From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ENS - Presiding Bishop's letter to Bush on Middle East crisis

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Thu, 22 Apr 2004 15:08:55 -0700

Tuesday, April 22, 2004

Presiding Bishop's letter to Bush on Middle East crisis


April 21, 2004

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

The Episcopal Church has a long record of support for a just peace that 
guarantees Israel's security and Palestinian aspirations for a viable 
sovereign state with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both Israel and 
Palestine. We have been strong advocates of your "Road Map" for peace and 
been disappointed that more efforts were not made to support that important 
initiative.  We fervently agree with your commitment to Israel's security 
in a Jewish state, "including secure, defensible borders" and your 
description of a future Palestinian state that is "viable, contiguous, 
sovereign, and independent."

However, it is with grave concern that I have read your letter of April 14 
to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. While there are important points on which 
the Episcopal Church would agree with this letter, we are deeply distressed 
by a number of other points, most significantly the unilateral nature of 
these actions.

I firmly believe that there will be no just or lasting peace for either 
Palestine or Israel without the engagement of both parties in that process. 
Your endorsement of Prime Minister Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan 
and support for his positions on the vital issues of borders, settlements 
and refugees outside of the context of negotiations is a serious departure 
from America's traditional view that a resolution of these issues must be 
negotiated.  I fear that your commitment threatens the renewal of 
negotiations in which Israelis and Palestinians can accommodate each 
others' vital interests without coercion or imposition. Turning away from 
meaningful negotiations will undermine hope, discourage moderate 
Palestinian voices, and threaten further violence. A retreat from strong, 
even handed American diplomacy in this conflict also jeopardizes America's 
struggle against terrorism.

I believe the security barrier under construction, in part on occupied 
territory, will not provide the security Israel needs and is an impediment 
to a comprehensive negotiated settlement. It is impossible for those who 
have not seen the barrier to fully comprehend its disruptive effect on the 
institutions and daily lives of Palestinians of all ages. It is separating 
families from one another, students from their schools, workers from their 
jobs, farmers from their land. Its current route threatens to preempt 
negotiation on borders and settlements. I therefore appreciate your stating 
that this barrier "should be temporary rather than permanent."

I condemn the ongoing cycle of violence and terrorism. This weekend's 
assassination will, I fear, only lead to more attacks of the very nature it 
is said to be meant to deter. I know there can be no end to the cycle if 
the root causes are not dealt with fairly. I pray for the day when 
Palestinians and Israelis alike can go about their daily lives without fear 
of attack and can live freely and safely within secure, recognized borders. 
Achieving this goal demands full engagement of both Israelis and 
Palestinians. It also requires strong and just American support. I urge 
that you oppose further unilateral or imposed efforts, and that you 
dedicate our government to an early return to Israeli-Palestinian 
negotiations as the only way toward a lasting resolution of this tragic 

Please be assured, Mr. President, of my prayers for you in these complex 
and difficult times.

Yours sincerely,

The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA


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