Urgent Humanitarian Measures and Renewed Political Process Necessary for Durable Peace
The new year has begun with an escalating crisis in Gaza and southern Israel that demonstrates the urgent need for robust U.S. diplomatic engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian arena.

CMEP
News – HCEF

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) deplores the tragic loss of life of those caught in the conflict and cares deeply about the welfare of both Israelis and Palestinians who are suffering and living in fear. 

The events of recent days and weeks have wreaked havoc in the Holy Land and are dimming hopes for a continuation of the U.S. peace efforts begun in Annapolis over a year ago. 

To end the current crisis and promote long-term peace and stability, CMEP believes that urgent efforts must be pursued to achieve an immediate cease-fire that ends the violence, addresses the humanitarian situation – including an opening of the border crossings that provides relief for the people of Gaza and meets Israel's security needs – and leads to concrete steps toward a two-state peace agreement. 

CMEP urges Members of Congress to issue statements expressing support for the following U.S. efforts on behalf of Israel and the Palestinians and to safeguard American national security interests:

1. Prompt U.S. diplomatic action to help achieve an immediate cease-fire that ends the escalating violence between Israel and Hamas.

The ongoing indiscriminate Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel must be stopped and the massive Israeli military responses must be halted.  Further spiraling violence will increase the toll of human suffering, strengthen extremists in Gaza and undermine Palestinian moderates as well as moderate voices throughout the region.  It also risks broader Middle East destabilization and confrontation.
In a Dec. 29th letter to President Bush, the CMEP coalition representing 22 U.S. church bodies, called for prompt action to achieve a cease-fire to help "bring about an end to the violence."  Jerusalem Church Leaders and Patriarchs, in a Dec. 30th statement, said that the continuation of the violence will "breed more hatred and hostility – and thus continued confrontation between the two peoples."  On December 28th, Pope Benedict XVI said the international community must help Israelis and Palestinians find a way out of this "dead end" of conflict and violence and instead pursue the path of "dialogue and negotiation."  He renewed this call yesterday stressing the, "profound desire to live in peace in the hearts of the great majority of the Israeli and Palestinian populations, which is once again endangered by the intense violence.

CMEP agrees with Sec. Rice's Jan. 2nd statement that it is necessary to find a "solution to Gaza that will be a sustainable one for the people of Gaza, for the people of Israel and for the people of the Palestinian territories…more broadly."  We believe a cease-fire that ends the violence now, achieved with the leadership of the United States together with the international community and regional partners, must be the immediate first step. 

2. Support for urgent measures to address the Gaza humanitarian situation, including an opening of the border crossings that provides relief for the people of Gaza and meets Israel's security needs. 

The Red Cross has said that the current hostilities have created an "alarming" humanitarian situation in Gaza, coming on the heels of prolonged restrictions on Gaza that have led to shortages of fuel, electricity, water and medical supplies.

According to the World Food Program, "the population [in Gaza] is facing a food crisis" and Mercy Corps staff on the ground say this is "particularly difficult for the poor and those who rely on outside food assistance."  World Vision reports that the conflict and violence has "completely overwhelmed the limited health services" in the Gaza Strip and "caused severe damage to the civilian infrastructure with many areas now without water, electricity or sanitation."  According to CARE, this past weekend's escalation of violence has "halted many distributions of essential goods such as food and medical supplies".

CMEP encourages immediate attention to the Gaza humanitarian situation, by helping to reopen the border crossings and facilitate the movement of people and goods in a responsible manner that provides relief to the people of Gaza and meets Israel's security needs.  Ending the border blockade and establishing real security at Gaza's borders must be part of a durable resolution of the current crisis that allows the families of Gaza and southern Israel to live in peace. 

3. Renewal of a meaningful Israeli-Palestinian political process that can provide a durable peace.

Ultimately there is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Only a political resolution can provide a secure, stable and prosperous future for all the people of the Holy Land.  While CMEP believes an immediate cease-fire must be urgently pursued, we recognize that a cease-fire alone is not a long-term solution. 

The cease-fire must be accompanied by a political process that establishes a viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel.  For any renewed political process to be meaningful, it must address all final status issues and include concrete steps that improve the situation on the ground as well as monitoring mechanisms to ensure that both parties are adhering to their obligations. 

The Bush Administration should use its final weeks to help broker an immediate cease-fire agreement in Gaza and southern Israel and the incoming Obama Administration must give priority attention to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.