Both Sides Have to Give In, Mideast Expert Says

Franciscan Urges to Guerrilla Violence and Israeli Colonization

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Peace in the Middle East demands an end to Palestinian guerrilla violence and to Israeli colonization of the occupied territories, says a Franciscan.

Israeli Franciscan Father David Jaeger, an expert in relations between Israel and the Vatican, spoke with the international agency Fides about John Paul II´s appeal Sunday for a break in «the immoral chain of provocation and retaliation.» Father Jaeger was involved in the agreements that opened relations between the state of Israel and Rome.

«There are two initiatives,» he said, «which could offer a way out and halt the escalation of reciprocal violence between Israelis and Palestinians: the Egypt-Jordan plan and the Mitchell Commission, set up by the United States after the Sharm-el-Sheik summit failed.

«Both these initiatives, which have the approval of the European Union … [and] the United States, connect the Palestinian intifada with Israeli colonization, and agree that violence on both sides must stop, before negotiations for a lasting peace can begin.»

Both the plan and commission «agree that the colonization being carried out by Israel is just as violent as the intifada launched by the Palestinians,» the Franciscan said.

He continued: «With this colonization» — promoted by all Israeli governments since 1967 — «day after day Israel inexorably reduces the Palestinian territories in question. While everyone hopes that Israel and Palestine will resume negotiations, slowly but surely Israel advances with its buildings and settlers, until there is little left to negotiate.»

Because of this, the «international community, as well as a good part of public opinion in Israel, is saying that colonization by Israel must be stopped at the same time as the Intifada by Palestine,» Fr. Jaeger added.

The Franciscan said he believes that the conflict has degenerated to inhuman levels.

«World public opinion was shocked by the ferocious killing of two 14-year-old boys on May 9 in the West Bank area,» Father Jaeger said. «The boys were stoned to death with cold-blooded vengeance; their skulls smashed to small pieces, their bodies tortured to the point that not even Israeli propaganda had the courage to show the pictures.»

«Violence such as this hardens hearts and thwarts the many peace efforts being made by international mediators,» he lamented.

«For the recommendations of the Mitchell Commission and neighboring Jordan to take effect, both sides must take a stand for humanity,» the Franciscan said. «They must condemn and stop similar acts of cruelty and commit themselves unconditionally to respect the humanity and dignity of both peoples.»

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