March 24, 2000
President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As you prepare to meet with President Hafez al-Assad on Sunday, I wanted to raise with you our concerns about the place of Lebanon in the peace process.
The news of a possible breakthrough in the long-stalled negotiations between Israel and Syria is most encouraging. Your efforts to assist in resolving outstanding issues are to be applauded and have our full support. As attention is rightly focused on prospects for peace between Israel and Syria and Israel and the Palestinians, we are concerned lest the needs of Lebanon and its people not receive the attention they deserve in the peace process.
Lebanon, as Pope John Paul II has said, ought to be "a model" for people of different faiths living together in peace. Instead, it has been torn apart over the past two decades, often at the hands of its neighbors. Exacerbating the situation is the deplorable plight of Palestinian refugees, whose plight, like that of Palestinian refugees throughout the region, cries out for attention. Clearly, the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians living in camps without legal status in Lebanon must be addressed. Any meaningful peace for the region must bring an end to a situation in which so many refugees are endangered by an uncertain and impoverished future.
The Israeli commitment to withdraw Israeli troops from Lebanon should and must lead to a resolution of the fighting in southern Lebanon, disarmament of the Hezbollah, and a withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon. As the First Congress of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops of the Middle East declared at the conclusion of their meeting last May, "the liberation of (Lebanese) soil" is needed to allow Lebanon "to regain her liberty, her sovereignty and her independence."
Thanking you for your attention to this matter and assuring you of my prayers for the success of your efforts on behalf of peace, I am,
Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza
Bishop of Galveston-Houston