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Crisis Group Calls Urgently for Israeli-Palestinian Ceasefire

On March 24, 2011, warning that current violence between Israel and the Palestinians could escalate into a new war, the International Crisis Group called urgently for an Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire, easing access to Gaza, and new efforts to form a Palestinian unity government.

On May 17, 2009, 35 Jewish, Christian and Muslim national religious leaders of NILI wrote to President Obama, saying, "An effective, comprehensive and sustainable ceasefire covering Israel, Gaza and the West Bank is an essential step to renewing people’s hopes that peace is possible." They spelled out what they believe to be necessary elements of such a ceasefire. "In relation to Gaza, a ceasefire needs to include Hamas’ halting all rocket attacks on Israel; international measures to prevent smuggling-resupply of rockets; Israel’s stopping all military operations in Gaza, and opening Gaza border crossings to allow humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. In relation to the West Bank, building on a ceasefire and improved security conditions, Israel should reduce the number of military checkpoints. Recognizing there are extremists on both sides committed to violence, we believe some form of international presence will be needed to monitor and guarantee the ceasefire."

The 35 national religious leaders were united in calling for additional steps by both sides, and they urged U.S. support for efforts to form a Palestinian unity government. "The United States should insist that Israel fulfill its commitment to dismantle illegal outposts in the West Bank and halt all expansion of settlements. Continuing settlement expansion directly undermines the possibility of a viable Palestinian state. On the Palestinian side, the United States should support efforts to form a Palestinian government capable of representing the West Bank and Gaza and committed to rejecting violence and negotiating a two-state solution with Israel."

Urge President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton to respond positively and actively to the Crisis Group's urgent call. If they do, I believe they can count on support from these national religious leaders and from majorities in American churches, synagogues and mosques. Achieving a comprehensive and effective ceasefire can help renew negotiations for peace. Without a ceasefire, violence is
likely to escalate and the opportunity to achieve a two-state peace agreement will be missed once again.