BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) national assembly has softened its 2-year-old policy on disinvesting in companies that do business with Israel and has shifted more strongly against late-term abortions.
The new Mideast policy, approved Wednesday, says that regarding both Israel and Palestinian territory, church assets should "be invested in only peaceful pursuits."
The 2004 assembly had vexed grass roots Presbyterians and Jewish groups by authorizing "phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel" because of its policies toward Palestinians.
David Bernstein of the American Jewish Committee's Washington office, who is observing the assembly, said the new wording "subjects Israel to the same process as every other country in the world. That's what we wanted. Singling out Israel is not the way to approach peace in the Middle East."
Delegates approved 381 to 117 the shift in abortion policy, declaring that "viable unborn babies — those well-developed enough to survive outside the womb if delivered — ought to be preserved and cared for and not aborted."
An amendment to add "based on the choice of the mother" was defeated.
The denomination's women's committee said the statement would "undo" years of effort on the issue.
On the Mideast, Presbyterians haven't yet pulled any investments but talked with five corporations involved in Israel: Caterpillar, Citigroup Inc., Industries Inc., Motorola and United Technologies Corp.
Conservatives sponsored an off-floor talk by lay Presbyterian James Woolsey, a CIA director under President Clinton. He said the 2004 action put his church "clearly on the side of theocratic, totalitarian, anti-Semitic, genocidal beliefs, and nothing less."
The statement, approved 483-28, also urges an end to terror against both Israelis and Palestinians. It says a sovereign state has the right to protect its borders but the present location of Israel's security wall "illegally encroaches into the Palestinian territory."
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