Since its establishment, the State of Israel has not known a day of peace with any neighbor save Egypt. On many occasions we have expressed our shared pain with Israel over the continuing threats to its existence by its neighbors. We have urged its neighbors to end their intransigence, and we have urged Israel to take bold initiatives to bring peace to the region. For example, we recall that in 1983 the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolved "while Israel itself must be the judge of its own security needs, these decisions also have a fundamental impact on the moral character of Jewish life and on the democratic nature of the Jewish State. We believe that the legitimate demands of security for Israel can — and must — be reconciled with the dignity, human rights and political rights of Palestinian Arabs. We therefore support the concept of territorial compromise.
The peace conference being held in Madrid provides us with a source of optimism. It fulfills Israel's 43 year dream that Arab countries would sit down face to face with the representatives of the Government of Israel to resolve their differences. It is the first time since 1948 that representatives of the Israeli government and the Palestinian people have sat together in formal discussions to seek ways to accommodate their overlapping hopes and aspirations. That the structure of the peace talks involves direct bilateral negotiations is, in and of itself, a major step forward; that it also involves regional discussions addressing regional economic and environmental concerns holds open the hope for that kind of long-term cooperation and stability which is indispensable for a real and lasting peace.
The Gulf War has brought drastic changes to the Middle East which make peaceful resolution of long lasting differences a compelling necessity. Conventional wisdom as to sources of security for the states of the region is called into question by the realities of modern warfare. The material costs of war alone must stagger even the healthiest of economies and come at the expense of essential social programs.
The human costs dwarf the material costs. The toll paid initially by the victims of Iraqi aggression and then by people on all sides cannot make even those who escaped relatively unscathed feel secure with a state of perpetual belligerency. Under threat of chemical and biological attack during the despicable Scud missile onslaught, Israel displayed bravery and unprecedented restraint. However, Israelis are left with a new sense of vulnerability to the weapons of modern warfare and the threats of hostile neighbors. Sober reassessment must leave all the states of the region more open and more determined to find means to resolve their differences peacefully and turn their attention to meeting the urgent and growing needs of their own peoples.
THEREFORE, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations resolves to:
- Commend the United States government for its dogged determination in convening the Madrid conference on peace in the Middle East.
- Commend the State of Israel, its Arab neighbors, and the Palestinian representatives for attending the conference at the invitation of the United States and the Soviet Union.
- Call upon the participants and all other states in the region to join in all relevant phases of the talks, and to demonstrate the necessary patience, flexibility of position, and good will for what is certain to be a lengthy and difficult process.
- Call on the government of the United States to act as an honest broker, without imposing a solution, if the talks should falter, and to do so in the framework of the Camp David accords and UN Resolutions 242 and 338.
- Call upon the governments of the world to end the arms race in the Middle East in a manner consistent with the security of Israel. Such a step is indispensable to the stabilization of the region without which peace will not be possible. Such a process should begin with, but not be limited to, a ban on the sale or transfer of missile technologies as well as chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, the materials from which they are made, and the technology required for their production. We specifically call on the Congress and Administration of the United States of America and the Canadian Government to enact legislation and adopt policies to this end.