CHICAGO, July 26 (UPI) -- The Rev. Jesse Jackson Friday announced a trip to the Middle East to meet with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as well as the heads of various religious communities.
Jackson is scheduled to arrive in Israel Saturday, accompanied by a number of other religious leaders, including Jews and Muslims.
The trip is in response to an invitation by the Middle East Council of Churches issued in May, expressing hope a Jackson visit would help stem the carnage that has plagued the region.
"I cannot say that I or anyone else in the region is very optimistic about the prospects for peace," the letter to Jackson from the Rev. Riad Jarjour said. "There is little receptivity to the notion of non-violence among those caught in the vortex of violence. Churches and the leaders of other religious communities might well be supportive of the principle of non-violence but the challenge is to break into the howling chaos of hysteria wherein violence is bred."
Jackson has tried his hand at diplomacy before. In 1999 he successfully lobbied Yugoslavia's then-President Slobodan Milosevic to release three U.S. soldiers. He also has gone to Syria and Egypt in times of conflict.
In May he issued an open letter to Arafat, urging him to put an end to terrorist attacks.
"Palestinians cannot gain a state by terrorizing Israelis," Jackson wrote in the letter published by the Chicago Sun-Times. "The current wave of terror bombings demonstrates that. The result is Ariel Sharon and the Likud Party are more popular as a fearful people demand retaliation."
Jackson's trip follows an abortive attempt earlier this month by Nation of Islam leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, who also had hoped to meet with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in a bid to diffuse the situation but Israel denied him entry.
Jackson is scheduled to leave the Middle East Aug. 1.