Religious leaders ask Obama to set Israeli-Palestinian peace priority

(Photo: Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini)Palestinian protesters throw rocks at an Israeli border police vehicle during clashes at a weekly protest against the nearby Jewish settlement of Kdumim, in the West Bank village of Kfar Kadum, near Nablus January 25, 2013.

The National Interreligious Leadership Initiative called on President Barack Obama's administration to set an immediate priority for launching a "bold new initiative" for an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement.

The group, which includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders from the United States described the situation in the peace process as being close to unraveling. The letter was singed by thirty leaders, including Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) State clerk Gradye Parsons

"Twilight has fallen on the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," the group said. "As Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders committed to peace, we urge immediate, sustained U.S. leadership before darkness falls on the hopes for a peaceful resolution."

Talks for peace between both sides stopped in 2010 amid a dispute over Israel's decision to continue building settlements in the West Bank. At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not extend a 10-month building freeze in the area.

King Abudllah of Jordan urged resumption of negotiations between both sides and a two-state solution, adding that both sides needed to reach a deal before the end of President Obama's term in four years.

"There is no time left for Israel to play the waiting game," Abdullah said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, according to Bloomberg. "The two-state solution will only survive as long as the end of President Obama's term. Beyond that, if we don't fix it in the next four years, I don't believe it will ever happen."

Israeli President Shimon Peres met with King Abdullah on he sidelines of the WEF, reported Israeli publication Haaretz, citing unnamed sources from the president's office. They both agreed every effort should be made to restart negotiations as soon as possible, the report stated.

The interreligious group cited "lives lost and shattered" recently during violent conflicts in Southern Israel and Gaza, warning that such conflict would continue with a resolution.

"What we have seen, recently and before, will keep happening if movement towards a viable two state-solution continues to stagnate," the group said. "The status quo is unsustainable and dangerous to both Israelis and Palestinians. Now is not the time for another cycle of recriminations. It is time to break the cycle of violence with bold initiatives for peace."

The group affirmed President Obama's "support for a negotiated two-state peace agreement that provides for a secure and recognized Israel living in peace alongside a viable and independent Palestinian state.

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