Recently I emailed questions to the auxiliary bishop of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Bishop William Shomali, asking him to share his first-hand insights regarding the many injustices and violent environment in the land of the Prince of Peace. He graciously sent back a recorded audio response upon which this column is based.
Bishop Shomali said one of the most pressing problems facing Palestinians is Israeli imposed restrictions on movement. For example, he said Palestinians living in Bethlehem or Ramallah need to obtain a permit to go just six miles to Jerusalem. And permits are only given during principle feasts.
He said the ongoing illegal building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land in the Occupied Territories is an extremely serious roadblock to a peaceful solution.
To correct these and other injustices, Israel needs to participate in good-faith negotiations toward the two-state solution: the establishment of an independent viable Palestinian nation coexisting peacefully with a fully recognized state of Israel.
He emphasized the two-state solution continues to be firmly supported by the Holy See.
“Negotiations could be successful if there is good will. Some settlements can be given to Palestinians and Israelis can keep some of the settlements close to Israel. Other land exchange agreements can be reached as well,” said Bishop Shomali.
“But unconditional U.S. support for Israel negatively affects the situation,” he said.
A two-state solution could be agreed upon by the U.N. Security Council, but the U.S. continues to block a U.N. binding resolution that would set a timetable for the establishment of the nation of Palestine, said Shomali (go to http://nyti.ms/1CTp94z).
He added, “The U.S. continues to keep telling Palestinians that statehood should come through negotiations. But negotiations with Israel continually fail. We then seek statehood through the U.N. Security Council, and America blocks our way. We go back to negotiations with Israel and they fail again.”
Bishop Shomali lamented, “We live in a vicious circle.” And to get out of this circle, the American government should not veto or otherwise block a U.N. approved resolution establishing a viably independent Palestine. In terms of justice and peace the U.S. should be impartial.
Bishop Shomali stressed the paramount importance of prayer. But added that prayers alone are not enough, there must also be a serious effort to reach a peace accord.
He praised the generosity of Catholics in the U.S. and throughout the world in assisting parishes, schools and many humanitarian projects in the Holy Land. But added that so much more help is desperately needed.
Please kindly consider making as generous a donation as possible to Catholic Near East Welfare Association for aid to Palestine (go to http://bit.ly/2cROogL).
The U.S. gives Israel approximately $3 billion each year. Far more than it gives any other nation. Thus the American government has the ability to exert tremendous pressure upon the Israeli government to negotiate in good faith a fair and just two-state solution. But sadly, it does not have the political courage and moral integrity to do so.
Therefore, it is up to us to pressure the administration to do the right thing.
Please contact President Obama (go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact) urging him to leave a jewel in his presidential legacy by using every diplomatic tool at his disposal to set the stage for all Arab nations to recognize Israel’s right to exist, and for Israel to fully cooperate in the establishment of a totally independent and viable Palestinian nation.
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated social justice and peace columnist.