How different this Camp David Summit is from the one 22 years ago!
Dear Family and Friends:
How different this Camp David Summit is from the one 22 years ago!
In 1978, even though right up until the very end the peace treaty was in doubt the framework for discussion between President Sadat, Prime Minister Began, and President Carter, was much more conducive than the present reality. For one thing the Egyptian and Israeli populations were not intertwined so closely as the co-dependent Palestinians and Israelis. 200 kilometers separated the major population centers then, a few hundred meters now. In some places the neighbors (cousins!) here can see in each others’ windows! Military barricades facing one another in many places are just across roads. Lines of fire are being calibrated and fortresses strengthened should the talks fail and hostilities
break out again.
So how must we see this “last ditch” effort for peace here in the troubled Holy Land? It is definitely a confusing and politically charged and actually frightening time. Even the fragile Israeli political system, which seems designed to careen from crisis to crisis, sent Prime Minister Barak off with a near “no confidence” slap in the face from the Knesset and resignations of ministers.
Karen is already in Boston and I, due to fly on Friday morning, feel some ambivalence about leaving our staff during this apparently pivotal time. Although chances are that once again discussions, negotiations, and stalling will drag on for some time to come. Even with President Clinton pushing for a better legacy as his time runs out.
One of our greatest concerns is that these “peace partners” are not really equal. And time after time since the early 1990s Madrid meetings and the subsequent Oslo Accords the Palestinians have been told by the stronger partner what they had to do. The results frankly have been tragic. Hope for justice is only a flicker in the villages and desperate refugee camps of the West Bank and Gaza.
Without further comment I have attached as text to this email a letter which several of us from the Christian NGOs in Jerusalem have sent to publications. As well, here is the perspective of those in the Israeli “peace movement”, and their suggestions about how to measure success. These documents might be useful to you as you follow the meager news comments from the Maryland Catoctin Mountains and await prayerfully the outcome with those here at the “battlefront”. Meanwhile, as a sign of enduring hope, the staff people of the agencies listed below continue to improve schools, rehabilitate ancient agricultural water systems, build maternal and child clinics, and write and submit funding proposals to bilateral aid donors such as USAID, the World Bank, foundations and churches.
Your interest, solidarity and intercessions are a blessing.
East Jerusalem, Palestine
for the “Jerusalem Fund”
World Vision International
800 West Chestnut
Monrovia, California 91016-3198
PEACE IN PALESTINE/ISRAEL:
VISION AND LAMENT
As Christians working and living in the Holy Land, believing God wills justice and peace for all of God’s children, both Palestinian and Israeli, we feel compelled to lift our voices in lamentation. The time has come for people of faith to declare that the Oslo process has tarnished what should be a sacred word, “peace.” As Israel and the PLO conduct negotiations over a permanent status agreement, we present a vision of the things that would make for peace in Palestine/Israel, a vision betrayed by the Oslo “peace” process.
Our hope as Christians is rooted in the coming of God’s kingdom. Through Jesus Christ, God breaks down dividing walls of hostility (Eph. 2:15), incorporating different peoples into a new creation (Gal. 6:15). It is our vision that the Holy Land might prefigure God’s boundary-breaking kingdom, serving as a place where people who were once enemies might be reconciled with one another and live together in peace. The foundations for such reconciliation and peace are justice and righteousness (Isaiah 32:16-17). God wills the joy of jubilee for His
creatures, a jubilee which allows God’s children to live together on the basis of justice (Luke 4:16-22, Isaiah 61:1-2, Lev. 25). God delights not in might, but in justice (Jer. 9:23-24), and calls all to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly (Micah 6:8). It is our hope and prayer that Palestinians and Israelis might live together in a peace built on the foundations of justice, and that Israel/Palestine might truly serve as a light to the nations. We believe that practical ways can be found for Palestinians and Israelis to share the Holy Land in a just and equitable manner.
Jerusalem, for example, can and must be a shared city, open to all. United Nations resolutions, which guarantee the right of return to Palestinian refugees and call for an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories in exchange for peace, provide a workable framework for a just and lasting accord. On such foundations of justice and equality lies the hope for a peace of reconciliation between the Palestinian and Israeli people.
We lament that, whether intended or not, the Oslo negotiations have promoted a peace of coercion rather than a peace of reconciliation. We lament that the Oslo “peace” process has proven an instrument with which Israel has increased its control over Palestinian people and land. Rather than bringing Palestinians and Israelis together into a new relationship of justice and equality, the flaws in the Oslo accords have instead resulted in a regime of separation best characterized as apartheid. Seven years of the “peace” process have reinforced this holy land apartheid through several disturbing trends. These include:
Territorial Fragmentation, House Demolitions, Land Confiscation, and Settlement
The peace process has not brought about a jubilee for Palestinians, who have become increasingly less secure in their homes and on their land. The Oslo agreements have broken up the occupied territories into a bewildering array of disconnected cantons. These bantustans of Palestinian autonomy lack territorial contiguity. We fear that while the ongoing negotiations might alter the percentages of land under Palestinian control, the basic framework of territorial fragmentation will remain. Israel also seldom grants permits to Palestinians to build homes on their own land, issuing demolition orders for “illegally” built houses: hundreds of Palestinian homes have been destroyed
since the signing of the Oslo accords. House demolitions are accompanied by land confiscation, which has also continued unabated since 1993. In a manner sadly reminiscent of King Ahab’s confiscation of Naboth’s vineyard (I Kings 21), the Israeli military seizes thousands of acres of land from Palestinians, and then uses this land to expand Israeli settlements in the occupied territories (illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention). Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, despite his image as a “peace” leader, has accelerated settlement growth to four
times its previous level under former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.* These settlements are being connected by a matrix of by-pass roads whose construction is being financed by U.S. Government aid, costing American taxpayers $1.2 billion.** Together, the settlements and the by-pass roads rob Palestinians of their land, deprive farmers of income and restrict the growth of Palestinian population centers.
Restriction of Freedom of Movement:
Since 1993, Palestinians have found their freedom of movement increasingly limited. Palestinian travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is strictly regulated by a permit system. The opening of the much-heralded “safe passage” between the West Bank and Gaza has not, in fact, resulted in free travel, as thousands of Palestinians have been denied the necessary permits by the Israeli military authorities. Israel’s control of the land surrounding Palestinian population centers in the West Bank also means that it can imprison Palestinians
within their respective cantons, trapping Palestinians in their villages and cities and crippling the Palestinian economy. Such artificial separation of the Palestinian people from one another does not contribute to peace.
Unilateral Actions Against Jerusalem:
The prophet Isaiah envisions Jerusalem as a joy, where the sound of weeping shall be heard no more (65:17-19). Unfortunately, Palestinians of the holy city have little cause for joy. For seven years Israel has imposed a closure on Jerusalem, requiring Palestinians from the occupied territories to obtain permits to visit the city. The Israeli closure of Jerusalem denies the vast majority of Palestinians access to Christian and Muslim holy places and prevents access to Jerusalem’s medical, cultural, and academic institutions. Palestinian
Jerusalemites are continually uncertain of their right of residence, as the Israeli Ministry of the Interior threatens to strip them of their Jerusalem identity cards if they cannot prove their “center of life” is in the city. Thus, thousands of Palestinians can no longer reside in the city of their birth. While a shared Jerusalem might become a beacon of reconciliation for humanity, the Jerusalem shaped by the Oslo process has become one of the most poignant examples of Palestinian alienation from their heritage and their holy places.
The millions of Palestinian refugees living in Palestine/Israel, the Middle East and beyond carry the burden of dispossession in their bodies and souls. While all Jews eligible under Israel’s Law of Return can move to Israel or the occupied territories, Palestinian refugees remain in exile, denied their internationally affirmed rights of return and compensation. Any agreement between Palestinian and Israeli which does not uphold the Palestinian right of return will be ephemeral and short-lived.
Within weeks or months, Palestinian and Israeli negotiators might well sign some form of agreement. Perhaps it will be a permanent status agreement, addressing all of the outstanding issues, including borders, water, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. Or perhaps it will be a partial agreement, deferring some issues, like refugees and Jerusalem, to a later date. Or perhaps no agreement will be reached, and the present intolerable situation will drag on. Regardless of what transpires, we affirm that justice is the foundation of peace and reconciliation. As the international media and world powers clamor “peace, peace” when there is no peace, we invite Christians worldwide to join us in praying and speaking out for a peace built on reconciliation, not coercion. May this land called “holy” yet provide Palestinian and Israeli with a foretaste of God’s kingdom here on earth.
Sonia and Alain Epp Weaver, Mennonite Central Committee
Doug Dicks, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Thomas Getman, World Vision ? Jerusalem
Sandra Olewine, United Methodist Liaison, General Board of Global Ministries
Alex Awad, East Jerusalem Baptist Church
Craig Kippels, Lutheran World Federation
*Figures from Peace Now, cited in World Vision-Jerusalem/World Vision UK report,
“Running on Rhetoric: The Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process and its
Socio-Economic Impact” May/June 2000 Update.
**Wye River aid package, providing Israel with $1.2 billion, $400 million to the
Palestinian Authority, and $300 million to Jordan, passed by the U.S. House of
Representatives, November 5 1999.
TO HOPE OR NOT TO HOPE – The Other Israel briefing nr 17
Has it really come? Are we now living that mythical Moment of Truth – so many times predicted and endlessly speculated about? The moment when a meandering, long-overdue, interminable Peace Process should at last produce a bit of real peace – or break down altogether in an explosion of violence and bloodshed and hatred.
Twenty-two years ago, at the conclusion of that other summit in Camp David, then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin signed, in the context of an Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement, a document recognizing “The Legitimate Rights of the Palestinian People” – only to immediately drown that obligation in war and massacre.
Later, the Rabin-Arafat handshake on the White House Lawn created the illusion that peace was coming at last – a feeling which was steadily eroded in seven years of unmet deadlines, ongoing land confiscation, terrorist outbursts, settlement expansion, and ongoing daily oppression.
The Palestinians now seem resolved to gain their independence with or without Israeli consent, ready to make ghastly sacrifices in order to shatter the chains which still bind them. Few of them still believe in the power of peaceful negotiations to set them free. And also among Israelis cynicism is on the rise.
Ehud Barak went to meet Arafat and Clinton at a “last-chance summit” at Camp David: a battered Prime Minister, deserted by most of the parties and factions of his coalition, fighting a parliamentary battle to keep the remnants of his cabinet afloat – and still forging ahead unperturbed, supremely confident (or so he appears) of his ability to bypass the hidebound political system, appeal directly to the people and get their support in elections or referendum on the agreement he would make. But of course, first he would have to make an agreement…
We were waiting for him last night, hundreds of activists in the peace vigil outside the gates of Ben-Gurion Airport: some grey-haired veterans of many actions rubbing shoulders with the Peace Now Youths, Blue-Shirts and the Peace Drummers with their hypnotic rhythms. The slogan “The majority supports peace” on the brand new T-shirts was supplemented with stickers such as Gush Shalom’s “There is no such thing as a legal settlement”; young throats chanted energetically for hours on end the good old “No more war” and “Peace Yes – Occupation No!” and “Israel and Palestine – two states for two peoples” and “Don’t want to die in vain – make peace now!” – as well as new ones: “Summit today – Tomorrow Peace” (which rhymes nicely in Hebrew), and “Ehud, bring us peace!”, and “Ehud will bring us peace!”.
Is Prime Minister Ehud Barak going to fulfil the high hopes placed in him by the young – due, all too soon, to be conscripted – or is he going to Camp David only to propose impossible terms; put blame for the failure on “Palestinian intransigence” and call upon the youths to follow him into the coming war? Barak’s starting positions, as repeatedly reiterated in his Five No’s (“The Red Lines”) certainly seem far short of the minimal Palestinian aspirations. True, the PM does seem willing to relinquish about 90% of the West Bank, more than offered by previous governments, or even by himself a year ago. But the “settlement blocks” which Barak still insists upon keeping were established in strategic locations, so as to cut up the West Bank and break the Palestinians’ territorial continuity. Thus, even gaining 90% of the West Bank (itself no more than about 20% of historic Palestine, the rest having become part of Israel already in 1948) a Palestinian state might turn out to be non-viable, a collection of isolated enclaves. Adding to this Barak’s declared intransigence on the sensitive and emotive issues of Jerusalem (“Eternal Capital of Israel, Forever”), and the Palestinian refugees (“No recognition of any Israeli political or judicial responsibility”), it is easy to understand the widespread pessimism about the outcome of Camp David II, or the refusal of many activists to join yesterday’s action at the airport, or the bigger demonstrations in the same vein planned in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.
Yet exactly because of his weakened position, Barak may be desperately in need of ending the summit with an agreement which he can present to the people. Indeed, his political survival largely depends upon it. While Palestinians are willing, if need be, to fight for their freedom, Israelis are far from enthusiastic about a war to keep territory under occupation – as the story of Israel’s involvement in South Lebanon clearly demonstrates. Such a war after failure to cut a deal with Arafat would cost Barak his re-election.
Should Camp David II end, after all, with an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, a clear measure is available for evaluating it: how many of the recent campaigns by Israeli peace and human rights organizations will be obviated by it?
Will there still be a need to protest against house demolitions?
* Weekly vigils were held outside the residence of Nathan Sharansky, until this week Interior Minister of Israel – who was personally responsible for the demolition of several “illegal” Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. A true peace agreement would completely place such Palestinian homes beyond the reach of the Israeli authorities.
Will there still be a question of unequal division of water resources?
* Be’tselem is in the midst of a campaign to draw attention to the extremely unequal division of the West Bank water sources – with the bulk
going to Israeli settlers, who maintain wide lawns and swimming pools, while the Palestinian inhabitants get a bare 21% of the water. Many of us participated in the demonstration held two weeks ago at the Palestinian town of Yatta, whose inhabitants get water in their taps for only two or three days in a month. An agreement which fails to give the Palestinians control over the water sources under their own land, as clearly laid down in international law, can by no stretch of the imagination be described as being “peace”.
Will there still be a question of land confiscation in occupied areas?
* A coalition has been building up to oppose the government’s plan to create a “by-pass road” connecting the Israeli settlements of Ofra and Beit El in the Ramallah District of the West Bank – a plan involving widespread confiscation of Palestinian land, the demolition of several Palestinian homes, and the ecological destruction of an uniquely beautiful valley. At least for the inhabitants of this region, a peace which leaves these two settlements as armed Israeli enclaves, still to be connected by a destructive road, will hardly be worth the name.
As the summit in Camp David opens, Israeli and Palestinian forces all over the West Bank and Gaza Strip are establishing lines of
fortifications opposite each other and measuring angles of fire. On the eve of the summit, jittery and trigger-happy soldiers protecting the settlement of Kfar Darom – an enclave bisecting the Gaza Strip’s main highway – shot wildly at a passing Palestinian taxi, killing the 33-year old Aatidal Muamar and severely wounding her husband and her eight-month old child. Will history record her name as the last tragic victim of a century-old conflict – or will many new names of Palestinians and Israelis now still breathing follow hers?
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