In a Jan. 16 letter to President Barack Obama, the Episcopal Church addresses a United Nations resolution concerning Middle East peace. As presiding Bishop of the church, I write, "It is imperative that the United States take bold and decisive action to reinvigorate the stalled peace process" in the Middle East.
The letter goes on to assert that "the appropriate response of the United States government to the present efforts in the Security Council is to work urgently to reignite a negotiations process that can produce immediate and sustainable steps toward a just, comprehensive and lasting peace."
The following is the full text of the letter.
January 16, 2011
The Honorable Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
I write to share the views of the Episcopal Church on the prospective resolution of the UN Security Council resolution concerning ongoing settlement building by the Israeli government.
First and foremost, we support the administration's efforts to broker direct negotiations between the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Like you, we believe there is no substitute for bilateral negotiations toward a two-state solution that respects the sovereignty and security of Israel and creates a viable and independent state for the Palestinian people. Only direct negotiations and shared commitment can produce a viable and sustainable peace for the two parties. For this reason, it is imperative that the United States take bold and decisive action to reinvigorate the stalled peace process.
The draft resolution circulated among U.N. member states is a symptom of frustration at the present impasse in the negotiations process. In one sense, the resolution breaks no new ground, simply restating past statements by the United States and the international community in opposition to settlement building, and building on existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. In another sense, however, the aim of the resolution, as stated by its supporters, is to create a political spark at a moment of standstill.
Should the draft resolution be considered by the Security Council, the United States should not exercise its veto against it. Doing so would send the wrong signal to both parties, as it would be interpreted by many as a break from past U.S. positions against settlement building, including this month's strong statement by Secretary of State Clinton in response to the demolition of the historic Shepherd's Hotel in East Jerusalem. Moreover, a veto would undermine the credibility of the U.S. as a fair and honest broker between the two parties and create new levels of frustration and mistrust among the Palestinian people.
Still, resolutions by the Security Council are not an alternative to a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians. The presenting issues of borders, security, refugees, and the status of Jerusalem cannot be resolved absent direct negotiations. For this reason, the appropriate response of the United States government to the present efforts in the Security Council is to work urgently to reignite a negotiations process that can produce immediate and sustainable steps toward a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter, and please know that this comes with my prayers for you and for all who undertake the costly work of public service. I remain
Your servant in Christ,
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church