Thursday, June 19, 2008

Letter to Barack Obama and John McCain

This letter to presidential candidates was approved by Lake Erie Yearly Meeting last weekend, June 14-15. The sample is addressed to Barack Obama, but it will also be sent to John McCain, and local Quaker Meetings are asked to distribute it to state legislators and to the media.

June 17, 2008

The Honorable Barack Obama

Obama for America
P.O. Box 8102
Chicago, IL 60680

RE: Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

As part of your campaign for President, you have recently pledged support for Israel, and for an Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Lake Erie Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quaker) shares your desire for a resolution to the conflict so that both Israelis and Palestinians can live together in peace.

Friends and Friends organizations have a long history of involvement in this region of the world and have worked with both Palestinians and Jews. We encourage you to carefully consider the actual situation on the ground and the necessary preconditions to achieve such a just and lasting peace.

At the heart of much of the discussion of conditions for a peaceful resolution of the conflict is the idea of a “two-state” solution, an Israeli state and a Palestinian state side by side on the territory of historic Palestine. There are a number of obstacles, however, that together make such a solution well-nigh impossible. The central impediment is the massive settlement process, whereby in contravention of international law Israel has built settlements exclusively for Israeli Jewish citizens throughout the territories occupied in the 1967 war, on land expropriated from Palestinian inhabitants. These settlements together with the network of “bypass roads” which connect the settlements with each other and with Israel proper and are off-limits to most Palestinian traffic make up what one Israeli analyst refers to as “the matrix of control.” As long as this matrix of control is in place, cemented by a military occupation with its checkpoints and a myriad of other regulations that govern every aspect of the Palestinians’ lives, there can be no viable Palestinian state. What is more, Israel has declared that East Jerusalem and the rings of settlements surrounding Jerusalem constitute part of a Greater Jerusalem, and are thus part of Israel, and not part of the West Bank.

Another impediment to any lasting solution to the conflict is the Wall/ Separation Barrier currently being built — both along the 1967 de-facto borders [Green Line] and deep inside the occupied territories. This wall/barrier effectively makes the territories encompassed by it — primarily the large settlement blocs -- a part of Israel by creating “facts on the ground” prior to any negotiations as part of a comprehensive peace agreement. In addition, in large part the effect of this barrier is to cut off Palestinian farmers from their land either by denying them access altogether, or by making it extremely difficult for them to get to a crossing point that is anywhere near and where any permit they might have will be honored (even if the gate is open when they need to get to and from their land). The net effect of the barrier along with the numerous Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints throughout the occupied territories is that the Palestinian economic infrastructure is undermined, further increasing the Palestinians’ economic dependence on Israel and reducing any prospect of a viable Palestinian state.

Tied in with this issue is another central dilemma. If a two-state solution is no longer possible, in what way can Israel preserve its character as a Jewish nation-state? Israel already has a sizable Palestinian Arab minority living as Israeli citizens inside the boundaries of pre-1967 Israel, and many more Palestinians live in the occupied territories.

If all of these inhabitants of the land become part of a bi-national state, then Israel’s definition as Jewish national state is called into question. Alternatively, if Israel is defined as a Jewish national state encompassing formally or de-facto all of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River then Palestinians there (inside pre-1967 Israel and outside) have an ambiguous future. Already there have been calls for Israeli Arab citizens to be deported to a Palestinian state (possibly even to Jordan) and if as a result of the “matrix of control” there is no such state in any meaningful sense of the word, then Israel would continue to rule over a mass of Palestinians, among whom would be those stripped of what status they now have as Israeli citizens.

There is one other issue that impacts on the possibility of a just and lasting peace. All groups representative of the Palestinian interests must be included in the negotiating process, not just the Palestinian Authority. In addition, ALL sides to the conflict must renounce the use of violence, thereby cutting through the recurring cycle of violence and justifications for the use of force.

It is our belief that unless the above issues are comprehensively addressed there can be no peace in this conflict, nor in the region as a whole. Also, unless the United States facilitates this process it will lose any semblance of its claim to be an honest broker in ending the conflict. We hope that you will keep these considerations in mind, both as a candidate and as the one who ultimately is elected President.


Shirley Bechill

Presiding Clerk

Lake Erie Yearly Meeting, Religious Society of Friends (Quaker)

(LEYM includes Monthly Meetings and Worship Groups in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia)

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