The Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires wise U.S. engagement to build a better future for both peoples, and this future could be endangered by an embassy relocation, the U.S. Catholic bishops told the new Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson.
Bishop Oscar Cantu, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on
International Justice and Peace, said that resolving the conflict will
require “critical, continued engagement” to overcome 50 years of
conflict and its “egregious injustices and random acts of violence.”
The U.S. bishops have long backed a two-state solution, as has Pope
Francis. The bishops implored the Secretary of State to keep the U.S.
Embassy to Israel in Tel-Aviv, rather than move it to Jerusalem as
President Donald Trump has advocated.
“Relocating the embassy to Jerusalem is tantamount to recognizing
Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel,” Bishop Cantu wrote Feb.
1. He noted that the international community has determined that
Jerusalem’s status must be determined in mutual agreements between
Israel and Palestine.
Moving the embassy would undermine U.S. commitment to a two-state solution, the bishop said.
He added that the U.S. has always provided “leadership and support” to the peace process.
“We continue to profess hope for a diplomatic solution that respects
the human dignity of both Israelis and Palestinians and advances justice
and peace for all,” Bishop Cantu continued.
The year 2017 would be an important year, marking “the fiftieth
anniversary of a crippling occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem
and Gaza, crippling for both peoples,” he said.
He cited Pope Francis’ call to those in authority “to leave no stone
unturned in the search for equitable solutions to complex problems, so
that Israelis and Palestinians may live in peace.”
“The path of dialogue, reconciliation and peace must constantly be
taken up anew, courageously and tirelessly,” the Pope said in his May
2014 visit to Israel.
Bishop Cantu said some Israeli actions undermine both peace and the
Christian presence in the occupied Palestinian Territories. He pointed
to the Bethlehem-area Cremisan Valley, where 58 Christian families live
near a Salesian monastery, a convent and a school.
The bishop objected that the Israeli barrier wall in the valley
constricts residents’ movement and their access to their lands, splits
them from Christian institutions, and encourages them to emigrate.
“The Cremisan Valley is emblematic of the alarming number of
Palestinians who have lost their homes and livelihoods,” he said.
“Settlement expansion, confiscation of lands and the building of the
Separation Wall on Palestinian lands violate international law and
undermine a diplomatic solution.”