II. Seeking Peace Bulletin
JEWISH-MUSLIM RELIGIOUS LEADERS MEET TO BREAK CYCLE OF VIOLENCE . . .
Leading Rabbis and Imams from Jewish and Muslim communities in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza have been meeting to discuss ways to break the current cycle of violence and to encourage coexistence between their communities. Under the sponsorship of European countries, the religious leaders have met in undisclosed locations. Both delegations have the support of their respective political leaders: Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat. Rabbi Michael Melchior, a leading Orthodox rabbi in Israel and deputy foreign minister in the Sharon government, heads the Jewish delegation to these talks. In an interview with the Guardian, Melchior stated: “Just as religion can be used as a weapon for those who want no solution and no compromise, so religion has the possibility to turn things around and bring a solution.
. . . WHILE COEXISTENCE WORK CONTINUES . . .
On June 21, the Jewish-Arab village of Neveh Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (http://www.nswas.com) hosted a one-day workshop on healing the rifts between Arabs and Jews in Israel. The workshop was sponsored by the Interreligious Coordinating Council (http://www.icci.co.il) and the Israeli chapter of the World Conference for Religion and Peace.
The conference was attended by many in the educational field and others working to bring peace and reconciliation to these two communities. Some of the topics covered included the role of women in peace work, the use of films in peace education, and religious reconciliation.
. . . AND ARAB-JEWISH LEADERS TALK BUSINESS. . .
Israeli and Arab business leaders came together on Thursday, July 5th to discuss joint business ventures for the two communities. Close to 150 people are involved in this business forum. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres presided over the meeting. Some of the ideas discussed include high-tech industrial parks in Arab towns and the creation of a Jewish/Arab joint investment company.
. . . AS ISRAELIS ARE SPLIT OVER THE SETTLEMENTS
In two recent polls, a small majority of Israelis believe in the importance of a settlement freeze and question the security-value of the settlements. During the week of July 6th, a Gallup poll of 600 Israeli adults reported that when asked, "In your opinion, do the settlements today contribute to the security of the State or do they hurt the security of the State?," 44% said that they hurt Israel’s security, 41% say that the settlements contribute to Israel’s security and 15% do not know.
The monthly "Peace Index" poll taken by the Tami Steinmetz Center for Peace Research at Tel Aviv University (http://www.tau.ac.il.peace) focused most of its questions on the settlements. While a majority of Israelis (63%) believe that Israeli governments were right to encourage the establishment of the settlements (29% believe they were wrong), and 68% agree that the settlers are correct in believing the government is not doing enough to protect them (27% disagree), a majority (54%) support a settlement evacuation in the context of a unilateral separation and 38% are opposed.
In the same poll, when Israelis were asked "Do you support or oppose the unilateral evacuation of some of the settlements so that it is possible to create an effective separation area between Israel and the Palestinians?," 51% said they support evacuation, 38% oppose, and 11% do not know.