Obama to Receive Christmas Cards Urging Mideast Peace

President Obama can expect to receive numerous Christmas cards this year pressing him to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of mainline and progressive denominations and church organizations, launched a new advocacy effort Wednesday to get American Christians more involved in the Middle East peace process.

The year-long campaign began with a call to thousands of Christians across the country to send Christmas cards to the president. The card is designed by a Palestinian Christian in Bethlehem and includes the verse: "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9). A one sentence message tells Obama that the sender is praying for his work in securing peace and justice for Israelis and Palestinians.

CMEP said it hopes to "overwhelm" the president with support for strong U.S. leadership in brokering a Middle East peace agreement.

"Our Christian faith calls on us to work and pray for peace. Our government has a vital role to play in pursuing a just and lasting agreement for peace with security," explained Warren Clark, executive director of Churches for Middle East Peace. "In our democracy, each of us has an important role to play in working for that solution, regardless of our particular faith tradition."

The United States is trying to coax Israeli and Palestinian leaders to return to the negotiation table after Israel refused to continue freezing settlement construction after a 10-month settlement slowdown expired on Sept. 26. Palestinian leaders have said they will not resume peace talks until Israel stops construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which they claim is part of their future state.

In September, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton insisted that Israeli and Palestinian leaders were "serious" about a peace deal and closed-door negotiations were going well. But the peace process fell apart when Israel did not extend the settlement freeze past the Sept. 26 deadline.

The Obama administration is trying to get Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to agree on a two-state solution that would establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. The difficulty lies in the long-time foes agreeing on borders, security, settlements, refugees, and the possible split of Jerusalem in forming the two states.

CMEP members include The Episcopal Church, National Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church USA, The United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ.