Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Press Release: Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East Questions CMEP's Continuing Comments About Israeli/Palestinian Peace Proposals

Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East Questions CMEP's Continuing Comments About Israeli / Palestinian Peace Proposals

NEW YORK, April 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East questions a second statement appearing in the Churches for Middle East Peace ("CMEP") bulletin (April 8, 2011):  "[the Israeli] government has not yet responded to the Palestinian proposals on final status issues, presented two years ago to U.S. Middle East Special Envoy George Mitchell."  Again, what exactly were these proposals?

In 2009 George Mitchell held discussions with Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in an unsuccessful attempt at relaunching direct peace talks.  Saeb Erekat reportedly gave Mitchell draft Palestinian Terms of Reference, which are assumptions on which negotiations would be based.  There were also (unsubstantiated) reports that Israeli representatives were presented with current Palestinian positions on core issues.  While both could have been useful if negotiations had begun, they were not peace proposals for Israel to respond to.

As Rev. Thomas A. Prinz, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Leesburg, Virginia and Fair Witness Executive Committee member points out, "One has to understand how the peace process works.  Ideas and positions are routinely exchanged.   But the only actual peace proposal put on the table in recent years came from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in late summer, 2008. Olmert offered a Palestinian state on 97 to 98% of the West Bank with safe passage to Gaza, 5,000 Palestinian refugees absorbed by Israel as a humanitarian gesture, a capital in East Jerusalem, Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty, Arab neighborhoods under Palestinian sovereignty and the Holy Basin under international control."

According to PM Olmert, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas never responded to his offer. The documents in the Palestine Papers (published last January by Al Jazeera) support Olmert's claim. There have been no peace proposals made by either side since.

Fr. James Loughran, S.A., Director of the Graymoor Ecumenical and Interreligious Institute and Fair Witness Executive Committee member, says, "We should never present inaccurate versions of the peace process.  The role of the churches should be to help build an atmosphere of mutual trust that is the only hope for encouraging productive Israeli/Palestinian final status negotiations."

Please visit our website for access to a full report on the Palestine Papers and the 2008 Olmert Offer.