Thursday, November 29, 2012

U.N. votes today on Palestine membership

ELCA Bishop Mark Hanson urged President Obama to support Palestine at the United Nations

In a letter to President Obama on Nov. 26, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson advocates for the US to support the upcoming Palestinian bid for non-member observer state status at the UN in the General Assembly:
With the present Palestinian effort to seek observer state status in the United Nations, the U.S. has another opportunity to demonstrate its support for self-determination and freedom. The U.S. should support these announced plans by the Palestinians when they come before the General Assembly later this month.

Over the past year, we have witnessed efforts to restart talks with the objective of achieving a two-state solution. We have also witnessed worrying developments on the ground which have inhibited those efforts, mainly the continuing expansion of illegal Israeli settlements and the increased displacement of Palestinians from their homes and villages. U.S. support for observer state status at the UN for the Palestinians would be an important signal to the parties that reaching a comprehensive, just and lasting settlement, where both communities may live in peace and security is still the fervent goal of our government.

Advocating for observer state status for the Palestinians does not preclude the necessity for returning to confidence-building measures and negotiations that support a just peace. We should support both paths.

See the blog post at Peace Not Walls, and be sure to comment there.
Read the full letter HERE.

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President Jimmy Carter and Gro Harlem Brundtland wrote in the New York Times...

Two-State Solution on the Line
If the recent rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli air strikes on Gaza tell us anything, it is that the status quo in the Middle East is not a safe choice for Israelis or Palestinians.  In the current political climate, it is highly unlikely that bilateral talks between Israel and the Palestinians can restart. Action is needed that will alter the current dynamic. As Elders, we believe that the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations is such a moment.

On Nov. 29, U.N. member states will be asked to vote on a resolution to grant “non-member observer state status” to Palestine, a significant upgrade from its current “observer entity” status. We urge all member states to vote in favor.

In going to the General Assembly, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is not carrying out a provocative act. Nor is he undermining trust and distracting from the pursuit of peace, as his critics have said.

This is a vote for human rights and the rule of law. It is completely consistent with decades of commitment by the United States, Europe and the rest of the world to peace in the Middle East based on the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state existing side by side with Israel. It is a lawful, peaceful, diplomatic act in line with past U.N. resolutions and international law.  [Read the full article HERE.]

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Rabbi Brian Walt wrote in Haaretz defending the recent letter to Congress by leaders of Protestant churches that called for U.S. military aid to Israel to be contingent on Israeli compliance with American law. His piece was picked up by 
Mondoweiss ...

Christian leaders will not be cowed into silence about widespread human rights violations

(...) Over the past two weeks, I had the privilege of leading an interfaith delegation including several leaders of the civil rights movement, younger civil and human rights leaders, Christian clergy, academics, and several Jews, on a two-week trip to the West Bank.

We were all shocked by the widespread human rights violations that we saw with our own eyes and that we heard about from both Palestinians and Israelis. Several black members of our group, including those who participated actively in the civil rights movement, remarked that what they saw on the West Bank was "frighteningly familiar" to their own experience, a systemic pattern of discrimination that privileged one group (in this case, Jews) and denigrated another (Palestinians).
Read the full article HERE.]
Rabbi Brian Walt is the Palestinian/Israeli Nonviolence Project Fellow of the Dorothy Cotton Institute.
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The Jewish Daily Forward magazine published an article...
Why Jews Should Back Palestinian U.N. Bid

Statehood Move Affirms Need for Two-State Solutionttp://

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Warren Clark, director of
Churches for Middle East Peace has written about the Palestinians' U.N. action.

"A drama is unfolding this week in New York over plans for a resolution in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) this Thursday, November 29, that would recognize Palestine as a non-UN member state.  That is the anniversary of the UNGA vote on resolution 181 in 1948 for partition and creation of a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine. It was declared an “International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People” by the UN in 1977.

"UN recognition of Palestine as a state could have far-reaching political and legal implications. Even without being a UN member, for example, it might give Palestine the legal standing to bring cases against Israel in the International Criminal Court.
"The U.S. and Israel have firmly opposed recognition of Palestine as a state by the UNGA, saying Palestine’s status can only be determined as the result of direct negotiations between Palestinians and Israel.  The U.S. has sought to dissuade the Palestinian Authority (PA) from proceeding with recognition now, saying that the U.S. needs more time to work something out.  What that “something” might be and how long it would take was not made clear.

"Recently PA President Mahmoud Abbas called President Obama to say that he plans to go ahead with the UN vote on November 29, notwithstanding US objections.

"The reasons for the defiance by Abbas are not hard to find.  Since leading the PA in 2005 he has sought self-determination for the Palestinian people, but despite years of close PA security cooperation with Israel and the U.S., he faces a Palestinian public disappointed by his inability to stop settlement growth and make progress towards ending the Israeli occupation.  Abbas and the PA also have been weakened by their inability to have much influence over stopping violence in the Gaza Strip. In the past Abbas paid a high political price for bowing to U.S. wishes, for example by withdrawing a resolution from the UN Human Rights Commission at U.S. request that raised questions about Israel’s conduct in the Gaza war of 2008-09.

"According to press reports the U.S. informed Israel that it was not successful in getting Abbas to back down and that it sees no way to block a vote in the UNGA. Prime Minister Netanyahu then changed his stance, sending his chief negotiator to the U.S. this week to discuss the wording of a resolution in an effort to limit the damage.  Israel is thought to be seeking assurances that Palestinians will not ask to be a member of the International Criminal Court; that recognition grants no Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank, the Gaza Strip or East Jerusalem; and that Palestinians will commit to enter into direct negotiations without preconditions.

"Indeed President Abbas has said that once Palestine is recognized, he would be willing to enter into direct negotiation with Israel, as he will be able to do so on a state-to-state basis.  This pre-positioning is important to both sides. As a recognized non-UN member state the PA may believe it will be in a stronger position to negotiate on the basis on the 1967 lines with agreed territorial swaps as suggested by President Obama. 

"This also was the negotiating position of the last Israeli government under Ehud Olmert in 2008, but it was rejected by Prime Minister Netanyahu in his meeting with President Obama in May 2011.

"The prime minister reportedly has also prepared some sticks in case the UNGA resolution goes forward. These include a freeze on tax revenues that Israel collects for the PA; the announcement of hundreds of new housing units in West Bank settlements; and approval of sections of the Levy report that recommended legalizing and easing restrictions on construction of outposts in the West Bank.

"One of the reasons that Israel has sent its chief negotiator, Isaac Molho, to the U.S. may well be to seek assurance that there will not be undue adverse U.S. reaction to Israel’s retaliation measures.

"This suggests that the U.S. still has some influence over the unfolding of events in the next few days.

"Let us all watch and pray for an outcome that takes us a step closer to real peace and better lives for all people in the region."
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