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Franciscan backs two initiatives on Israel

The Israeli Franciscan priest Fr David Jaeger, an expert on relations between Israel and the Holy See, has said peace in the Middle East requires an end both to Palestinian violence and to colonisation by Israel.

The Tablet reports that Fr Jaeger was speaking to the international agency Fides about Pope John Paul's appeal on 14 May for a break in "the immoral chain of provocation and retaliation".

Fr Jaeger thought there were two initiatives which could halt the escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians: the Egypt-Jordan plan and the Mitchell Commission, set up by the United States after the failure of the Sharm-al-Shaikh summit last October.

Both initiatives had the approval of the European Union and the United States. Both agreed, said Fr Jaeger, that "the colonisation carried out by the Israelis is just as violent as the intifada (uprising) launched by the Palestinians".

The Franciscan went on to say that the colonisation promoted by all Israeli governments since the Six-Day War of 1967 "inexorably reduces the territory of Palestine. Slowly but surely Israel advances with its buildings and settlers, until there is little left to negotiate."

According to Fr Jaeger, the international community, as well as public opinion in Israel, was saying that colonisation by Israel must be stopped at the same time as the Palestinian intifada.

Fr Jaeger said world opinion had been shocked by the Palestinian killing of two Israeli boys in the West Bank.

"Violence such as this hardens hearts and thwarts the many peace efforts being made by international mediators", he said. For the Mitchell Commission and the Jordan-Egypt plan to succeed, he said, both sides must "condemn and stop acts of cruelty and commit themselves to respect the humanity and dignity of both peoples".