Interreligious leaders urge
U.S. role in Mideast peace process
Washington, November 1, 2007 – The president of the National Council of
Churches USA (NCC) and eight leaders of the NCC's 35 member communions
are among three dozen Jewish, Muslim and Christian leaders urging the
U.S. to be 'more assertive' in preparing for the upcoming
Arab-Israeli-Palestinian summit in Annapolis, Md.
The Rev. Michael Livingston, NCC's president, is part of the National
Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI).
In a letter faxed today to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (text
below) NILI urges U.S. support for principles and practical ideas for
resolving the final status issues developed by Israelis and Palestinians
and reflected in documents such as the Geneva Accord.
Last January Sec. Rice met with NILI and leaders of 25 national
organizations. NILI has also met twice with R. Nicholas Burns, under
secretary of state for political affairs, about preparations for the
Annapolis peace conference. Burns will meet with NILI members again
Friday, Nov. 9.
Copies of NILI's December '06 consensus statement,
"Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to Hope" with the list of
37 endorsers, a NILI Press Release of 8/17 reflecting earlier
recommendations about the Annapolis conference, and "A Summary of the
Geneva Accord" are available by email from
The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of
America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and
traditional peace churches. These NCC member communions have 45 million
faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
NCC News contact: Philip
firstname.lastname@example.org or Dan Webster, 212.870.2252,
Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East
November 1, 2007
The Honorable Dr. Condoleezza Rice
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Rice:
We write on behalf of Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders of the
National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle
East to reaffirm the support we expressed in our meeting with you on
January 29 for high level U.S. efforts to achieve
Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace. We appreciate the opportunity for
regular meetings with Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas
Burns. Our sense of urgency related to preparations for the Annapolis
peace conference leads us to write to you in advance of our next
scheduled meeting with Under Secretary Burns on Friday, November 9.
We support the United States convening a conference for peace and
providing leadership in negotiations for a two-state solution between
Israel and the Palestinians, and for peace agreements between Israel and
Syria and between Israel and Lebanon. We have noted reports of concerns
about preparations for the conference and believe more assertive U.S.
leadership is needed in the lead-up to the conference to improve
conditions on the ground and to reach agreement on principles for
resolving final status issues.
In relation to improving conditions on the ground to restore hopes for
peace among Palestinians and Israelis, we believe important steps
include working for an end to all violent attacks and counter attacks by
achieving a comprehensive ceasefire, pressing the Palestinian Authority
to confiscate illegal weapons and disband militias, and pressing Israel
to freeze expansion of settlements and ease movement for Palestinians in
the West Bank by reducing the number of military checkpoints. We believe
the United States can and should press harder for these and other steps
in the lead-up and immediate follow-up to the Annapolis conference. We
pledge our public support for your efforts in these matters.
We appreciate your encouragement of and personal involvement in
accelerated talks between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas to
reach agreement on a statement of principles for resolving final status
issues, including borders and security arrangements, settlements,
refugees and Jerusalem.
It is widely known that substantive benchmarks and ideas for resolving
the final status issues have been developed by Israelis and Palestinians
in official and unofficial negotiations over many years, including
particularly in talks authorized by Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman
Arafat in 1995-96. These Israeli-Palestinian ideas are reflected in
several public documents, including the "Taba agreement," the People's
Voice Initiative, and the Geneva Accord. For the last several years,
public opinion polls consistently have reported that majorities of
Israelis and Palestinians would likely accept a peace agreement along
these lines. We are confident that substantial majorities in our U.S.
religious communities also support these ideas. As preparations for the
Annapolis conference go forward and you work to bridge the gaps between
Israeli and Palestinian positions, we urge your support for these
Israeli-Palestinian ideas for resolving the final status issues,
including a mutually acceptable just solution of the refugee problem and
an agreement for sharing Jerusalem.
Appreciating that the Arab Peace Initiative represents an historic
positive development in the history of this conflict, we believe
participation by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries in the peace
conference is very important. In addition to the conference achieving
major substantive progress toward Israeli-Palestinian peace, we hope it
will also result in agreement on renewing negotiations for comprehensive
Arab-Israeli peace, including restarting negotiations between Israel and
Syria and between Israel and Lebanon.
In our December '06 consensus statement, "Arab-Israeli-Palestinian
Peace: From Crisis to Hope," we said that new dangers in the region also
created new opportunities and increased urgency for achieving peace. In
this context, there is heightened interest and concern in the Middle
East, in our country and worldwide for success of the U.S. hosted peace
conference and fears for the implications if the conference were to
We pledge our public support for active, fair and firm U.S. leadership
for peace in the coming weeks and months, and we would welcome an
opportunity to meet again with you and/or with the President to express
our support in a timely way.
National Interreligious Leadership Initiative For Peace in the Middle
List of Endorsers of "Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to
CC: Under Secretary for Political Affairs R. Nicholas Burns
Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Karen Hughes
National Interreligious Leadership Initiative For Peace in the Middle
Signers of "Arab-Israeli-Palestinian Peace: From Crisis to Hope" 12/06
His Eminence, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archdiocese of Washington*
His Eminence, William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore* Most
Reverend William Skylstad, President, United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops* His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, Primate, Greek
Orthodox Church in America* His Eminence, Archbishop Khajag Barsamian,
Primate, Armenian Apostolic Church in America* Bishop Mark Hanson,
Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America* Most Rev. Dr.
Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop Episcopal Church* John H.
Thomas, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ* The Rev.
Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President, Christian Churches
(Disciples of Christ)* The Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk,
Presbyterian Church (USA)* Ann B. Sherer, Bishop, The United Methodist
Church* The Rev. Michael E. Livingston, President, National Council of
Churches USA* The Rev. John M. Buchanan, Editor and Publisher, Christian
Century* Richard J. Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary* The
Rev. Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries* The Rev. Dr.
John A. Huffman, Senior Pastor, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church* David
Neff, Editor and Vice-President, Christianity Today*
Rabbi Peter Knobel, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis*
Rabbi Harry K. Danziger, Past President, Central Conference of American
Rabbis* Rabbi Paul Menitoff, Executive Vice President Emeritus, Central
Conference of American Rabbis* Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for
Reform Judaism* Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism* Rabbi Jerome M. Epstein, United Synagogue of
Conservative Judaism* Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector, University of Judaism*
Dr. Carl Sheingold, Executive Vice President, Jewish Reconstructionist
Federation* Rabbi Toba Spitzer, President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical
Association* Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist
Rabbinical Association* Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman, Vice President, A
Different Future* Rabbi Merle S. Singer, Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Beth El,
Boca Raton, Florida*
Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North
America* Imam Mohammed ibn Hagmagid, Vice President, Islamic Society of
North America* Naim Baig, Secretary General, Islamic Circle of North
America* Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Founder, American Society for Muslim
Advancement (ASMA)* Imam Yahya Hendi, Chaplain, Georgetown University*
Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA* Iftekhar A.
Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America*
*Organizations for Identification Only