Thursday, May 15, 2008

Israel, Palestine Will Give Peace a Chance

AP--Israelis and Palestinians have achieved a momentous breakthrough in their decades-long struggle for peace. After years of conflict, yesterday’s signing of a peace treaty came as a shock. The biggest surprise, however, was that both parties give credit to the National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) for providing the impetus for the historic events.

Earlier this spring, the NCC passed the resolution “A Call for Peace in Palestine.” The statement declared that “since both Israelis and Palestinians are human beings of sacred worth in the eyes of their Creator, both parties should immediately cease all violence and other acts that demean or injure God’s children in the region.”

The resolution also asked for an immediate meeting between the Israeli government, and representatives of Hamas, Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in order to hammer out an agreement that would allow Palestinian civilians free passage into and out of Israeli-occupied territories. It would also immediately restore services such as electricity and water to those areas. Israeli troops would agree to withdraw fully from Gaza and the West Bank within 6 weeks. In return, the Palestinian organizations would cease all attacks against Israel and would recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Since every other effort at peace thus far has ended in miserable failure, no one had any expectations that the NCC’s call for peace would succeed. Yet, against all odds, that is exactly what happened.

Khaled Haniyeh, a Hamas negotiator, said the NCC resolution provided a moment of stunning clarity for the leadership of Hamas. “We had all been sitting around waiting eagerly for the latest NCC resolution to hit the web site. When it did, and we read the phrase that said people on both sides are of sacred worth, well, it was like a lamp had suddenly been lit in a dark room revealing a truth that had been there all along.”

Benjamin Harel, a senior member of the Cabinet of Israel, says the Israelis had a similar reaction. “The National Council of Churches hit the nail on the head,” said Harel. “It was so clear. Why were we still fighting one another when God just wanted us all to live in peace?”

Within hours, both sides had agreed to meet, and a short time later, the framework for a new treaty was in place. Israelis and Palestinians will from now on “respect one another’s full personhood,” will share an open border, and will keep radio volume to a “tolerable” level after 10:00pm.

NCC General Secretary Michael Kinnamon has only been on the job since last November, and he is humble about this historic accomplishment. “I can see the Spirit of God involved in this process,” he said in a telephone interview. “All we did was write the resolution, debate it, and then vote. God did the rest.”

Even the most skeptical Middle East experts think this peace has a chance to last for a very long time. “There’s something different about the process this time,” said Francis Moody, a director at the Middle East Peace Initiative. “Personally, I think it’s the resolution from the NCC. Everybody knows that resolutions from church councils are extremely effective. I don’t know why we didn’t try this sooner.”

The NCC hopes its next effort will be just as successful. At the next General Assembly, the Council will tackle an even tougher challenge. It hopes to alleviate tensions between Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees fans with a resolution entitled “If You Can’t Cheer, Don’t Say Anything at All.”

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