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Mideast ‘road map’ delivered; plan opposed by some Christians

WASHINGTON (BP)–A “road map” seeking to achieve peace in the Middle East was delivered to Israel and the Palestinians April 30 amid opposition from some Jews and Christians in this country.

The plan, outlined nearly a year ago by President Bush, was officially presented to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and newly sworn-in Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

The United States, Russia, the United Nations and European Union worked together on the plan in an attempt to bring an end to the violence that has long plagued the region. In the last two and a half years, more than 2,000 Palestinians and 700 Israelis have been killed in violence marked by Palestinians suicide bombings and Israeli military attacks.

The plan calls for a Palestinian state with temporary borders this year and a permanent state in 2005. According to news reports, it requires of the Palestinians an immediate cessation of violence against Israel, the dismantling of terrorist organizations and the recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace.

Of Israel, it requires the destruction of Jewish settlements constructed in the West Bank since March 2001 and the freezing of all settlement activity, an end to attacks on Palestinians and to destruction of their homes, and withdrawal to the borders in place before Israel gained new territories in the 1967 war. It also apparently would result in the division of Jerusalem between the Palestinians and Israelis.

In an April 30 statement, Bush said, “Implementing the road map will depend upon the good faith efforts and contributions of both sides. The pace of progress will depend strictly on the performance of the parties.

“The United States will do all it can to seize this opportunity,” he said.

One leading American Jewish organization welcomed the road map, calling it a “real opportunity for the Palestinians to once and for all cut their ties to terrorism.”

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee “does not agree with those who would dismiss the road map, because that would lead to an impasse in the peace process,” AIPAC said in a written statement. “Nor do we agree with those who uncritically endorse a road map to statehood whether or not the Palestinians meet their commitments to end terrorism.”

Most of the members of Congress signed onto letters to Bush supporting his principles for a Mideast peace. Eighty-eight senators and 313 representatives signed the letters, which called on the Palestinians to dismantle the terrorist organizations as a first step, according to AIPAC.

Some American supporters of Israel, however, have been outspoken in their opposition to the road map. Among these are the National Unity Coalition for Israel, which represents more than 200 Christian and Jewish organizations in the United States, and the Jerusalem Prayer Team.

Mike Evans, an evangelist who heads the Jerusalem Prayer Team, has called the road map an “outrageous plan.” The organization’s website carries a petition to President Bush opposing the road map, which has tallied 22,500-plus Internet signees. The petition states in part, “We realize there have been many who claim to represent Christians who support the ‘Road Map Plan.’ They place no more importance on Israel than they do on Istanbul; and count Jerusalem no more significant than Johannesburg.”

Cal Thomas, a syndicated columnist and evangelical Christian, criticized the plan as “sham Middle East Theater” in his April 30 column.

“Having gained so many concessions from Israelis without living up to a single agreement they have signed, Palestinian leaders are not about to rescind their political-religious objective of eliminating Israel as a state and the Jewish presence in the region,” Thomas wrote.

“The minimum requirement before moving ahead with any ‘road map’ is for Mr. Abbas and his cabinet to renounce violence as a means of achieving their objectives and then begin dismantling the terror infrastructure that has murdered schoolchildren and adult civilians for more than three decades,” Thomas wrote. “If that happens, the pressure will shift to Israel to reciprocate. But it won’t happen because this conflict isn’t about ‘two states living side by side in peace,’ as Mr. Bush wants. It is about creating a new state that will be used as a base to eliminate Israel.”

While Israel has expressed serious reservations about the plan and new Palestinian leader Abbas has denounced terrorism, at least one Islamic terrorist group said it would not cooperate with the Palestinian agreement to the road map.

“The road map aims to assure security for Israel at the expense of the security of our people. It is a plan to liquidate the Palestinian cause [for independence]. It is rejected by us,” said Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, according to Reuters News Service.

Hamas was one of the groups that took credit for a suicide bombing that killed three people in Tel Aviv on the same day the road map was delivered to both sides. On May 1, Israeli soldiers attacked the home of a Hamas member in Gaza, killing 12 people in the battle.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LATEST PEACE PLAN.