More than 30 Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders in the United States called for a two-state solution to the Israel-Gaza conflict in a strongly-worded statement issued on Thursday. “This tragic escalation of violence demonstrates once again that there is no such thing as a stable status-quo in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the leaders insisted in the Aug. 14 message. “It is more urgent than ever that the United States and the international community press for a two-state peace agreement.” The recent conflict between Israel and Hamas has halted for a ceasefire which ends Monday at midnight. Both a return to the “previous status quo” and the sustainment of the conflict are dangerous, the religious leaders warned. The two-state agreement, they insisted, is “the only realistic resolution of the conflict in which both people can live in peace, security, and mutual recognition.” “We strongly supported Secretary of State Kerry’s efforts to achieve a negotiated peace agreement, and urge the United States to renew efforts to reach a two-state agreement as soon as possible,” the statement read. Such a solution might not currently be set in stone but would be based upon previous agreements, the group stated. “While none of the previous plans present a complete outline, the Taba Agreement (2000), the Arab Peace Initiative (2002), People’s Voice Initiative (2003), Geneva Accord (2003), and the (unofficial) Israeli Peace Initiative (2011) are sources for principled and practical ideas to help resolve all the issues, including borders and security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem,” the group stated. “We were appalled by the kidnappings and murders of Israeli and Palestinian teenagers. We believe the loss of even one human life is a tragedy that grieves God. In the recent weeks of war between Hamas and Israel, we mourn the innocent civilians killed. We offer our prayers as well for the wounded and for the families of all the victims of violence,” the leaders stated. The latest round of violence began July 7, following the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens, and the July 2 killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem. Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Among Israelis, on the other side, 64 soldiers have been killed, and three civilians. The statement was signed by 34 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders representing the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East. The Catholic signatories were Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines. Among the other Christian signatories were Archimandrite Nathanael Symeonides, ecumenical officer of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and Katharine Schori, an Episcopal bishop. Other signatories were David Saperstein, a rabbi and president Obama's choice for ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom, and Mohammed Magid, an imam and president of the Islamic Society of North America.
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