Peace Group Welcomes First
Brit Tzedek Calls on
U.S. to Move Process Forward, Oppose Actions that Undermine
Peace, and Support an Israel-Hamas
CHICAGO - Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the country’s
largest Jewish grassroots peace movement, welcomed the peace
talks yesterday in Jerusalem between Israeli and Palestinian
negotiators, which marked the first direct, high level
Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in seven years.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met Wednesday to begin
talks aimed at reaching a peace agreement by the end of 2008.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud
Abbas set the target at last month's Mideast peace conference in
Annapolis, Md. The negotiations yesterday were led by Israeli
Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and PA negotiator Ahmed Qureia.
Despite the symbolic significance of this meeting, reports
note that little progress was made as Qassam rockets fell on
southern Israel yesterday, a day after the IDF raid in Gaza, and
a week after Israel announced plans for settlement construction
in Har Homa.
“The events of the past weeks, which have so clearly
created obstacles to relaunching peace talks, underscore the
critical need for sustained and active U.S. engagement to ensure
that both sides abide by their commitments under the Roadmap and
avoid taking actions that undermine the peace process,”
said Brit Tzedek president Steve Masters.
Late last week, news reports revealed controversial Israeli
government plans to build 300 new homes in the East
Jerusalem settlement of Har Homa, a settlement built ten years
ago as a deliberate provocation to disrupt the progress of peace
talks. Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, the head of the Civil
Administration, announced on Tuesday that at present there are
hundreds, even thousands, of planned housing units in the West
Bank that have building permits and do not need any further
government approval before their construction can begin.
“Only two weeks have passed since Prime Minister Olmert
pledged to freeze settlement expansion and to negotiate an
agreement embracing all of the core issues, including the future
In light of these solemn commitments,
Israel’s plans to expand an East Jerusalem settlement are
a slap in the face to the United States and the Palestinian
Authority,” said Masters.
“Instead of announcing plans to dismantle an illegal
outpost, Israel’s decision to expand its settlement of Har
Homa gives ammunition to Palestinian extremist rhetoric that
Israel’s true intent is to humiliate President
Brit Tzedek praised U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice’s strong criticism of the plan to increase
settlements. “We are encouraged by Secretary
Rice’s principled objection to Israel’s settlement
construction plans in East Jerusalem as a sign that the U.S.
will remain vigilant in opposing all actions that undermine the
Annapolis peace process,” said Masters.
Brit Tzedek also expressed outrage at the firing of 353
missiles and 554 mortar bombs from Gaza at Sderot and the
western Negev since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in mid-June.
The firing of over fifteen Qassam missiles just before the talks
began precipitated threats from Israeli officials to
invade Gaza on the heels of an IDF raid there yesterday during
which eight Palestinian militants were killed and many others
On one promising note, Ahmed Youssef, a senior political
advisor to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, this past week wrote an
open letter expressing a desire for dialogue
based upon Hamas’ previous offers of a hudna, or long-term
ceasefire, with Israel.
“Clearly, the constant barrage of missiles from the
Hamas controlled Gaza Strip must be urgently addressed.
Yet a heavy military invasion of Gaza by Israel risks a serious
escalation of violence that threatens both Palestinian and
Israelis lives,” stated Masters. “In order to
stop further Qassam rocket attacks on southern Israel and to
avoid a full scale military invasion into Gaza, the U.S. should
take this opportunity to encourage Israel to reach a ceasefire
with Hamas, whether through back-channel talks, a neutral third
party, or other means of indirect diplomacy.”
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and
Peace, is a national grassroots organization more than 37,000
strong, that educates and mobilizes American Jews in support of
a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance
for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street, Suite
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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