Dear Prime Minister Olmert,
The Israeli people and American Jewish community have long
had a warm and respectful relationship. Israel is the spiritual
homeland of all Jews, and as American rabbis, we have
consistently brought this message to our communities.
Over time, we have watched you adopt increasingly
reconciliation-minded policies, and greeted each with
enthusiasm. It is clear to us that the only way to build a truly
safe and successful Israel is to achieve a mutually acceptable
two-state agreement with the Palestinian people.
As chairs of the Rabbinic Cabinet of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, we
organize the broader American Jewish community and our co-clergy
in support of just such a solution. We have already begun to
call upon President-elect Obama to stand by his
statement that "I will work to help Israel achieve the goal
of two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state,
living side by side in peace and security."
But neither he, nor we, nor you and your government
will be able to achieve peace without greater sensitivity to the
humanitarian situation in Gaza. We understand that
Israel faces many difficulties in sharing the Gaza border with a
Hamas-led government, and that as Prime Minister you must do
everything in your power to protect Israelis living in Sederot
and Ashkelon. The recent upsurge in violence has been
particularly troubling, but it must not hamper efforts to seek
peace and normality -- indeed, these are the very things that
will ultimately serve to protect Israelis and Palestinians
Gazans have not known normality for far too long. They've
been living with a blockade for close to two years.
International food aid is the only nourishment available to
hundreds of thousands of people. Pregnant mothers, sick
children, and the elderly often can't get their most basic
medical needs met. Unemployment is rampant. The educational
system and infrastructure are badly damaged.
Your government's media ban and restrictions on access by
humanitarian NGOs severely limits access to information, but all
indications are that the humanitarian situation is
deteriorating. Perhaps most important are the reports
that the people of Gaza are increasingly hopeless. Hopelessness,
as you know, breeds extremism--Israel's worst enemy.
It is true that Gaza has historically been the orphan of the
Middle East. Wanted by few, more trouble than its worth, the
community of people who live there are often forced to deal with
circumstances that we in the West cannot truly comprehend.
But it doesn't have to be that way. The time is
rapidly approaching to renew the June 19, 2008 ceasefire with
Hamas, with provisions to greatly ease the blockade. We write to
urge to do so, and in so doing, to support the forces for peace
throughout the region. As your government and the term
of President Abbas draw to a close, any actions that the two of
you take to bolster the forces searching for a solution will
have a powerful effect on the upcoming elections of both
We urge you to use your remaining time in office to continue
your work for peace, starting with a renewal of the Gaza
We will do our part to organize the American Jewish
community to advocate for a just and durable solution, and we
will call on our next President to vigorously pursue the one
thing that can guarantee Israel a healthy and happy future:
Todah me-rosh (Thanks in advance),
Rabbis John Friedman and Julie Saxe-Taller, Chair and
Rabbinic Cabinet of Brit Tzedek
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The
Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace
11 E. Adams Street,
Chicago, IL 60603
Phone: (312) 341-1205
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