Last July, while I was in Jerusalem and President Bush announced that the United States would host a Conference for Arab- Israeli-Palestinian peace this fall; the talk on the street ranged from cynicism to pessimism. Every Israeli and Palestinian I questioned agreed that the occupation is at the root of the conflict in the Holy Land . The hurdle has been and remains politicians who are out of touch with the public they were elected to serve.
"Neither Israeli nor Palestinian governments reflect the majority of their people. In Israel the government is influenced by the IDF, Security Forces and the right wing settlers. Palestine is a broken entity and that will breed more extremists, it must be healed and the reunification of Hamas and Fatah is essential. There is a moderate pragmatic and progressive wing in Hamas and they need to be engaged and recognized as legitimate partners.
"Public opinion polls in both Israel and Palestine show that the majorities of both people want two states, a shared Jerusalem , withdrawal of the 400,000 settlers, a resolution to the refugee crisis. Successful peace negotiations requires that all of these issues be addressed and something new is needed…Olmert only wants general principals addressed and is unwilling to confront the right wing and end the occupation.
"The Geneva Accord lays out a framework that both Israeli and Palestinian experts –not government officials- agreed upon that can lead to a contiguous viable Palestinian state."
On August 10th a delegation of prominent Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders representing heads of 25 national organizations in the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace (NILI) presented specific recommendations to the State Department for what the United States needs to do to maximize chances that this November's meeting/ "conference for peace" will be successful. The religious leaders fear if the conference fails, that people's hopes will once again be dashed, chances for a "two-state" solution will be diminished, forces in the region favoring violence and extremism will grow stronger, and it will be only a matter of time until there is a new Israeli-Palestinian or Arab-Israeli war.
The NILI propose 3 Steps for a Successful Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace Conference:
1) Conference invitees should include all Israel's neighbors, as well as Israel and the Palestinian Authority; and all issues to resolve the conflict should be on the agenda. Israel and all of its neighbors, i.e. the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria , as well as Saudi Arabia, should be invited to the conference; and all the issues needing to be resolved to end the conflict, including Israeli-Palestinian final status issues, should be on the agenda.
2) Pre-meeting steps on the ground and agreement on principles for peace are essential. As part of preparation for the conference, the U.S. needs to press harder for concrete steps by Israel and the Palestinian Authority to improve conditions on the ground, including agreement on a ceasefire and on principles to resolve the final status issues, i.e., borders and security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem.
3) The split between the West Bank and Gaza is inconsistent with a durable peace. The split in Palestinian governance could thwart success of the conference. As Secretary of State Rice said July 18, "There is one Palestinian people, there should be one Palestinian state." The United States should quietly support efforts to form a united Palestinian government that can represent Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, and is committed to reject violence and negotiate a two-state peace agreement with Israel .
Retired Rev. Roy Hayes-Priest-at-Large In Cyberspace (Episcopal) wrote "Mideast Peace = Peace of Jerusalem = World Peace ......All Abu Mazin has to do is wait for the appropriate time ... when all the cameras are rolling ... and acknowledge that justice has always been at the heart of the Jewish faith. Abu Mazin can quote the Hebrew prophets to substantiate that claim (Amos, Micah and others). He can quote the Law of Moses: "Thou shalt not steal (thy neighbors' land, olive trees, etc.) " and "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbors (the Palestinians)."
"History is in the making. Abu Mazin has the opportunity to make the distinction between Judaism and Zionism ... on the world's stage ... and call for Israel 's Zionist government to reflect Judaism's highest values: "Do unto others....", etc.
"The International Community will be watching on television. (Osama Bin Laden will be watching, too.) If Abu Mazin will choose his words carefully enough, (i.e., with care, i.e., as in "love thy neighbor"), he will thereby demonstrate that Palestinians are the civilized ones in the conflict with Israel 's current regime. Righteous Jews and survivors of the Nazi Holocaust will resonate and call for justice for the Palestinians. I believe this will happen…because I honestly believe the collective Jewish soul deplores "man's inhumanity to man".
"Once Abu Mazin has declared public support for Judaism's highest values, Prime Minister Haniyeh (cooperative efforts, etc.) will be in a position to call for a hudna (which is a ceasefire and much, much more... a hudna is Islamic Jurisprudence) ... whether Olmert agrees to it or not. Abu Mazin will be in a position to insist that the next step in the peace process is for Israel to acknowledge that Hamas, also, has "the right to exist". Hamas will respond in kind. (I'm sure of it.) Saudi Arabia , Egypt and Jordan will be quick to repeat their support for a unity government in Palestine . Tony Blair and the Quartet will at last be in a position to support a unity government in Palestine . Iran 's President Ahmadinejad will be pacified. The whole world will be watching all this, of course. The Patriarchs and the Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem will find themselves in a position to weigh in, in a meaningful way, and make a public declaration regarding the future status of Jerusalem :