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Cablegate: Codel Wolf and Pm Olmert Discuss Role of Religious Leaders

VZCZCXRO4863
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHTV #0146/01 0171153
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171153Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5039
INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 000146

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL KIRF KWBG IS
SUBJECT: CODEL WOLF AND PM OLMERT DISCUSS ROLE OF RELIGIOUS LEADERS
IN PEACE PROCESS

REF: 2007 SECTO 14

TEL AVIV 00000146 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) Summary: On January 8, Congressmen Frank Wolf (R-VA) and
Joe Pitts (R-PA) -- accompanied by Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of
Washington, former Ambassador and Congressman Tony Hall, and DCM --
met with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to discuss the efforts
of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land
(Interfaith Council) to promote coexistence among Muslims,
Christians and Jews in Israel and the Palestinian territories. The
brief meeting was warm and cordial, and focused on efforts to bring
the Interfaith Council into the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace
process, as well as improving GOI relations with the Holy See. See
para 7 for Interfaith Council background. End Summary.

-----------------------------------
Seeking a Role in the Peace Process
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) Prime Minister Olmert opened the meeting by expressing
optimism on the upcoming visit of President Bush and satisfaction
with the good meetings he had earlier in the day with Tony Blair and
PA President Abbas. Olmert agreed with the codel that it was
important for people of all religions to learn to live together in
peace. He emphasized that he had learned much about the diverse
religious beliefs present in Israel and their impact on politics
while he was mayor of Jerusalem. He stressed that the very
diversity which was potentially divisive in Jerusalem was in fact
its strength, and was key to moving forward in the difficult peace
process.

3. (SBU) Congressman Wolf congratulated Olmert on his leadership
and wished him the best in the upcoming meetings. He noted that the
Interfaith Council was asking all religious leaders in the U.S. to
pray the first Sunday of every month for peace in the Middle East.
He also recounted the positive steps the Interfaith Council had
accomplished in just a year since its creation, including a series
of constructive joint statements and the establishment of a
mechanism to monitor and respond to religious incitement directed at
the adherents of any faith.

4. (SBU) Ambassador Hall asked Olmert if he would be willing to
meet with the Interfaith Council and its lead Israeli coordinator,
Rabbi David Rosen. Ambassador Hall argued that such a meeting would
go a long way in reinforcing the council's credibility and would
allow the council to continue bringing religious leaders together to
further the peace process. Olmert responded that he would be
delighted to meet with the council and he could see nothing but
"benefits" from such a meeting. Olmert went on to praise the
council's work and promised to support their efforts.

5. (SBU) Congressman Pitts suggested that the Interfaith Council
could play a role in the monitoring process that would accompany the
Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. In particular, he thought
the council could add value by monitoring textbooks and the
educational curriculum in the West Bank. Olmert responded that this
was a good idea and that he would explore the possibility.

--------------------------------------
Visa Restrictions for Christian Clergy
--------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Cardinal McCarrick pointed out the Vatican and the GOI
have had a formal and "very special" relationship since the signing
of the Fundamental Agreement over 14 years ago. Echoing earlier
statements by other senior Vatican officials, McCarrick said he was
concerned that the relationship was being strained due to the
inability of both sides to reach a consensus on the visa issue. The
Vatican understood and respected the GOI's legitimate security
concerns with regard to granting visas for people to enter Israel or
the Palestinian territories. However, the policy of restricting
visas for Christian clergy and laypeople of Arab origin was
unnecessary and damaging to Israel's international reputation.
McCarrick expressed concern that many Catholic as well as Lutheran
and other Christian projects were jeopardized due to a lack of
progress on the visa issue. Olmert thanked the Cardinal for
bringing this issue to his attention and promised to work with the
MFA to resolve the issue. Olmert promised to find a solution and
bring the "special relationship" back to where it should be.

------------------------------------
Background on the Interfaith Council
------------------------------------

7. (U) The Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land was
established in late 2006 at the initiative of Cardinal McCarrick and
Ambassador Hall, with financial support from USAID and the Norwegian
Government. The council is comprised of the leaders of the three
Abrahamic faiths in Jerusalem, as recognized by the Israeli and PA

TEL AVIV 00000146 002.2 OF 002


governments. Its stated purpose is to make the religions of the
Holy Land an instrument for peace rather than an excuse for
conflict. The council meets in or near Jerusalem on an ad hoc basis
(every 1-2 months), sometimes with the participation of McCarrick,
Hall or other international supporters. Secretary Rice met with the
council during her October visit to Jerusalem (reftel).

8. (U) The Council consists of:

Jewish:
Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger
Chief Rabbi of Haifa Shear-Yashuv Cohen, Chief Rabbinate
Rabbi David Rosen, Chief Rabbinate, American Jewish Committee
Inter-religious Affairs Director
Oded Weiner, Chief Rabbinate

Christian:
Greek Orthodox Patriarch Theophilus III
Latin Patriarch Michel Sabah
Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem Suheil Dawani
Lutheran Bishop of Jerusalem Munib Younan

Muslim:
Sheikh Taysir Al-Tamimi, Supreme Judge of the Islamic Courts,
Palestinian Authority
Minister Jamal Bawatna, PA Minister of the Waqf
Sheikh Mraish
Sheikh Hamed Al-Tamimi
Salah Zuheikeh, Director, Fatah for Jerusalem

9. (U) Codel Wolf has cleared this cable.

JONES

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