Sunday, June 22, 2008

Gaza cease-fire welcome, prompts cautious optimism; Evolving politics around Jerusalem

Churches for Middle East peace has issued this e-mail memo: Gaza Cease-Fire Welcome; Prompts Cautious Optimism

See the complete text online

June 19, 2008
By Warren Clark, Executive Director

The cease-fire arrangement that went into effect today between Israel and Hamas is a welcome development and cause for cautious optimism. Months of rocket attacks, military responses and border blockades have made life for the people of Gaza and the residents of southern Israel intolerable and have undermined progress on the Annapolis peace process. While the cease-fire is fragile, it is undoubtedly the best option to end the violence and enable progress on the diplomatic front.

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) has consistently called for a cease-fire, an end to the blockade and a solution to the border crossings that meets Israel's security needs and allows the return of economic life to Gaza. CMEP has commended the fifty-two Members of Congress, lead by Rep. David Price (D-NC) and Rep. Ray LaHood (R-IL), who sent a letter to President Bush in May urging efforts to end the crisis in southern Israel and Gaza and re-energize the Annapolis process.

Work must now be done to ensure that the cease-fire holds and that the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza is rapidly alleviated. Issues related to the border crossings - both facilitating the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza and preventing the smuggling of weapons - will need to be resolved. These efforts can help normalize daily life for both Palestinians and Israelis and are integral to creating a climate conducive to peacemaking.

The United States provided quiet support for the cease-fire negotiations, which were brokered by Egypt. It should now help to strengthen and preserve the current arrangement and use the opportunity of the calm to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Ending Gaza's isolation must ultimately pave the way toward the unity of the Palestinian people that will be necessary for a viable state living in peace with Israel.

The Gaza cease-fire, together with Israeli overtures towards Syria and Lebanon, also of uncertain prospect, are all related to the ongoing talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) set in motion last November at Annapolis. Any meaningful agreement will require addressing a host of thorny issues, not least of which is the Palestinian political schism between Hamas in Gaza and the PA in the West Bank. No one can know whether or how these divides can be breached, but it seems that hopes for progress toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement remain alive and are in some way spurring regional diplomatic efforts that have not been seen for a long time.

Background Resources:

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing -
Tom Casey, Washington, DC, June 18, 2008

Secretary-General welcomes Israel/Gaza cessation of violence -
United Nations, June 18, 2008

Gaza truce takes hold, skepticism abounds –
Ibrahim Barzak, Associated Press, June 19, 2008

As Israeli Siege Strangles Gaza Strip, Hamas, Smugglers Profit Off Tunnels –
Griff Witte, The Washington Post, June 18, 2008

Reason to Believe? –
Joharah Baker, Miftah, June 18, 2008

Ten Comments on the Gaza Cease-Fire and What Next –
Daniel Levy, Prospects for Peace Blog, June 17, 2008

CMEP Policy

CMEP Commends 52 Reps. for Letter to Bush Urging Efforts to Re-Energize Annapolis Process –
May 15, 2008

Heads of Churches on Gaza Crisis, Ahead of Sec. Rice's Mideast Trip –
February 29, 2008

CMEP Writes Sec. Rice on Gaza Crisis –
January 23, 2008

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An earlier lengthy memo from Churches for Middle East Peace deals with Jerusalem: Evolving Politics Around a Holy City. For the complete text, please go to

June 13, 2008
By Warren Clark and Julie Schumacher Cohen

It is common for the issue of Jerusalem to become a political football on the presidential campaign trail. The latest iteration was Sen. Barack Obama's remarks on June 4th to an American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference when he said, "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." This episode evoked controversy, clarifications and responses that show the evolving nature of how Jerusalem is viewed and debated by the American public and in the political arena.

Churches for Middle East Peace has long supported the U.S. policy that Jerusalem is a "final status issue" to be negotiated and calls for the city to be shared by Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims. As the church leaders in the Holy Land said in a September 2006 statement, "In God's own design, two peoples and three religions have been living together in this city. Our vision is that they should continue to live together in harmony, respect, mutual acceptance and cooperation."

For more see Obama and McCain on Jerusalem: In Their Own Words at the CMEP website:

As the campaign season heats up, advocates should hold their candidates accountable on issues that matter to them. CMEP will be communicating with both presidential candidates over the summer and into the fall and providing advocacy guidance, building on our August 2007 Board and Leadership Council letter -

"Insofar as she is the homeland of the hearts of all the spiritual descendants of Abraham, who hold her very dear, and the place where, according to faith, the created things of earth encounter the infinite transcendence of God, Jerusalem stands out as a symbol of coming together, of union, and of peace for the human family."-Pope John Paul II (April, 1984)

For more information on Jerusalem, go to CMEP's Shared Jerusalem Resource Center:

Churches for Middle East Peace
Phone: 202-543-1222

Churches for Middle East Peace
110 Maryland Ave. NE
Suite 311
Washington, DC 20002

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