Letter to President Obama on UN Settlement Veto and Further Peace Efforts

March 7, 2011

President Barack Obama

The White House

Washington, DC

Dear Mr. President, 

We believe the current upheaval in the Arab world both reveals God’s desire for the liberation of all people from oppression (Psalm 146.7) and presents an opportunity to support moral values in advancing human rights.

In this connection, we wish to express our regret that the United States vetoed the resolution in the United Nations Security Council February 18 reaffirming that Israeli settlements activities in the Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, are illegal.
While we appreciate statements affirming continuing U.S. strong opposition to the expansion of Israeli settlements, these must be followed by concrete measures to halt this activity. We believe bold and immediate new steps are needed now to prevent this veto from further damaging America’s credibility as a broker to help resolve this conflict that threatens the security of both peoples and denies self-determination to Palestinians.

Negotiations to end this conflict have foundered not just because of remaining differences over the specific issues, but also because of deep fear and mistrust.  Both sides need to have confidence that any agreement for a just peace with security will be lasting and reliably executed in a reasonable timeframe.  

We call upon you therefore to open up broad new channels of diplomatic effort to encourage both sides to take responsibility now for creating the conditions necessary for talks to succeed. This initiative must necessarily include support from the Middle East Quartet, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference for a set of proposals, building on the Arab Peace Initiative. The concerns of persons displaced over the years by the conflict should be addressed.   Neighbors and powers in the region should be engaged no matter what their current relations with Israel. 

With rapid change underway in the Arab world we believe that the time to act is now -- before events make the task of reaching an agreement more difficult.  The Quartet recently expressed support for concluding an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians by this September, and you also have expressed the hope there can be an agreement by then.  

With that time frame in mind, we hope that you and the other Quartet leaders will travel to the region together soon, visiting Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring Syria, to propose specific steps to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace between Israel and all its neighbors.

We believe an interim agreement at this time would be folly. We have seen that stagnation in this peace process can be explosive.  We appeal to you to initiate these bold actions now to help bring about resolution of all final status issues and a definitive end to this conflict. Only then can peace, healing and reconciliation of neighbors for which we all pray be achieved, so that all involved may have life more abundantly.   



Archbishop Khajag Barsamian
Primate of the Armenian Church
Eastern Diocese

Rev. Geoffrey Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ

J Ron Byler
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee

Very Rev. Thomas. P. Cassidy, SCJ
Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men’s Institutes 

Shan Cretin
General Secretary
American Friends Service Committee

Marie Dennis
Maryknoll Office of Global Concerns

Rev. Jerry Dykstra
Executive Director
Christian Reformed Church in North America

Donna Graham, OSF
Franciscan Friars (OFM)
English Speaking Conference JPIC

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson
General Secretary
Reformed Church in America

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson
Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Mary Hughes, OP
Leadership Conference of Women Religious


Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey
President, General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church

Rev. Michael Kinnamon, Ph.D.
General Secretary
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA

Reverend John L. McCullough
Executive Director and CEO
Church World Service

Rev. Dr. Roy Medley
General Secretary
American Baptist Churches, USA

Reverend Peter Morales
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations

Stanley J. Noffsinger
General Secretary
Church of the Brethren

Rev. Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (USA)

His Eminence Metropolitan Philip
Archbishop of New York and Metropolitan of all North America
Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Diane Randall
Executive Secretary
Friends Committee on National Legislation

The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church 

Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)



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