A doctor writes from Jerusalem

 Amidst Passover and Easter celebrations and the first signs of spring in the Holy Land, violence once again claims innocent lives - this time as they were celebrating the Passover Seder in the Park Hotel in Netanya. Without pretence of any sort, I would like on this sad occasion to remember with sympathy all innocent victims of violence in this senseless ongoing war. I would also like to send a message of consolation to the Israeli and Palestinian families that have directly suffered and continue to suffer the tragic consequences of this seemingly endless conflict. Aside from its political repercussions, the latest act of violence may prove disastrous to both peoples in terms of blocking the possibility of a truce that can prepare the ground for further negotiations and eventual political settlement. More poignantly, the attack comes at a time in which the Saudi initiative of Crown Prince Abdallah is being discussed seriously at the Beirut Arab Summit. I am afraid that new indications point to a likely massive and all-out Israeli retaliation plan that would probably be carried out in the next couple of days. This would further torpedo all hopes for a serious consideration of the Saudi initiative and would, once again, make the logic of force and counter force the dominant one in Palestinian-Israeli relations. Besides, such a retaliatory plan could indicate that the Israelis believe that the latest American efforts at truce making have indeed failed. I pray all of you to urge your governments, constituencies and partner churches, NGOs and all those interested in the stability of this region to urge the Israeli government from desisting from any plan that would lead to further conflagration of violence, and to impress on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides the importance of moving speedily into the course of negotiations, putting the Saudi initiative and all relevant UN resolutions on the question of Palestine in consideration. Otherwise, the situation may take more bleak turns and may, God forbid, widen the circle of war in the Middle East to the detriment of all. Violence and force do not hold out the promise of resolving this bitter conflict even though, on both sides of the fence, there are those who use force as a tactical tool. It is only through an unconditional commitment by both sides to a fair and just resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict through peaceful means that this conflict will eventually come to an end. Once again, I seek your thoughts and prayers for all of us here at these difficult times. Dr. Bernard Sabella Jerusalem

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