JERUSALEM (Ma'an) -- The Elders, a group of eminent global leaders, said Thursday that settlement expansion, home demolitions and deportations were eroding chances for a two-state solution.
Former US President Jimmy Carter, former Irish President Mary Robinson and Indian women's rights campaigner Ela Bhatt, concluded a week-long visit to Israel and the occupied territories on Friday.
On Thursday, the group visited the flashpoint neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem. After meeting experts and residents, Robinson said she was "shocked at the practices the Jerusalem authorities are being allowed to get away with. All kinds of clever methods are being used to surround and squeeze the Palestinian population – tunnels, settler houses, new roads, and now tourist attractions."
The delegation conveyed their concerns about settlement building to the Mayor of Jerusalem, warning him that current planning policies were "a serious obstacle to an Arab-Israeli peace agreement," a joint statement said.
Carter said Israel's treatment of its Arab citizens and other minorities was "very disturbing," and said Israel was in danger of damaging its credibility as a democracy.
"These people have not enjoyed equal social, economic and political rights for decades. Now there are more than twenty proposed new laws that would further erode their rights. I am particularly concerned about proposals to require non-Jews to pledge loyalty to Israel as a Jewish state. I do not see how such an oath can be consistent with the rights of Muslims, Christians and others who are not Jews."
Bhatt said the situation had noticeably deteriorated since last year, but urged against a return to violence.
Concluding their visit, the delegation reiterated that a greater sense of urgency was need, and said the "corrosive effect of cynicism and complacency" must be overcome to achieve a durable two-state solution. Noting that Israel already enjoyed a high standard of living, and that its powerful military seemed to provide many Israelis with a sense of security, the group urged greater unity in the Arab world on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.