Statement of Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, at the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative Press Conference
National Press Club
December 2, 2003
Contact:Alexis Rice 202.387.2800
Our coalition of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders has been created in spite of our often different, conflicting and deeply held convictions regarding the tragic conflict between the Palestinians and Israel. These differences have seriously strained relations among members of this coalition. We are, however, united in our support for active U.S. leadership in pursuing full implementation of the Road Map to Peace.
Our call echoes the voice of the Psalmist (Psalm 34:15), "seek peace and pursue it." Heeding those words is the best hope for halting the violence and insuring the future secure and peaceful coexistence of a democratic and Jewish State of Israel next to a democratic Palestinian State.
It is imperative the United States insist the Palestinian Authority halt the violence and terrorist attacks against Israelis. It is imperative that, while taking into account the security of its citizens, the Israeli government:
- Dismantle all unauthorized settlement outposts established since March 2002;
- Freeze expansion of existing settlements;
- Take additional steps, such as; lifting curfews and easing restrictions on movement within the West Bank and Gaza to improve the humanitarian situation for Palestinians; halting construction of the Security Fence beyond the Green Line in areas which require confiscation of Palestinian land; withdrawing Israeli military forces from areas occupied since September 2000, in coordination with the Palestinian Authority demonstrating its capacity to prevent terrorist attacks.It should be noted that the Geneva Accord signed yesterday provides a benchmark for possible mutually acceptable solutions to the key issues, including: refugees, security and Jerusalem.
It is clear to most Israelis and Palestinians that the final peace agreement will be close to the one discussed at Camp David and later at Taba. The majority of Israelis and Palestinians are weary of the violence and desperately want to raise their children in peace.
How many dead Palestinians and Israelis will litter the road to peace? Who will fill the leadership vacuum to effectuate and sustain a peace that will transform suspicion into trust; turn "swords into plowshares" and turn Israeli and Palestinian children into adults who will lead their respective people to peace and prosperity?
We ask: on the backs of how many dead Israelis and Palestinians will the inevitable peace be achieved? Will President Bush act decisively with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to lessen the body count?
This remarkable coalition of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders is mobilizing voices of moderation and is calling on President Bush to exert the bold, imaginative and sustained leadership necessary to achieve a peace agreement.
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 .