Protestant leaders call for U.N. endorsement of Palestinian membership

NEW YORK (JTA) — Leaders of four American Protestant denominations issued a statement endorsing the Palestinian U.N. bid for statehood.

“The Palestinians deserve membership in the United Nations — not only on the basis of international law and basic fairness — but to help preserve a multi-religious holy land that includes Christian Palestinians,” said the statement, issued last week.

It was signed by Rev. Sharon Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Rev. Geoffrey Black of the United Church of Christ and Gradye Parsons of the Presbyterian Church (USA), each the top officials of their denominations, as well as by James Winkler, general secretary of the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society.

The signatories said they believe Palestinian membership at the United Nations will further the goal of peace and does not preclude direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to resolve the conflict.

Rabbi Noam Marans, the American Jewish Committee’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations, called the statement unhelpful, saying “direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are the only path to sustainable peace.”

“Diverting the drive for Palestinian statehood to the UN without an agreement with Israel will not achieve the aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians for peace and security,” Marans said in a statement.

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