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Cardinal McCarrick Urges American Jews To Promote Mideast Peace; Support Grows For Informal Israeli-Palestinian Agreement

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
November-December 2003

Speaking in November at the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, the Archbishop of Washington, challenged American Jews to exercise their influence and encourage Israel to “call all the people of the Holy Land back to the (peace) table.”  

McCarrick said: “History has proven that the experience of occupation and repression does nothing more than increase hatred and desire for vengeance.” He noted that he prays “that our American Jewish community, which has been so supportive of Israel ... helps to make sure that the policies of the Israeli government are always focused on the search for genuine peace and true security, not intensifying the cycle of violence.”  
According to Washington Jewish Week, (Nov. 6, 2003), “McCarrick received the council’s Breslau-Goldman Award for his work promoting social justice, inter-group relations, and the security and welfare of the Jewish people here and abroad. In giving his remarks, the cardinal said he ‘wrote these words with some fear that they may be misunderstood,’ but was buoyed by the ‘courageous remarks’ of Israeli chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon and saw that he was ‘not alone in my views.’ Ya’alon ... said that some of Israel’s anti-terrorism measures foster hostility among Palestinians and are detrimental to Israel. ‘I speak frankly because I love you and because I do know that I’m a friend to the Jewish people and always will be,’ McCarrick said, emphasizing more than once that ‘we’re family.’ ... Following his remarks, McCarrick received a standing ovation from the nearly 150 in attendance ...”  

At the same time, two Israeli and Palestinian delegations have informally worked out peace agreements. In October, a plan was announced in Geneva, negotiated, on the Israeli side, by a delegation led by Yossi Beilin, a former justice minister who was the primary architect of the Oslo accords. On the Palestinian side were key Fatah officials, economists and intellectuals. After two and a half years of talks, they presented an agreement comprising some 50 pages and detailed maps. Beilin declared: “In spite of everything, our efforts proved, there is someone to talk to, and there is something to talk about. The solution is extremely detailed and Palestinians and Israelis have never before committed to such a solution.”  

A.B. Yehoshua, one of Israel’s foremost novelists and scholars, provides this assessment of the Geneva peace plan: “Here for the first time was a document that did not merely state principles and ideas, vague declarations, or wishes and hopes that each side would later interpret its own way, sometimes even reversing their meaning ... In the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict there has never been such a detailed and specific document as this one ... The value of this document is that it is a beam from a lighthouse on the distant horizon, signaling a very distant but possible destination ... It will serve as a model for a future agreement.” (The Jerusalem Post, Nov. 7, 2003).  

Mark A. Heller, of Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, says of the Geneva Plan: “... this deal gives Israel everything it could possibly want from a deal except more territory ... there is not the slightest chance of getting a better one.”  

A similar unofficial accord was formulated earlier in the year by, among others, former Shin Bet security agency chief Ami Ayalon and Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh. It calls for a Palestinian state with borders based on the 1967 lines and a partition of Jerusalem. The Palestinian refugee problem would be comprehensively resolved through compensation and resettlement in the state of Palestine, with some modest resettlement (without an open-ended ‘right of return’) in Israel. Reportedly, 90,000 Israelis and 60,000 Palestinians have signed a petition endorsing the plan thus far.  

These plans have received support from Secretary of State Colin Powell and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. The Economist (Nov. 8, 2003) states: “Both these accords have won support from governments and commentators abroad. Both flow from the premise that time is running out for a two state solution -and hence for Israel’s survival as a Jewish state. Soon there will be more Palestinians than Israeli Jews living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. If the current stalemate persists, more Palestinians may stop aspiring to an independent state alongside Israel and start demanding one man one vote in a single state - where they would be the majority.”  

Editorially, The Forward (Nov. 7, 2003) views the unofficially negotiated peace plans as a hopeful sign: ‘Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon and Palestinian academic Sari Nusseibeh have drafted a statement of principles that satisfy the essential needs of both Israelis and Palestinians and could serve as the basis for a deal, Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo have drafted a similar but more detailed plan. Neither plan is meant to bind the sides. Both are intended to show decision-makers on both sides that there is somebody to talk to on the other side, then an understanding is possible. We could go on, as we have, dismissing the various peace plans as the work of dreamers and mischief-makers. We could continue blaming all the troubles on the other side and waiting for an inner change that we don’t believe will come. We could continue blaming all our troubles on the world. But ... we could also take steps to make things different, to lower the flames and reduce the rage. It is within our power. And that - taking control of our destiny - was the point of Zionism.”  

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