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Catholic Bishops Adopt Statement on the Middle East

The U.S. National Conference of Catholic Bishops last Thursday adopted by a nearly unanimous vote, 213-8, a five-point Middle East statement that describes Israel as “a sovereign state” and urges “a homeland of their own” for “the Palestinian Arabs.” This was its first statement on the Middle East issues in five years.

A previous draft of the statement and a subsequent amendment to it called for a “state” for the Palestinian Arabs but in the final draft that went before the Conference as a whole, following discussion Thursday, “homeland” replaced “state” in the text.

The statement called for a comprehensive political solution involving the following: “The rights of Israel to existence as a sovereign state within secure and recognized boundaries; the rights of the Palestinian Arabs to participate in negotiations affecting their destiny, and to a homeland of their own; and just compensation should be provided for all parties concerned, of whatever national origin, deprived of home and property by the three-decades of conflict.”

On “the status of Jerusalem, recognition of its unique religious significance which should be preserved through an international guarantee of access to the holy places, and through the preservation of a religiously pluralist citizenry; United Nations Resolution 242; its continued utility as a basis for a just settlement in the region.”

Previous drafts spoke of compensation to the “Palestinian Arabs” for “past losses” and also to “those Jews and Arabs deprived of home and property ” because of three decades of conflict. But the final statement omitted such designations and recommended compensation for “all parties.”

LIMITATIONS OF CAMP DAVID ACCORDS

About the Camp David accords, the statement said they have “limitations” that “involve both the scope and terms of the agreements.” It said “one form of limitation is evidenced by the need to bring other key actors in the Middle East into the peace-making process.” In addition, the statement said “the question of Palestinian sovereignty remains unresolved by the accords,” and calls for “further negotiations.”

The statement said issues which “exemplify the substantive limits” of the accords are “the status of Jerusalem and the fate of the Palestinians, those living in other occupied territories and in the region of the Middle East. The question of Palestinian sovereignty remains unresolved by the accords, and calls for further negotiations.”

In a section on Lebanon, the bishops said “while a regional peace is a de facto condition for peace in Lebanon, it is not a sufficient condition. Suggesting that Lebanon should have “a new constitution” and declaring “the neutrality of Lebanon must be guaranteed and preserved, to keep the country independent and sovereign, ” the statement observed ” its fabric of political and religious pluralism must be preserved.”

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