March 1995

JERUSALEM (Reuter) - Jerusalem's Jewish mayor, Ehud Olmert, rejected Tuesday the criticism of eight U.S. Christian leaders who urged the Clinton administration to press Israel to stop annexing Arab land in the holy city.

In a statement Monday that angered U.S. Jewish groups, the Christian leaders, including the president of the National Council of Catholic Bishops, asked to meet Clinton and urged him to place the question of Jerusalem higher on his agenda.

Olmert said:

The statement by the Christian leaders said that, in violation of international law, land was being taken from Palestinians and placed under Israeli control by annexation, expropriation and private purchase.

Jerusalem, a city holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, was divided until the 1967 Middle East war, when Israel captured the eastern section from Jordan and annexed it.

Israel regards Jerusalem as its capital, a status not recognized by the international community. Palestinians want East Jerusalem as capital of a future state.

The Christian leaders did not acknowledge any special Jewish or Israeli role for Jerusalem, saying Israel's claim to sovereignty pre-empted genuine negotiations.


March 7, 1995

NEW YORK - Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) today described a proposal by eight Christian leaders that the future status of Jerusalem be moved up on the calendar of Middle East peace negotiation as a "well meaning" but "ill-conceived" proposal capable of seriously damaging Middle East peace negotiations.

The UAHC is the central body of Reform Judaism, representing 850 congregations in the United States and Canada with a membership of 1.3 million.

The UAHC statement follows:

In the peace agreement between the PLO and Israel, the Jerusalem question was deliberately relegated to the category of "hard issues" that would be discussed and resolved only after a proper framework had been laid through agreement on the so-called "softer" issues.

The PLO, recognizing its complexity and destructive potential, agreed that this issue should be taken up only at the end of negotiations. By seeking to substitute their judgment for that of the Palestinian leadership, the Christian leaders would derail the peace process by creating a climate of added tension and conflict between Palestinians and Israelis.

CONTACT: Israel E. Levine of Richard Cohen Associates, 212-758-6969

CO: Union of American Hebrew Congregations

ST: District of Columbia


March 7, 1995

WASHINGTON - B'nai B'rith expressed its distress at the ill-conceived appeal of eight prominent U.S. church leaders asking President Clinton to put the question of Jerusalem "higher on its agenda" of the Middle East peace process, for accusing Israel of "creating facts" and for pursuing a one-sided approach towards Middle East peace.

The Declaration of Principles signed between Israel and the PLO left the question of Jerusalem to the end of the negotiating process. "The church leaders' concern about a "derailing" of the process is thoroughly misplaced. To the contrary, moving Jerusalem toward the top of the agenda will "derail" the process because it will shatter trust in the integrity and sanctity of the Declaration of Principles, which both parties agreed to," Baer said. The church leaders also criticized the United States for "failing to recognize and support Palestinian rights and interests in Jerusalem."

While the church leaders accuse Israel of planning for a "Greater Jerusalem," there is no mention of the PLO's refusal to drop their covenant calling for Israel's total destruction.

The following signed the statement to Clinton:

National Council of Catholic Bishops

American Friends Service Committee

Roman Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men's Institutes

Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of N. and S. America

The Episcopal Church

Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of N. America

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

World Vision

CONTACT: Robin Schwartz-Kreger of B'nai B'rith, 202-857-6536

CO: B'nai B'rith

ST: District of Columbia