CMEP Bulletin-October 8, 2010
Peace talks at a crossroads. Again.
Tensions around the fledgling peace talks have increased over the past week as new deals and conditions have been put on the table in an effort to get both the Israelis and the Palestinians to remain in negotiations. High level talks are taking place, but not between the two parties. Instead U.S. negotiators are in charge of the bartering chips.
Friday marked a key event in the unfolding process, as Arab foreign ministers met in Libya ahead of the Arab League Summit to discuss the negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians and the current impasse they face. Jordanian and Egyptian leadership have both voiced support for President Abbas’ intention to walk away from the talks if Israeli construction in the West Bank continues. One of the suggestions that has come out of today’s discussion by Arab leaders is that Abbas return to indirect negotiations with his Israeli counterparts instead of abandoning the entire process. The U.S. reportedly worked back room negotiations to call on Arab states to refrain from pushing the Palestinians to withdraw from the talks.
The U.S. and Israel are also continuing to negotiate the bundle of security guarantees made to Israel in exchange for a one-time, two-month extension of the settlement construction moratorium. Any such deal would require approval by Israel’s cabinet ministers and there are no ministerial meetings scheduled in the coming days. One new element of the negotiations is that reportedly the Netanyahu government has asked the U.S. to renew its support for the commitments made in an April 2004 letter from President George W. Bush to then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
As the negotiations continue, construction has begun on more than 350 new housing units in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Israel is also getting closer to approving a law that would require any non-Jews seeking Israeli citizenship to officially declare their loyalty to Israel as a Jewish democratic state. While the law may have little real impact, as the family members of Arab Israelis have been barred from becoming naturalized citizens since the height of the second intifada, questions have been raised as to whether this move is part of a larger Israeli initiative of seeking recognition as a Jewish state.
Washington is quiet these days as members of Congress have left the hallowed halls of government to return to their home districts and campaign for your votes. But before they left, there was some movement in a few pieces of legislation that affect the region.
The Security Cooperation Act (S. 3847) passed the House and Senate late last week. One section of the massive piece of legislation gives Israel the same status as the United States’ NATO allies, said Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) on the House floor. The legislation also includes language that “strengthens the U.S. commitment to the security of the Jewish state of Israel by expediting the process for approving foreign military sales to that country and by extending the dates and the amounts of U.S. excess equipment that can be transferred to Israel from regional stockpiles,” said Rep. Smith (R-NJ).
Also at the end of last week, a dear colleague letter was circulated, seeking support and co-sponsors for a bill (H.R. 5351) introduced in May by Rep. Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL). The bill is critical of the International Criminal Court specifically for its “seeking to prevent the democratic, Jewish State of Israel from defending itself from violent militant groups and their state sponsors.” Language denouncing the Goldstone is also a part of the bill, which currently has 30 cosponsors. No new representatives have signed on since July.
While your members of Congress are in your community, this is a great time to let them know that Middle East peace is an important issue for you. Watch for resources from CMEP in the coming weeks to help you make your voice for peace heard.
This is a critical time for everyone to be advocates for Middle East peace. You can amplify your voice and CMEP’s impact by financially supporting our work here in Washington and around the country.
It is vitally important that CMEP continues to give voice to the views of Christians, your views, in Washington, DC. Christian voices of love and respect must sound loudly in Washington and in your community as well.