West Bank Priest Calls on President Obama

JERUSALEM (CNS) — U.S. President Barack Obama must be more pro-active in his support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas rather than denigrating his ability to bring about a peace agreement with Israel, said a West Bank priest.

“America has to support President Abbas” to provide a better life for the people, said Father Firas Aridah of St. Joseph Parish in Jifna. “When Palestinians can go through checkpoints in a good way with good treatment, when roads are opened, you are giving them an opportunity for hope.”

In an open letter to Obama, released in early June, Father Aridah noted that Abbas has “clearly stated his … willingness to achieve a permanent and comprehensive peace agreement.”

“Mr. President Obama: Local government and international intervention (including that of the United States) has failed for too long to do what is necessary. Prolonging the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis will serve only the extremists on both sides and will weaken the supporters of peace on both sides. If you intervene you can save the prospect of peace, before it is extinguished by extremism and violence,” Father Aridah wrote in his letter.

In a June 11 phone interview with Catholic News Service, Father Aridah said Abbas is “working very hard seeking peace and security for everyone, including Palestinians and Israelis.”

“If he is weak it is because of the situation which is not supporting him. Israel is not doing anything to support Abbas and must stop building the illegal settlements,” the priest told CNS.

Father Aridah, a Jordanian national, said he wrote the letter in response to Obama’s June 6 statement to a group of rabbis in which the U.S. president said he feared Abbas may be too weak and may not have the desire to follow through with a peace agreement.

The priest accused Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of not wanting to deliver a peace agreement, citing his continued establishment of illegal settlements in Palestinian territory.

The only way to establish true peace between the Palestinians and Israelis is to create conditions for a stability and economically feasibility, Father Aridah told CNS.

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