The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), signed a Sept. 22 public letter in support of “strong U.S. leadership to achieve a negotiated sustainable resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.”
Thirty leaders of churches and religious organizations signed the letter, coordinated through Churches for Middle East Peace.
“We support President (Barack) Obama’s determination to provide sustained, hands-on diplomatic leadership to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end through the creation of two viable, secure and independent states living side by side in peace and security,” the leaders wrote. The leaders commended the president’s leadership and vision to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The leaders said that the opportunity for a two-state solution for achieving peace and security was “rapidly closing.”
In their letter, the leaders supported such principles as Israel’s right to exist in security and the Palestinians’ right to a viable, sovereign and secure state of their own. They also noted the need for bold American leadership to assist both parties in making difficult decisions and to hold them accountable for any failure to honor their commitments.
“At the appropriate time, we will support the administration if it decides to present proposals for a just and equitable solution that provides dignity, security and sovereignty for both peoples,” the leaders wrote.
The leaders said that a comprehensive peace agreement should also “encompass Syria and Lebanon as well as normalization of relations between Israel and the countries of the Arab world.” They stated that the idea of a comprehensive regional peace would build on the Arab Peace Initiative.
Despite the argument that some may favor the status quo, the leaders wrote, “The President should know that we understand the status quo is unsustainable and time is of the essence.”
The leaders pledged to work with Obama to forge a path to peace and security for the Middle East. They also pledged to work with Israelis and Palestinians who seek peace, justice and security, and to stand up for people wanting a better future.
The letter was released the same day as Obama concluded bilateral meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in New York. Obama restated the U.S. commitment to “a just, lasting and comprehensive peace for the Middle East.” He said progress has been made since January, but more work is needed. Obama has charged U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. envoy George Mitchell to continue their work in the Middle East, and he asked Clinton to report back to him by mid-October.