Thursday, January 22, 2009 from the American Friends Service Committee

We welcome the respite in the violence in Gaza and Israel and hope that all parties take steps to build a lasting cease fire.  With a new U.S. president and a pause after more than three weeks of violence, we see a window of opportunity to change course from confrontation to negotiation.

The path to peace lies in mutual dialogue and respectful, honest, and difficult negotiation.  Safety and security for the Israelis and Palestinians are so intertwined that unilateral action, even in withdrawing troops, can have unintended consequences.  The sooner the Israelis and elected Palestinian representatives come to the negotiation table and begin talks; the sooner a lasting mutual peace can be achieved. 

As an organization that has worked with the people of Israel and Gaza for 60 years our first concern is for the lives and welfare of all people in the region.  We mourn for the more than 1300 people who have lost their lives, the thousands more wounded, and for those who have lost their homes and possessions as a result of the violence. 

Under the present unilateral ceasefires, we are concerned that conflict will resume, endangering civilians. This ceasefire represents a window of opportunity for the Obama administration. Now is the time to avert a return to violence and begin to lay the foundation for a lasting and comprehensive peace founded on justice and security for both peoples.    

In his inaugural address, President Obama sounded a call for more diplomacy and constructive nonviolent solutions. He said, "America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more."  We resonate with President Obama's conviction for peace and dignity and to help put those notions into practice, we recommend that the new U.S. administration take the following steps.

  1. Work with Israel and Egypt to lift the siege on Gaza so that food, medicine, fuel and building materials can get to the more than 1.5 million people who are in need and so that the thousands of wounded can be cared for. The siege prevents a humanitarian response to the crisis and a political solution to the broader conflict.
  2. Work with the international community to rebuild the damaged and destroyed humanitarian infrastructure of Gaza and create livelihoods for the people of Gaza so they can recover and heal. A sustainable peace can only be achieved once people know their lives and livelihoods are secure.
  3. Talk with all parties involved in the recent fighting as well as influential governments in the region. We affirm that dialogue without preconditions is the only way to begin building a lasting peace and hope that this ebb of hostilities is a time when dialogue can flourish.
  4. Take a balanced approach to the issues underlying the conflict, notably the security of both Israelis and Palestinians and stopping the flow of arms into the region from all quarters. It is also time to move toward a process and solution that respects the dignity of all, and recognizes the need for responsibility and accountability for all violent and coercive actions.