Magazine article The Christian Century

Christian Leaders Oppose Settlements

Magazine article The Christian Century

Christian Leaders Oppose Settlements

Article excerpt

Eight prominent church leaders have asked the Clinton administration to use its influence to halt Israeli construction in East Jerusalem and expansion in Palestinian areas. In a letter headed "Jerusalem: City of Peace," released March 6 in anticipation of a meeting with President Clinton, the leaders--Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox--warn that Middle East peace efforts will be jeopardized if Israel continues to attempt to assert exclusive sovereignty over the city.

"Making Jerusalem a subject for open negotiation between Israelis and Palestinians is essential for reaching an accord on the question of Jerusalem," the letter states. Noting that the city is sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, the leaders say: "We stand at a special point in history where the future of Jerusalem is open to peaceful negotiation. The three communities of faith must have a part in those deliberations."

The letter points out in particular that the Clinton administration should "use its influence to prevent this vital issue from being settled by force of events or the creation of facts on the ground." The church leaders voice their concern that the administration has failed "to recognize and support Palestinian rights and interests in Jerusalem."

The letter questions a number of specific issues concerning Israeli policy toward Jerusalem. For example, it contends that "in contravention of international law, more and more land is taken out of Palestinian hands and placed under Israeli control by annexation, expropriation, and private purchases, often coercive or of questionable legality." Declaring that Israeli planning for "Greater Jerusalem" is an open secret, the letter goes on to say that "Israel's assertion that Jerusalem will remain the "eternal and undivided capital of Israel" is widely interpreted as a claim of exclusive sovereignty over the city and as such pre-empts genuine negotiation.

The Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Ehud Olmert, along with American Jewish spokespersons, immediately rejected the leaders' arguments, calling them one-sided and not representative of most American Christians' position on Jerusalem.

Jerusalem officials recently announced that several thousand new homes for Jews would be constructed on West Bank land near the city. Israel, which gained control of Jerusalem's eastern--and largely Arab--section in the 1967 Six-Day War, says the entire city should remain united under its political control. …

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