Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) issued an action alert, "President Heads to Holy Land: Tell Him Strong Leadership Is Needed Now!" - available at http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2008Jan7.htm
See the text below for analysis and talking points.
The December 18 CMEP newsletter, under the heading "Holy Land Peacemaking on Center Stage in 2008," is available too: http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2007Dec18.htm
For this fascinating analysis and action newsletter, outgoing director Corinne Whitlatch stepped back to look at the situation in the region 30 years ago and the changes that have, and have not, taken place.
Here is the text of this week's action alert:
Warren Clark, Executive Director
with Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Coordinator
January 7, 2008
Last week I became Executive Director of Churches for Middle East Peace, succeeding Corinne Whitlatch, CMEP's longtime leader. I look forward to continuing her high standard of advocacy for peace in the region, especially regarding settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and to communicating with you and hearing from you often in this important ongoing effort.
Continuing and deepening instability in the Middle East requires urgent resolution of this long-standing problem. This is not impossible. The determination of this Administration expressed at Annapolis to achieve a peace agreement this year creates a moment when vigorous public and political support for a negotiated two state solution is more important than ever.
President Bush departs Tuesday for his first visit to the Holy Land as President. He is scheduled to stop first in Israel and the West Bank, followed by Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. The visit is seen, in part, as a follow-up to the Annapolis conference that he convened in November and which concluded with the promise of an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement by the end of 2008. In an interview last week President Bush said "the time is ripe...there will be a comprehensive peace signed by the end of this year." In a departure from previous statements, the President remarked that Israeli settlement expansion is an "impediment" to the success of peace efforts. These are important words ahead of this historic trip. Now they must be backed by tough demands of both parties if this latest push for peace is going to gain any momentum.
Since the Annapolis conference, events on the ground have threatened to impede the promise of peace. In December, Israel announced plans to expand the settlement of Har Homa in East Jerusalem. Violence is escalating in and around Gaza, including continued Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli military raids. The Palestinian humanitarian situation is even more dire, with movement and access in the West Bank still dismal and ordinary Gazans facing a stark deterioration of their daily life. Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams tasked with delving into the sensitive final status issues met again today, but their two-hour talks made little serious progress.
Post-Annapolis success requires sustained and high-level engagement by the United States. In a December letter (http://www.cmep.org/letters/Post-Annapolis_CMEP_Letter_to_Bush.pdf), CMEP wrote to the President, "We are grateful for your leadership and that of Secretary Rice in bringing together many of the key regional players at Annapolis. Our hope for the future is based on the expectation that your Administration's commitments to a strong and continuing US engagement will be fulfilled." The CMEP letter requested that the President visit Bethlehem on this trip and meet with the Christians there. Right before the Christmas holiday, Senators Kit Bond (R-MO) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) sent a letter (http://www.cmep.org/press/2007Dec21_Bond-Rockefeller_Letter.htm) to the President connecting the decline of the Palestinian Christian community to the absence of Israeli-Palestinian peace. These messages need your reinforcement now.
As the President embarks on his trip, it is important that he hear from you that American Christians support active and sustained U.S. engagement to overcome barriers to peace and that you want to see the vision of two states become a reality in 2008.
Call the White House Comments Line: 202-456-1111
* Thank you for visiting Israel and the West Bank this week. I ask for your strong leadership to ensure that the negotiating process you launched in Annapolis leads to a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in 2008.
* I agree with Senators Bond and Rockefeller who wrote in a December letter to you that a peace agreement would help save the dwindling Palestinian Christian community and improve future prospects for all the peoples of the Holy Land.
* I agree with you that the continued expansion of settlements is an "impediment" to peace. I urge you to oppose all actions that undercut the peace process and to press both sides to adhere to their Road Map obligations.
* I ask you to work with Israel and the Palestinians to encourage a ceasefire that can end the Gaza violence, to help improve the humanitarian and security situation on the ground and to make progress on final status negotiations.
(This email is also available online at: www.cmep.org/Alerts/2008Jan7.htm)
For more information about Churches for Middle East Peace, explore the web site: http://www.cmep.org
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