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Saturday, December 10, 2016
US churches appeal for halt to excavations on Jerusalem's Temple Mount
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 On Friday, Churches for Middle East Peace appealed to Assistant Secretary David Welch to convince Israel to halt excavations near the Temple Mount/Haram al- Sharif in the Old City of Jerusalem. Signed by CMEP's board chair Maureen Shea and CMEP's executive director Corinne Whitlatch, the letter raises concerns about the outbreak of violent protests in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and globally. Recalling the aftermath of Ariel Sharon's "visit" to the Muslim hilltop compound in 2000 that sparked a Palestinian uprising, the letter noted that earlier today, 10,000 people protested in Nazareth. The letter urges Assistant Secretary Welch to strongly assert the official policy of the United States that the status of Jerusalem must be determined by negotiations and that neither party should take actions that would prejudice the outcome of negotiations. On Tuesday Israel began building a walkway up to the compound, on which sits the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosque, that is believed by Jews to be above remains of two biblical temples and believed by Muslims to be the site where Mohammed ascended to heaven. The CMEP letter, additionally, addresses recent positive steps - Secretary Rice meeting on February 19 with Abbas and Olmert and news reports of the emergence of a Palestinian power-sharing government. "The United States could provide a strong signal of the rewards of taking steps toward peace by resuming financial assistance to a new unity government." But, warn the letter writers, "these important steps toward peacemaking may be overwhelmed by the consequences . of Israel's actions in the Old City of Jerusalem." The full letter follows: February 9, 2007 Dear Assistant Secretary Welch, Churches for Middle East Peace urgently appeals to you and Secretary Rice to convince the government of Israel to halt excavations near the Temple Mount/Harem al-Sharif. The quickly escalating violent response to Ariel Sharon's visit to the compound in 2000 demonstrated the sensitivity of actions affecting the compound. Unless Israel quickly stops the excavation work, and the planned construction, we fear that violent protests will break out in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and far beyond. Today's protests by 10,000 people in Nazareth exemplifies the combustive nature of actions that appear to violate the sanctity of this profoundly holy site. Perhaps, with appropriate consultation with Wafq authorities who maintain the Harem al-Sharif, and with their cooperation, construction necessary for safe access could be resumed. The long-held policy of the United States that the status of Jerusalem must be determined by a negotiated agreement and that neither party should take actions that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations must be strongly asserted by US officials. The news of Secretary Rice's meeting on February 19 with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas is encouraging to all who seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict with two viable and secure states living side-by-side. Additionally, reports of an emerging Palestinian unity government increase hope that intra-Palestinian violence will subside and that preparations can be made for negotiations with Israel. The United States could provide a strong signal of the rewards of taking steps toward peace by resuming financial assistance to a new unity government. But instead, these important steps toward peacemaking may be overwhelmed by the consequences - widespread public protests and angry objections of moderate Arab allies - of Israel's actions in the Old City of Jerusalem. A delegation from Churches for Middle East Peace visited Jerusalem and the Haram al-Sharif last year. We were again reminded of just how significant this site is to our Muslims brothers and sisters and therefore feel even more acutely for them at this time. We appreciate your attention to our concerns and recommendations. Sincerely, Maureen Shea Chair of Board Corinne Whitlatch Executive Director Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace is a Washington-based program of the Alliance of Baptists, American Friends Service Committee, Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Armenian Orthodox Church, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Church of the Brethren, Church World Service, Episcopal Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Franciscan Friars OFM (English Speaking Conference, JPIC Council), Friends Committee on National Legislation, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, Maryknoll Missioners, Mennonite Central Committee, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, Unitarian Universalist Association, United Church of Christ, and the United Methodist Church (GBCS & GBGM). Source: CMEP
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