New York, New York - December 29, 2008 Meretz USA Chairman, Theodore Bikel, and Honorary Life President, Harold Shapiro, have called for an, "immediate and absolute cessation of violence between Israel and the Hamas," stressing the urgent need to, "forestall a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, preserve Israel's security, and maintain space for diplomatic progress."
Bikel and Shapiro stated that any cease-fire must be accompanied and buttressed by three elements:
· Sustained diplomatic talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority;
· The verifiable termination of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip;
· The lifting of the economic blockade on Gaza.
The full text of the statement by the Meretz USA Chairman and Honorary Life President follows:
Meretz USA calls for the immediate and absolute cessation of violence between Israel and the Hamas.
Understanding that only such a result can forestall a humanitarian disaster in Gaza, preserve Israel's security, and maintain space for diplomatic progress, we urge all parties concerned to engineer an urgent and complete cease-fire that will be accompanied and reinforced by the following elements:
1. Sustained diplomatic talks between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority.
Such talks should be aimed, in the short term, at easing conditions in the West Bank and Gaza in order to reduce tension and strengthen Palestinian moderates; and, in the long term, at the achievement of an equitable two-state solution which hardliners on both sides - Hamas being one of them - continue to oppose.
2. The verifiable termination of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
The cease-fire should not serve as a respite during which the Hamas expands and improves its armaments and military capability.
3. The lifting of the economic blockade on Gaza.
The consistent provision of humanitarian aid must be guaranteed and the security situation must not be exploited by Israel to collectively punish the Palestinian people through the smothering of their economy.
Neither the Israeli government nor the Hamas are beyond reproach. Hamas' policy of intentionally targeting Israeli non-combatants; its public declaration ending the cease-fire earlier this month; its dangerously provocative rocket and mortar fire into Israel to underscore its defiance; and its notorious unwillingness to recognize Israel or abide by the agreements made by the Palestinian Authority should not be overlooked by those quick to blame Israel for all ills.
At the same time, Israel has been the dominant party in the conflict for 40 years - continuing its settlement policy unabated, trying to impose its will on the Palestinian people and leadership, denying civil and human rights to millions of Palestinians under occupation, and far too often failing to adequately distinguish in its harsh reprisals between legitimate military targets and the Palestinian civilians who are made to suffer.
At this perilous time, we prevail upon all sides to step back from the brink, lest an ill-advised Israeli ground offensive in Gaza multiply the pain and suffering on both sides and push the prospect of peace even further away.
About Meretz USA
Meretz USA for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace works for a genuine peace between the State of Israel and its neighbors including the creation of a viable, peaceful Palestinian state based on a negotiated land-for-peace solution. Meretz USA supports full civil and human rights for Israeli citizens, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, gender, national origin, or sexual orientation.