A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest
FCNL Urges Obama to Support Immediate Gaza Ceasefire, All Inclusive Negotiations, and Lifting BlockadeFCNL sent the following letter to the Obama transition team on December 31, 2008. We urge you to take action by asking your own member of Congress to support a ceasefire here.
December 31, 2008
Dear President-Elect Obama,
Israeli and Palestinian fighting today demonstrates again that war is not the answer, and that civilians are not protected by military force. To protect Palestinian and Israeli civilians and advance U.S. interests in the Middle East we urge you to launch an immediate and vigorous U.S. diplomatic initiative from day one of your presidency to secure a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, lift the Gaza blockade, and engage all parties to the conflict, including Hamas, in active negotiations to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace.
The continuing conflict, and especially the Israeli offensive in Gaza employing U.S.-supplied F-16 aircraft and GBU-39 “bunker buster” bombs, is highly detrimental to the national security interests of the United States. Hundreds have been killed and wounded in the fighting. The continuing conflict and the present carnage fan the flames of anti-U.S. and anti-Israel sentiment in the Arab and Muslim worlds and incite extremist violence. The results are diminished U.S. influence and economically crippling security costs for the United States. The compelling U.S. interest, and also obviously the compelling Israeli and Palestinian interest, is to end the killing and resolve the conflict. The goal must be to achieve human security throughout the Middle East at a cost the United States can afford from the Mediterranean to Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan.
In July 2008 you visited Sderot, the Israeli town hit hardest by Qassam rockets fired from Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian factions. You said then, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that… And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” U.S. policy should take this declaration seriously. The first thing that it is in the power of the U.S. to do is to engage with all parties to the conflict. We urge you to exercise U.S. power to protect innocent civilians by taking strong diplomatic initiatives that exclude no one. The rocket fire from Gaza can be stopped by a U.S. policy of engagement with all elected Palestinian political groups and encouragement of reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas. A durable ceasefire in both Gaza and the West Bank, that includes an end to the humanitarian crisis and blockade of Gaza, is easily within the reach of U.S. diplomacy, if you have the political will to achieve it. Israel and Hamas negotiated a ceasefire with Egyptian help that drastically reduced the violence for six months. Had the U.S. also engaged and pressed Hamas and Israel to sustain and expand the agreement, the current tragic round of death and destruction would have been averted.
The U.S. should apply the lessons learned in Iraq to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The key change in U.S. policy in Iraq was not its troop surge but rather its decision to engage with all political factions, including those that had killed U.S. troops. That shift from reliance on military muscle to political initiative succeeded in reducing violence and promoting agreement in Iraq, regardless of what more must be done to achieve peace there. The same change in policy to inclusive diplomacy can succeed in the Israel-Palestine conflict. That change is urgently needed now, as so many die and chaos engulfs life in Gaza and southern Israel. We urge you to assert the U.S. interest in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through nonmilitary, diplomatic means.