Rev Jesse Jackson began his Middle East peace mission on Saturday by criticizing US President Bush's call for a change in Palestinian leadership. "That's an undemocratic idea," he said. In an interview on Channel One television, the 60 year-old civil rights leader said: "I support the democratic position. We must respect democratic principles. The Palestinians must choose their leadership just as the Israelis must choose theirs." He said that in his expected meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, he would stress to the Palestinian leader that non-violence was not a sign of weakness. "Non-violence is a form of resistance, not a form of concession," he said, and claimed that Arafat could follow in the footsteps of Ghandi, who also utilized non-violence as a form of resistance. Jackson said that the US supported his mission, but it was not doing enough to end the conflict. "It supports the position of ending the intifada, ending the occupation and ending the settlements," he said, adding that America did not use enough incentives to entice the sides to stop the violence. "We are not getting the desired effect," he said Earlier Saturday night, at a press conference in Jerusalem, Jackson said: "There is a broad body of people in the region who we met across the years - religious leaders, peace activists, youth, university students and professors - who must have a place at the table," Jackson said at a news conference in Jerusalem. Jackson heads an inter-faith delegation who will meet Israeli and Palestinian leaders, rights groups, victims and religious leaders during the five-day visit. "We are independent religious leaders seeking to be bridge builders and seeking to expand the dialogue," Jackson told reporters in Jerusalem at the start of his visit. Jackson was scheduled to meet Arafat as well as Foreign Minister Shimon Peres yesterday. He is also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Ariel Sharon during the trip, and will visit the West Bank cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem and the Gaza Strip. Jackson said the United States ought to do more to bring peace to the region, a destination for billions of dollars in US foreign aid, saying: "We're not getting a return on our investment." source: Olive Branch/ Haretz
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