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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

October 2, 2008

Jewish Leaders to Next President: Its Time to Choose Peace
Nearly 700 Rabbis, Cantors Pledge Community Backing for U.S. Leadership in Resolving the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

WASHINGTON—As Yom Kippur approaches, nearly 700 rabbis, cantors and rabbinic students from across the country are seizing on this traditional time for communal evaluation and reflection to call on the next president to make vigilant U.S. leadership in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority of his administration, reversing eight years of diplomatic neglect.

In an open letter to the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates, the signers, convened by Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the country’s largest grassroots Jewish grassroots peace movement, pledged to mobilize support within the American Jewish community “an American President who dedicates himself to the establishment of a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace acts in the best interests of Israel and the United States.”

“For far to long this country’s political leadership has buried its head in the sand when it comes to acting to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, unwilling to stake the political capital necessary to make a substantive difference,” said Rabbi John Friedman, chair of Brit Tzedek’s rabbinic cabinet, through which the letter was written and circulated. “With this letter, we are putting the candidates on notice that ending the conflict in such a way that advances Israel’s prospects for a peaceful and secure future is top priority for the vast majority of American Jews.”

The signers include prominent national pulpit, academic and organizational rabbis, cantors and rabbinic students from all major streams of American Judaism, including rabbis:

Rachel Cowan, Executive Director of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality
David Gordis, Immediate past president and professor of Rabbinics at Hebrew College
Peter Knobel, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis
Arthur Green, Rector of Hebrew College's Rabbinical School
Elliot Dorff, Rector and Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University, Vice-Chair of the Conservative Movement's Committee on Jewish Law and Standards
Miriam Jerris, President of the Association of Humanistic Rabbis
J. Rolando Matalon, Rabbi of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun
Jack Moline, Rabbi of Agudas Achim Congregation
Ismar Schorsch, Chancellor emeritus of The Jewish Theological Seminary
Toba Spitzer, President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

For a full list of signers, go to http://ga3.org/campaign/letter_mccainobama/explanation#signers

Brit Tzedek is releasing the letter, entitled “Time to Choose Peace” as part of a larger election-driven campaign, which works through advocacy, media outreach and public programming to build political and popular support in this country for a referendum advancing several actions key to the tenable resolution of the conflict, including a freeze on settlement expansion, a ceasefire and an end to the blockade on Gaza, the sharing of Jerusalem, and sustained U.S diplomatic engagement in ending the conflict. The letter (text below) and a full list of signers will be published in the Rosh Hashanah edition of the Forward, the national Jewish newspaper.

The letter asserts that while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is but one in a long list of challenges that the next president will inherit, ignoring it will only exacerbate the instability and tension in the Middle East, by increasing the influence of terrorist organizations of Hezbollah and Hamas and other extremists groups. The letter states: “It is difficult to calculate the damage that a downward spiral into fresh waves of violence could hold.”

To demonstrate his commitment to using American leadership to facilitate a negotiated end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the letter’s signers are calling on the next president to take several immediate and concrete steps upon assuming office, including:

  • Call unequivocally for the establishment of a viable Palestinian state before the end of his first term
  • Appoint, within his first 100 days in office, a high-level, well-respected envoy to the region, dedicated to the resolution of the conflict
  • Establish mechanisms of enforcement to ensure compliance on both sides with commitments made in the course of negotiations.

The full text of the open letter to Senators Barack Obama and John McCain:

A Rabbinic Letter to Senators Barack Obama and John McCain

We, the undersigned, call on you, the Democratic and Republican nominees for the office of the President, to pledge to make resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority of your Administration.

While you come into office with a long list of problems before you, the long-simmering conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is among the most urgent. After eight years of half-hearted diplomacy, there is no time left to walk softly and hope for the best.

The consequences of failing to establish a durable peace are grim. The influence of Iran and Hezbollah would surely grow among an increasingly bitter Palestinian population, and extremists would have further excuse to do vicious battle with the West. It is difficult to calculate the damage that a downward spiral into fresh waves of violence could hold.

American Presidents traditionally look to the Jewish community for insight on Israel-related policy. As Jewish clergy, we pledge to mobilize our people behind your leadership for a mutually-acceptable, two-state solution. We pledge to support you through difficult, trying times, and to celebrate with you when the job is done. We pledge to let the American public know: An American President who dedicates himself to the establishment of a durable Israeli-Palestinian peace acts in the best interests of Israel and the United States.

* We call on you to dedicate yourself to the establishment of a viable Palestinian state living in peace alongside Israel early in your first term.

* We call on you to appoint, within your first 100 days in office, a high-level, well-respected envoy to the region, an individual who has the ear of both Israelis and Palestinians, the respect of the American people, and ready access to your Oval Office.

* We call on you to establish mechanisms of enforcement and follow-through, so that decisions made and agreements signed will be respected and brought to fruition.

The Jewish High Holy Days are a time of reflection, renewal, and action. In keeping with the message of this season, we urge you to reflect on the diplomatic negligence of the recent past and to commit yourself to effective American leadership for peace.

Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, is a national grassroots organization more than 38,000 strong that educates and mobilizes American Jews in support of a negotiated two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

 

 

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