The Tines of Israel:
Islam is ready for peace with Israel, says rabbi who has met with ‘whole strata’ of radicals
Ex-cabinet minister Michael Melchior says all are willing for co-existence alongside the Jewish state, but Israel isn’t listening
For 10 years, from 1999, Rabbi Michael Melchior was a member of Knesset, elected via the dovish Meimad faction — the political face of moderate religious Zionism.
Apart from holding a ministerial position with responsibilities for the Diaspora and for social affairs, and deputy ministerial posts in the Education and Foreign Affairs ministries, Melchior worked hard during that period to bolster interfaith dialogue — seeking to provide a kind of religious authorization, from influential Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders, for the political compromises necessary to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A highpoint of that effort was an interfaith summit in Alexandria, in 2002, at which influential religious leaders put their names to a declaration opposing the abuse of religion in the cause of conflict, and asserting the joint interest of the three monotheistic faiths in a joint quest “for a just peace that leads to reconciliation in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, for the common good of all our peoples.”
The signatories — who included six rabbis, four bishops and four sheikhs — stated that “The Holy Land is holy to all three of our faiths. Therefore, followers of the divine religions must respect its sanctity, and bloodshed must not be allowed to pollute it.” And so, declaration continued, “We call on the political leaders of both peoples to work for a just, secure and durable solution in the spirit of the words of the Almighty and the Prophets.”
A decade later, Melchior, 58 and now out of party politics, is if anything more fervent in his belief that the religious support for reconciliation is there — emphatically including from spiritual leaders representing Islam. He says too many Israelis and supporters of Israel have bought into the false assessment that peace with the Palestinians is impossible, that the leadership on the other side is unwilling to make the necessary compromises, and that Muslim religious zealots would prevent any such compromises even if Palestinian political leaders did negotiate it.