WASHINGTON (September 2, 1997) -- Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority must take immediate actions to ensure continued progress in the Middle East peace process, according to the chairman of the Bishops' International Policy Committee.
Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark today sent a letter to a representative of the Palestinian Liberation Organization in Washington expressing concern about "insufficient efforts on the part of the Palestinian Authority to arrest and punish terrorist groups and to discourage their sympathizers ...." In a letter to the Israeli ambassador to the United States delivered Thursday, Archbishop McCarrick urged the Israeli government to lift the closures of the West Bank and Gaza imposed following suicide bombings at the Mahane Yehuda market in July.
"We strongly believe that fully lifting the present closures in their multiple dimensions and promising not to resort to closures again would be a serious step in the direction of building a just peace," said Archbishop McCarrick. "There can be no dishonor is renouncing such a repressive tool as closure."
Peace talks in the Middle East are currently at an impasse, and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright is scheduled to travel to the region this week in a personal effort break that impasse. Archbishop McCarrick's letters encouraged both parties to take steps to ensure a just peace.
Archbishop McCarrick admonished both parties for actions that have been seen as counterproductive to the peace process.
"We have for several years defended a negotiated peace resulting in an independent Palestinian homeland, and we have repeatedly protested the closures and other impediments to Palestinian life," he said in his letter to the PLO. "Because of these commitments, we are sorely distressed to see the Palestinian Authority engage in gestures of protest that can be seen on the outside as possible threats to peace."
In his letter to the Israeli ambassador, Archbishop McCarrick condemned the July 30 suicide bombings in Jerusalem, which killed 17, and said that those responsible should be apprehended and held accountable. He warned, however, that "collective punishment of the whole [Palestinian] community is simply wrong and should not be countenanced. Such mass deprivation has to be counterproductive for the cause of peace, fueling resentment and despair about ever reaching a negotiated settlement."