This report is out today from Churches for Middle East Peace - www.cmep.org
Rice Makes Limited Progress, More Effort Needed
Also available online at: www.cmep.org/Alerts/2008April2.htm
Warren Clark, Executive Director
After seven lean years the U.S. has reengaged in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The President visited both sides in January and will return next month. The latest trip - http://www.state.gov/secretary/trvl/2008/102630.htm - of Secretary of State Rice March 29-31 made limited progress. It underlined the need and opportunities for U.S. peacemaking, but also illustrated the intractability of certain issues and the major effort that will be required to reach the President's goal of an agreement this year.
Following a series of meetings, Prime Minister Olmert agreed to measures - http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2008/DM+Barak+meets+Secretary+of+State+Rice+and+PA+PM+Fayyad+30-Mar-2008.htm - to make living conditions more tolerable for Palestinians in the West Bank, including the removal of some roadblocks. Palestinian President Abbas agreed to meet with Olmert again April 7th for the first time since the Gaza crisis erupted in violence late in February.
Yet just after the Secretary left Israel, authorities there announced plans to further expand settlement activity in Palestinian areas, underlining a long standing point of tension between Israel and the U.S. Secretary Rice reiterated the U.S. stance, saying - http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2008/03/102839.htm - "settlement activity should stop...its expansion should stop...". On the one hand ongoing settlement construction activity is an obstacle to the quest for a viable peace agreement. On the other politically powerful settler groups, an important part of Israel's government coalition, are determined to continue the expansion. (For more details on settlement activity since Annapolis, see Peace Now's new report: http://www.peacenow.org/updates.asp?rid=0&cid=4767).
Apart from the official parlay, there also have been other efforts taking place with different parties and on different tracks. Egypt, with tacit U.S. approval, has sought to mediate between Hamas in Gaza and Israel. There was talk of reopening the Gaza crossings with Israel. Yemen has launched its own initiative, approved during the Damascus Arab Summit, to mediate between Hamas and Fatah.
Talks among lower level officials, including security officials on both sides, have been going on all along since they were set up following the Annapolis conference last November. The topics reportedly have included the so-called final status issues - borders, Palestinian refugees, Israeli settlements, and Jerusalem, notwithstanding the threat of the Shas political party to leave the Israeli government coalition should the topic of Jerusalem ever be discussed.
While the final status issues will be the heart of any peace agreement, the more immediate issues have been the violence and fear of violence, the burden of living under occupation, concern over expansion of Israeli settlements, and the credibility of the leadership and of the peace process itself.
This tension will not abate. The threat of renewed violence is constant. Clearly sustained and active U.S. diplomatic involvement is needed to keep the peace process moving forward. Lack of forward motion can mean collapse and worse. CMEP, together with Jewish and Arab allies, is committed to making the most of the Annapolis process and continuing to press this Administration and the Congress to deliver real progress in 2008.
Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Coordinator
On March 14th, CMEP issued an action alert - http://www.cmep.org/Alerts/2008March_14.htm - on the Crowley-Moran House letter in support of Middle East peace and cooperation funding. Twenty-eight Representatives signed on to this letter! View the full list here: http://www.cmep.org/Legislative_Issues/2008_House-Senate_Letters-Peace-Funding.htm - and thank your Representative if he or she is among the signers. Now, there is a similar letter circulating in the Senate led by Senators Sununu (R-NH) and Biden (D-DE). The letter closes this Friday, April 4th
Contact your Senators - http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm?OrderBy=state&Sort=ASC - and ask them to sign the Biden-Sununu Letter in support of $11 million in funding for grassroots peace activities in the Middle East. Your Message: People-to-people activities together with a robust political process supported by the United States can help move forward on the promise of peace made in Annapolis. The achievement of a negotiated peace agreement and its implementation will require steadfast American commitment and the support of both the Israeli and Palestinian publics.
Register Now for CMEP's 2008 Advocacy Conference - http://www.cmep.org/2008_conference/2008_conference_mainpage.htm - Calming the Storm: Middle East Peacemaking in a Turbulent Time
April 20-22, 2008 - Washington, DC
Sorry this is a delayed posting of the March Info Update from Churches for Middle East Peace - www.cmep.org
Four Months On: How to Regain the Momentum of Annapolis?
The full update is also available online at: www.cmep.org/Alerts/2008March18.htm
Julie Schumacher Cohen, Legislative Coordinator
March 18, 2008
Excerpts from CMEP's March Info Update are included below. The topic areas include commentary on the Gaza crisis, the recent Road Map meeting, current negotiations, the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Jerusalem news and an update on Christians in the Holy Land and the broader Middle East, including the article, "Christians in Flight (http://www.cmep.org/documents/Christians_In_Flight.htm)" in America magazine, edited by Rev. Drew Christiansen, S.J., a member of CMEP's Leadership Council.
The update can be viewed in full on CMEP's website at: http://www.cmep.org/Updates/2008March18.htm
* Impact of the Gaza Crisis: Options for Moving Forward
* Road Map Revived: First Meeting Highlights Israeli, Palestinian Shortcomings
* Negotiations Now and Then: Current State-of-Play and Lessons Learned
* Humanitarian Update: Aid Groups Report on Gaza* Conflict in Jerusalem: Terror Attack in Fragile City, Settlement Expansion
* Update on Christians: Leaving the Mideast, Jerusalem Churches on Violence & Attacks on Gaza's Christians
The update can be viewed in full on CMEP's website at: www.cmep.org/Updates/2008March18.htm
Churches for Middle East Peace
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