JPANet: A Holiday Wish for Peace in Bethlehem

Gaza ChildrenThe United States is trying to advance Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, which have been off and on since direct negotiations resumed in September. 

In this Advent season, when our thoughts turn to the hope for peace born in holy Bethlehem long ago but promised to every age, thank President Obama for his efforts to push for talks to end the occupation and resolve the issues dividing Palestinians and Israelis. Urge him to commit to keep the process fair, without predetermining outcomes of the negotiations through settlement construction or other preconditions, and to seek a path to peace that is not bought with costly weapons of war. Failing to pursue a sustainable path to peace in the Middle East, or securing one with increased militarization of the region, will only lead to future conflict, not reconciliation in the Middle East.

Tell the President you support his continued efforts to seek a fair path to peace in the Middle East.

Background

In November, just prior to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu coming to the U.S. to meet with President Obama, the Israeli government announced plans to build over 1,000 new settlement units in East Jerusalem. The U.S. State Department said it was “deeply disappointed by the announcement” and called the decision “counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations.”

In order to buy more time for talks, during Netanyahu’s visit the Obama Administration tried to get Israel to extend a temporary freeze on settlement construction just in the occupied territory outside of East Jerusalem, by reportedly offering Israel 20 F-35 fighter jets, valued at $3 billion; a pledge not to ask for further settlement freezes; and a commitment to veto any United Nations Security Council action affirming the declaration of a Palestinian state. The U.S. however, realized this was too high a price to pay for too little chance of progress and revoked the offer of military and other incentives.

State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said the U.S. withdrawal of the offer does not give a green light to Israel’s plans to press on with settlement construction. Crowley said, "The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements and...will continue to express that position."  Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell affirmed this week: “We … are determined to persevere … until we reach the successful conclusion that I think all want; an independent, viable state of Palestine in which its people have the dignity of freedom and self determination, living side by side in peace with Israel."

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