WASHINGTON –– In a Nov. 8 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace took both Israel and Palestine to task for actions that he said undermined the possibility of a two-state solution in the Holy Land.
The situation, said Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, calls for “strong U.S. leadership that holds both parties accountable for building a just and lasting peace.”
Israel, Bishop Pates said, must “stop settlement expansion in the West Bank, ease residency requirements that separate families, cease home demolitions in East Jerusalem in order to protect Palestinian families, allow movement of people and goods in the West Bank, and review the route of the security barrier for its impact on Palestinian lives and livelihoods, including in the Cremisan Valley.”
For its part, he added, Palestine must “end violence, improve security and strengthen governance.”
Bishop Pates said, “The recent barrage of rocket attacks from Gaza into Southern Israel represents a continuing pattern of morally unjustifiable uses of indiscriminate force against civilians. They spread fear among Israeli families and damage the Palestinian cause by undercutting the trust necessary for negotiations.”
But in his letter to Clinton, he especially focused on Israeli actions in the Cremisan Valley.
“A recent statement of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land expressing great concern over the route of the Israeli-Palestinian separation barrier in the Cremisan Valley is a vivid case in point,” Bishop Pates said.
“The state of Israel plans to reroute the separation barrier through the Cremisan Valley, which will harm 58 Christian families whose livelihoods and living conditions depend on these lands. Proceeding with this plan will cut families off from agricultural and recreational lands, other family members, water sources, and schools — including depriving Christian Palestinian youth of fellowship with their peers,” he noted.
“In solidarity with our brother bishops in the Holy Land, we oppose rerouting the separation wall in the Cremisan Valley and ask the State Department to raise the concerns expressed by the bishops of the Holy Land in the enclosed statement with the government of Israel.”
Bishop Pates added, “The Cremisan Valley situation is a microcosm of a protracted pattern that has serious implications for the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As the wall moves and constricts more and more communities in the West Bank, the possibility of a future resolution becomes less likely.”
He said, “Moving the wall and disassociating Palestinian families from their lands and livelihoods will incite more resentment against the state of Israel among residents of the West Bank, not less, increasing the frustrations that can lead to violence. Such policies put Israeli citizens at risk and weaken initiatives for reconciliation and peace.”
Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders, Bishop Pates, said, “must give Israelis and Palestinians hope for a different future free of fear and full of promise.”