Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Religious Leaders Call for Appointment of Presidential Envoy

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Religious Leaders Call for Appointment of Presidential Envoy

Article excerpt

At the National Press Club on Jan. 13, Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders urged President George W. Bush to appoint a special presidential envoy to work full time on peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. More than a year earlier, in December 2003, 35 religious leaders formed the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace (NILIP) to support determined U.S. leadership in the Middle East peace process. A delegation of these leaders, who represent more than 100 million Americans, presented their clear, unified and heart-felt message in Washington, DC and in similar press conferences across the country.

The leaders described themselves as united in their support of a viable, independent, democratic Palestinian state alongside the existing state of Israel with enduring peace and security for both sides. They pressed for the implementation of Senate Resolution 477, calling for a reinvigorated and concerted U.S.-led effort for more rapid progress on the road map.

In their appeal the religious leaders called on President Bush to:

* Appoint a special presidential envoy with a full-time commitment to the region, [who will work] in coordination with the European Union, Russian Federation and UN. Secretary General, to pursue negotiations for comprehensive, just and lasting peace between Israel, the Palestinians and Arab states;

* Negotiate a timetable for specific, simultaneous steps to be taken by the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government, with effective and highly visible monitoring to assure implementation by both sides;

* Take the lead, in light of Israeli plans to withdraw from Gaza, to mobilize increased international economic aid (with effective controls by a credible institution such as the World Bank) to build up the Palestinian Authority's capacity to provide security, prevent violent attacks on Israelis, deliver humanitarian aid, vital services, and development assistance, including desperately needed jobs, for the Palestinian people.

* Support benchmark principles for possible mutually acceptable peace agreements drawn from earlier official negotiations and from Israeli-Palestinian civil society initiatives such as the People's Voice and the Geneva Accords. …

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