From the Worldwide Faith News archives

[PCUSANEWS] Church leaders rap Bush on Israeli settlements

Date Mon, 19 Apr 2004 15:01:34 -0500

Note #8201 from PCUSA NEWS to PRESBYNEWS:

April 19, 2004

Church leaders rap Bush on Israeli settlements

Concessions to Sharon are 'a road map to war,' CMEP says

by Carol Fouke
National Council of Churches News and Information Office

WASHINGTON - U.S. church leaders reacted with disappointment and alarm to
President Bush's April 14 remarks that seemingly reversed 35 years of
longstanding policy on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

	Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP), a coalition of 19 Protestant,
Catholic and Orthodox church organizations, including the National Council of
Churches, criticized Bush for endorsing Israel's large Jewish settlements in
the West Bank and its intention of preventing any Palestinian refugees from
ever being resettled within Israel.

	Corinne Whitlatch, executive director of the coalition, said, "We had
hoped that the Gaza withdrawal could be a first forward step toward peace."
Instead, she said, "President Bush has betrayed decades of diplomatic
advances, undercut the future of the Road Map peace plan and ignored its
cosponsors - the U.N., the European Union and the Russian Federation. His
repeated assurance that he wants a viable Palestinian state alongside a
secure Israel is losing credibility. The President's blatant disregard for
Palestinian and Arab participation and sentiment places a future peace and
our own security at risk."

	Father Drew Christiansen, a member of CMEP's Leadership Council and
editor of the Jesuit magazine America, said Bush's decision "makes U.S.
policy hostage to Prime Minister Sharon's expansionist goals, and
"legitimating West Bank settlements is a recipe for protracted conflict which
will continue to impact adversely the dwindling Christian presence in the
Holy Land."

	Christiansen asked the president to consider the consequences of his
decision on Christians in the region, saying: "Mr. Sharon has talked about
his unilateral initiative delaying negotiations for another generation. But
this is a generation in which, under the pressure of endless conflict, the
endangered indigenous Christian population in the Holy Land could well
disappear. I doubt this is an outcome that President Bush would like to see,
but it is very likely one that he is setting in motion."

	Other church leaders questioned whether the "war on terrorism" may
have blinded Bush to the possible effects of his actions.

	Jim Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church General
Board of Church and Society, said: "President Bush responded yesterday to a
reporter that 'the best way to achieve peace is to fight terror.' I disagree.
The way toward peace is to work for a just resolution of the conflict between
Israel and Palestine. That will lead to the end of the terror of suicide
bombers and targeted assassinations."

	Winkler continued: "Instead of telling Prime Minister Sharon that
it's OK now to violate international law and United Nations resolutions,
President Bush should be pressuring both sides to stem the violence and start
talking again. President Bush has effectively told the world that what Israel
has taken by force from the Palestinians is now acceptable. This is a road
map to war."

	Said Whitlatch: "The president's decision, contrary to the public,
long-standing positions of many U.S. Protestant and Orthodox churches and of
the Catholic Church, is de facto a rejection of international law.  He has
clearly shown that the U.S. is not as concerned for the rights of the
Palestinian people as ... for the political goals of Prime Minister Sharon.
How unfortunate for all the people of the Middle East."

	The groups that belong to Churches for Middle East Peace are the
Alliance of Baptists, the American Friends Service Committee, the Antiochian
Orthodox Archdiocese, the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's
Institutes, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Church of the
Brethren, Church World Service, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America, the Franciscan Mission Service, the Friends
Committee on National Legislation, the Maryknoll Missioners, the Mennonite
Central Committee, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA,
the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, the Unitarian
Universalist Association of Congregations, the United Church of Christ and
the United Methodist Church.

	For further information, visit the organization's Web site at

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