World Churches protest over Israeli treatment of Jerusalem

 The World Council of Churches issued a statement yesterday expressing concern about actions by the government of Israel which, it says, 'threaten the achievement of a just peace for both Israel and Palestine by pre-empting negotiations on the final status of Jerusalem within the framework of international law'. This letter reiterates the position of the WCC on a matter of critical importance. It says: While world attention is drawn to its Gaza withdrawal plans, the Government of Israel has intensified unilateral programs to consolidate control over Jerusalem and other occupied territory. These include: - Creating a new de facto border by construction of the Wall on occupied territory, cutting all of annexed Jerusalem off from the West Bank in contravention of international law and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice in 2004. - Cutting the West Bank in two by adding 3,500 housing units to Maale Adumim settlement. This decision mocks prospects for a viable, contiguous Palestinian State with a shared Jerusalem as its capital. - Repeated declarations by the government's top leaders that large illegal West Bank settlements and all of Jerusalem will belong to Israel in any final agreement. - Ongoing violations of human and civil rights of Palestinians in Jerusalem-illegal Jewish settlements are built in their neighbourhoods while construction permits for Palestinians are denied, family homes are demolished, requests for family reunification are denied. - Threats and more threats, including an absentee property law allowing confiscation of Palestinian property in Jerusalem and a new regulation to require permits for Jerusalem residents entering the West Bank. The WCC has long affirmed that the final status of Jerusalem must be part of a comprehensive peace settlement and be negotiated without delay; that the unilateral annexation of Jerusalem by the Government of Israel puts regional and world peace in jeopardy; that alterations of boundaries, population and settlements which change the religious, cultural or historical character of Jerusalem without the consent of the parties involved and the approval of the international community are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Irregular transfers of church-held land from one side to the other only add to the alarm of those who hope for justice; all such transfers must be annulled. The WCC calls for an open and inclusive Jerusalem, a city of shared sovereignty and citizenship, a city of two peoples and three faiths, of Christians, Muslims and Jews. Now is the time to cease actions that pre-empt peace in Jerusalem and to begin negotiation of Jerusalem's final status within the framework of international law. The letter is signed by Peter Weiderud, director, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, WCC

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