A Joint Appeal for Peace: Jericho Two Decades Later


Read this letter in German.

 

The UN voted to upgrade Palestine to be a non-member observer state. Rather than allowing this change to spark controversy, all parties should use this shift as fuel to push for a new peace accord. 

In the fall of 1994 in Jericho something extraordinary happened. Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel, and Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, following the Cairo Agreement and the Oslo Accords, both gave their whole-hearted support to The World Assembly on Reconciliation. This peace gathering, bringing together spiritual and parliamentary leaders each in their own personal capacity, was to be held in Jericho in December 1995.

The preparations for the conference were high-spirited. Our team, in addition to ourselves, consisted of the late Grand Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro of Syria, the other Co-Chair of the Global Forum; Mrs. Shulamit Aloni, the Israel Minister of Culture, and Rabbi Adin Steinsalts, Director of the Israel Institute of Talmudic Publications in Jerusalem.  Our focus then was not on the divisive politics and bitter attitudes that surround any territorial dispute; instead we appealed to the two leaders’ higher interests: a joint concern for human development, the health of children, stability for a common and prosperous future. The death of children, in 1994 as with the most recent violence, is tragic, irresponsible, and a failure of our generation and its leadership.

History shows that once violent conflict begins, governments cease to communicate. Once communication stops, misconceptions grow, fear sets in.  Breaking this silence is critical. This is not the job of institutions. The political parties of Israel and Palestine are caught in restricting alliances and infighting. They spur a tribalism that at best encourages selfish thinking and at worst spawns violence.

Only individual relationships can lead to an easing of tensions. It was remarkable to see Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister Rabin acknowledge the momentum of the situation; their willingness to cooperate for a higher purpose beyond base politics was inspiring.

To the great regret of all involved in this endeavor of hope, circumstances forced us to postpone this gathering indefinitely. We are convinced that it is our duty to attempt to rekindle the spirit of the Jericho Assembly. In this conflict of right against right it is of the utmost importance to create an opportunity for meeting each other in mutual respect. Sharing our pain inflicted upon each other in history may remove hindrances on the road towards reconciliation.

It is unfortunately true that relationships have hardened and leadership for peace has weakened in the last twenty years but at the same time it is heartening to know that the majority of Israelis and Palestinians supports the two state solution which will allow both people to prosper.

The Arab spring may have lost some of its original spark of hope, and the devastation of human life continues in Syria. Nevertheless there is a new momentum for peace in the Middle East

We appeal that all leaders allow this reaching out for a just and peaceful coexistence beyond the borders of enmity to express itself. A world assembly of reconciliation which will give breath to the dream of a just and peaceful security that both peoples have cherished for so long is timelier than ever.

Political and religious leaders together can, by transcending their boundaries and fully recognizing the other, create history.

 

Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp of Netherlands                                    Akio Matsumura

Chair of the Global Forum of                                                                 Founder of the Global Forum of
Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders                                                 Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders        

Founder and President of the Jacob Soetendorp 
Institute for Human Leaders                                                                                             

 

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