United States' vigorous pursuit of a return to the peace process. In that effort, your personal support is urgently needed and you can be sure of the support of the Reform Jewish Movement in these peace-making endeavors.

Thank you for your consideration of these issues of importance to us and to future generations.
We look forward to working with you in the critical months ahead.

Sincerely,
/s/
Rabbi David Saperstein
Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism


Attachments:
- Unilateral Withdrawals, Security Barriers, and Home Demolitions: Striving for Security and Peace in Israel and the Middle East" - Union for Reform Judaism Resolution (June 2004)
- Reform Judaism, Summer 2004

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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 .



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