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.
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 conflict.
Please be assured, Mr. President, of my prayers for you in these complex and difficult times.
The Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church, USA