Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land
Paradox Ministries: Promoting Reconciliation

Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land

Paradox Newsletter 36 April 2013

April 8th, 2013 . by admin



One of the great hindrances to peace is, of course, the refusal of Hamas to recognise Israel and its commitment to armed struggle. Hamas felt it had won a victory against Israel in the conflict which took place in November last year. Back in December Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal stated: “We are not giving up any inch of Palestine. It will remain Islamic and Arab for us and nobody else. Jihad and armed resistance is the only way. We cannot recognise Israel’s legitimacy.” Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu noted that Palestinian President Abbas did not condemn this statement. On the other hand, Meshaal is reported as telling King Abdullah of Jordan that he was prepared to accept a two-state solution. Also an Islamic cleric in the Gaza Strip issued a fatwa which stated that violating the truce with Israel would be a sin.

Nevertheless a rocket was fired from Gaza into Israel at the end of February and five were fired in a 24 hour period last week causing Israel to make an air attack. One of the causes is the death from cancer of a Palestinian activist in an Israeli prison. Such people are held in very high regard by Palestinians and they accuse Israel of not providing sufficient medical care. Israel has admitted an appeal for early release on medical grounds was not heard quickly enough.

Last week also the UN closed its crucial aid programme in Gaza after violent demonstrations took place against financial cut backs in its programme.

Hamas also saw their victory as undermining the diplomatic approach of Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of Fatah in the West Bank. However there have been signs of reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah which included a large Fatah rally in the Gaza Strip celebrating the anniversary of Fatah in January and Hamas held rallies in the West Bank. Also Hamas and Fatah leaders met in Cairo with President Morsi to work towards a unity government.


The Palestinian Authority officially asked to become a “non-member observer state” at the UN on November 29th – the anniversary of the 1947 UN division to divide Palestine and create an Israeli state. The UN voted overwhelmingly in favour (138 for, 9 against, 41 abstentions) despite Israeli and US objections. A Palestinian flag was unfurled on the floor of the General Assembly. President Abbas signed a presidential decree changing the name of the Palestinian Authority to the “State of Palestine.”

This is not just a symbolic victory (particularly for President Abbas, including over Hamas). It allowed the Palestinians to join various UN bodies including the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. This means they could take Israel to that court over what they see as illegal actions. Various European countries tried unsuccessfully to get the Palestinians to state officially they would not do this, particularly seeking prosecutions against Israeli troops for what they see as war-crimes and against the West Bank settlements.

Israel decided to punish the Palestinians for their successful application to the UN and planned 3000 new homes including in the E1 area, north-east of Jerusalem, which will bisect the West Bank and hinder Palestinian hopes of sharing Jerusalem in a future two-state solution. It also withheld millions of pounds worth of Palestinian Authority tax money, which was intended for Palestinian salaries, claiming it was being used to pay Palestinian debts to Israel (but without any agreement from the Palestinians).


Predictably, punishment of the Palestinians increased Israel’s isolation in the world because various countries, including its main ally – the US, strongly disapproved. It also led to Palestinian threats to take Israel to the International Criminal Court. One of Israel’s concerns is that such legal action could encourage the trend, already underway in Europe, for foreign banks and companies to refuse investment in the settlements. The UN Human Rights Council strongly condemned Israel at the end of January and urged economic and political sanctions against it. Some countries, of course, have an anti-Israel bias but even friends of Israel were very critical. This included some overseas Jewish people. Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the US Union for Reform Judaism said that American Jews (who fund pro-Israel members of Congress) are beginning to think Israel doesn’t share their values. This view is shared by other US Jewish leaders and is deeply worrying for Israel. Israeli President Shimon Peres told the New York Times in January: “We must not lose the support of the United States. What gives Israel bargaining power in the international arena is the support of the United States… Without US support, it would be very difficult for us. We would be like a lone tree in the desert.”

Last week 100 prominent US Jews wrote a letter to Netanyahu: “We believe that this is a compelling moment for you and your new government to respond to President Obama’s call for peace by taking concrete confidence building
steps designed to demonstrate Israel’s commitment to a ‘two-states for two peoples’ solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We urge you, in particular, to work closely with Secretary of State John Kerry to devise pragmatic initiatives, consistent with Israel’s security needs, which would represent Israel’s readiness to make painful territorial sacrifices for the sake of peace.”

Barack Obama, who had been humiliated by Netanyahu before the 2012 US election, appointed Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defence. This was a very controversial choice with Hagel being accused of being anti-Semitic and criticising the pro-Israel lobby in Congress. Hagel strongly denied these charges. However the message coming from the US after Obama’s re-election was critical of Israel, and Netanyahu in particular, over the stalemate in the peace process.


It was widely expected that Netanyahu would win the Israeli election in January and this would lead to the most right wing government in Israel’s history. However Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned in December after being indicted for breach of trust and that removed one right wing influence. Netanyahu’s Likud party linked up with Yisrael Beiteinu, which rejects a Palestinian state and said recently: “The demand to establish a Palestinian state, and for the ‘Right of Return’ [of Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel] were designed to camouflage the real objective, which is to erase the State of Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state.”

In the end Netanyahu only won with the narrowest of victories. He lost some 25% of his support. Israel showed it was worried about the rightward drift of politics and the strained relationships with the US. Eventually a coalition was formed of Likud (centre-right), Yisrael Beiteinu (right wing), Yesh Atid (centre, pro-peace), Hatnua (liberal, strongly pro-peace) and Jewish Home (right wing).

The right wing has dominated Israel since 1977. Many believe Israel has rights to the biblical territory occupied in 1967. They are sceptical of the peace process. They feel that the negative result of Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, which has led to what it regards as a terrorist government (Hamas) taking over, confirms their scepticism of the effectiveness of a land for peace policy. But the election has seen a reaction against the problems caused by a right wing policy. So there may be more hope for the Peace Process. After all, previous Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had agreed with Abbas on how to divide up some 99% of the West Bank. Also the Fatah leadership seems increasingly to have concluded armed struggle is futile.

Israel ceased its freeze on Palestinian Tax money in January and also decided to allow more building materials into Gaza. It is considering easing other restrictions.


Israel is virtually surrounded by political instability, especially after the “Arab Spring” and the civil war in Syria, which has already led to minor military action between Israel and Syria. There are fears that the Arab Spring might affect Jordan. Then there is the threat of Iran developing a nuclear capability. Major-General Aviv Kochavi, Israel’s head of military intelligence said there was “a very deep and fundamental change” – social, economic, religious and ethnic in the Middle East and “the reaction and counter-reaction have only just begun.” Another military leader spoke of Israel “being in the middle of a storm whose outcome we cannot know” and of “Turkey, Iran and Egypt still playing out their ancient contest for control of the region.”

In this context Obama’s visit was particularly welcome. He came to discuss all these issues but also to promote the Peace Process. His visit followed a Gallup World Affairs survey published in February which showed that 54% of Israelis favoured the establishment of a Palestinian state (although many thought a peace deal with the Palestinians would be practically impossible). It is interesting that, amongst the right wing, 57% of Likud voters and 58% of Jewish Home voters favoured a Palestinian state so long as it is demilitarised and Palestinian refugees could only return to that Palestinian state, not Israel.

When he arrived in late March, Obama said: “Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realisation of an independent and viable Palestine. It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own. The Palestinians also deserve justice. Put yourself in their position; see the world through their eyes.”

In December the Palestinian Authority said it was launching a new initiative to restart the Peace Process, which has been stalled since 2010, and this would include calling on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners and to cease settlement development.

Obama didn’t pressurise Israel over the settlements but he did urge Abbas to drop his demand for a freeze on settlements, saying “that if the expectation is that we can only have direct negotiations when everything is settled ahead of time then there is no point for negotiations.” He also urged Abbas not to take Israel to the International Court, and Abbas has agreed to suspend such action. American Secretary of State, John Kerry, is continuing efforts to bring a resumption of peace talks and is prepared to invest three to six months to achieve this. America is enlisting the support of Turkey and moderate Arab states to encourage a resumption of the peace process.

If the Peace Process remains in stalemate and Israel continues to expand the settlements and not to control extreme settlers, there is a danger of another Intifada (violent Palestinian uprising) despite the Palestinian Authority leadership’s reaction against violence. One hindrance to peace is that there are 650,000 Jewish settlers on the West Bank (10% of the Israeli voters) which can make a big difference in Israeli coalition governments.

One good result of Obama’s visit was the reconciliation between Israel and Turkey after the killing of nine Turkish citizens on a ship bringing aid to Gaza in 2010. Netanyahu apologised for their deaths to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan.

Meanwhile there are reports of injustices and abuses of Palestinians by Israeli military and stone throwing and other disturbances by Palestinians. In March Israel introduced Palestinian-only buses (because of demands by Jewish settlers on security grounds) which has led to accusations of racism and apartheid.

How should we pray? –

1. That the election has produced a government which may be more likely to seek peace.
2. That Israel has loosened its restrictions on Gaza.
3. For President Obama’s visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
4. For the reconciliation between Israel and Turkey.

1. For God to curb extremists on both sides: violent Israeli settlers and Palestinians who might seek to fire rockets, etc.
2. For a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians and for John Kerry and others seeking to facilitate it.
3. That Hamas will become committed to a peace settlement (despite the mixed messages).
4. For God to bring peace and justice to Syria.
5. For God to frustrate the intentions of extremists throughout the Middle East.
6. For God to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons.
7. For peace, stability and true democracy in all Middle East countries.
8. Pray for the evangelistic and reconciliation ministry of Rachel Netanel in Jerusalem


Is it right to divide the Promised Land? See
My attitude towards Israel and the Palestinians. See

SUPPORT BEIT NETANEL (“House of Netanel”): the evangelistic and reconciliation ministry of Rachel Netanel in the outskirts of Jerusalem, which seeks to reach Israelis (Jewish and Arab) and Palestinians with the Gospel in their own language and culture, bringing Jews and Arabs together under the love of Jesus, eating and studying together in a family atmosphere. Rachel holds a weekly meeting of some 50 people, group meetings for 10-20 people, bi-monthly meetings for 100-200 and daily individual ministry. Over 2000 people have heard the Gospel. Her newsletter is available through Paradox. Her website is

Please send your cheque made out to “Paradox Ministries” to Rev Tony Higton, 17 Church View Marham, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE33 9HW. If you are a UK taxpayer please Gift Aid your donation. Also request a standing order form to support the ministry regularly. Registered Charity No. 1125582

How do we pray according to God’s will?

October 2nd, 2008 . by admin

Having read the prayer topics in a recent Paradox Newsletter, someone wrote asking if there is a conflict between praying that the Israeli government (whether simply with a new prime minister or a new party in power) will fulfil God’s purposes and praying that the Israel-Syria talks will be successful.  I replied: God’s relationship with the world is complex. He works out his sovereign purposes not only through good or justified actions but through the “changes and chances of this mortal life” plus the mistakes and wrong action of human beings. God’s purposes for Israel (or Syria) will not ultimately be frustrated by any such mistakes or wrongdoing by any of the parties involved. In a wonderful way, God weaves good or justified actions, prayers, helpful circumstances, mistakes, wrong actions and bad circumstances into his purposes, and he foresaw them all and wove them into his eternal plans before time began. A nation is justified in protecting itself – including by just military action. That is true for both Israel and Syria.  However, we Christians are called to promote godly qualities like justice, peace, mercy, forgiveness etc. God is a God of justice and peace. We need not worry for one moment that, in so doing, we small creatures might frustrate God’s purposes.  We should pray for those qualities to be promoted and leave the consequences, including the eschatological (End Time) consequences to God. We can, of course, pray that God’s purposes will be furthered. He will use our little prayers in working them out.


May 21st, 2008 . by admin

srael has celebrated its 60th anniversary and the Palestinians held Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day marking the anniversary from a Palestinian viewpoint. However there does seem to be hope in the present situation. One aspect is:



It seems that, through the good offices of the Egyptian Government and General Omar Suleiman (Head of Egyptian Security), that Israel and Hamas may be on the brink of a ceasefire.  Egypt announced it had gained the agreement of 12 organisation on the Palestinian side, but is still working to get confirmation of the agreement of some smaller groups. It is also awaiting an Israeli response.

Israel has said it will accept the ceasefire but will not make an official commitment to it. Instead it will see if the violence subsides and if it does respond positively, not only by ceasing military operations in Gaza but also by lifting the blockade of Gaza by opening the crossing points and allowing necessary goods into the Strip.

Meanwhile hostilities have continued including a rocket attack on Ashkelon in which 90 Israelis were injured.

Suleiman warned Hamas that if the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was not released as part of prisoner exchange Israel would mount a major offensive against the Gaza Strip.  Hamas appear to be willing to release Shalit but are not prepared to accept the list of 450 Palestinian prisoners Israel is willing to release.

However the fact is that many in Israel feel that such an attack on Gaza would not be effective, would be condemned by the international community and would lead to excessive bloodshed on both sides. A former head of Mossad (Israeli secret service) and former senior military chiefs have recently warned against it.

Also a major Israeli attack on Gaza could precipitate an attack from Hezbollah in the North.  Furthermore, unless there is a ceasefire, Hamas could violently torpedo any agreement between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile Osama bin Laden called on Egyptian Muslim militants to seek to remove the Israeli blockade of Gaza, adding: “We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies … and will not give up a single inch of Palestine as long as there is one true Muslim on earth.”



Israel and Syria are to hold peace talks which have been brought about by Turkish mediation. Secret meetings held between 2004 and 2006 are said to have produced (currently non-binding) political understandings that:

  • Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights to the 1967 lines (the Syrians want that over 5 years, the Israelis over 15).
  • The border will be demilitarised.
  • A buffer zone in the form of a park along the Sea of Galilee, to which both Israelis and Syrians would have free access.
  • Israel will control use of water from the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee.
  • Syria will cease supporting Hezbollah (but urge it to be only a political party) and Hamas (with Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal leaving Damascus) and distance itself from Iran.
  • Syria would encourage peace in Iraq and a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Americans support the talks but if a full peace agreement is to be achieved they would need to be more positive towards Syria politically and diplomatically.



Hezbollah continues to grow in strength and influence in Lebanon. The government decided to dismantle Hezbollah’s telephone system etc., and, as a result, the organisation’s leader Hassan Nasrallah accused them of effectively declaring war on Hezbollah.  Consequently Hezbollah took over West Beirut for a time.

However, the two sides have just signed an agreement in Qatar which hopefully will end the 18-month crisis. Hezbollah gets 11 seats in a new government and the power of veto. The other side will have 16 with three being distributed by the new president.

This means that Hezbollah is effectively running Lebanon which hardly suits Israel.



The peace negotiations continue with both sides claiming there has been progress but still a long way to go.  They are not helped by the fact that Olmert has been subjected to yet another corruption investigation, which weakens him as a peace partner. Some progress has been made over Israel wanting to hand over 90% of the West Bank whilst the Palestinians are demanding 98%. Israel also wants to maintain the major “settlement blocs” and the Jordan Valley.

Both sides were unhappy about Condolezza Rice’s request that they produce a memorandum of understanding on their progress before George Bush visited Israel for its anniversary celebrations.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are both unhappy over a request by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that they publish a memorandum of understanding on the progress of their final-status negotiations to date before U.S. President George Bush arrives on a visit next week.

More recently Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated that the two sides were unlikely to reach agreement on the core issues by the end of 2008. Abbas has threatened that he will resign if agreement is not reached in the next six months.



  1. Give thanks for the agreements about peace talks between Syria and Israel, between the factions in Lebanon and for the Egyptian mediation which promises and imminent Israel-Hamas ceasefire.
  2. However, also pray about the uncertainties, fears, suspicions, secret agendas which, together with the influence of extremists on all sides could hinder success in these processes.
  3. Pray for peace in the region.
  4. Pray for a breakthrough in the Israel-Palestinian peace talks.


May 1st, 2008 . by admin

The current situation is dominated by talk of a short-term ceasefire (tahadiyeh) between Hamas and Israel. Negotiations for a ceasefire do not involve direct contact between Israel and Hamas. It is the Egyptians who are relating to both sides aiming at a six-month cessation of hostilities. They have a vested interest in preventing Hamas being pushed more and more towards extreme groups like Al Qaeda. There were also rumours of a Hamas intention to breach the wall between Gaza and Egypt again, which led to heightened Egyptian security.

Israel is concerned that Hamas will be unable to control smaller terrorist groups such asIslamic Jihad in a ceasefire. Palestinians claim that eleven such groups have agreed to the ceasefire in principle. Under the agreement, Israel would maintain the ceasefire even if there were terror attacks in the West Bank or Israel.  Hamas want the ceasefire to include the West Bank, at least in the near future. Israel would also re-open the Rafah crossing between Gazaand Israel, together with crossings for goods vehicles.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas Prime Minister says the organisation is ready to offer a long-term ceasefire (hudna) if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders and allows a Palestinian state with itscapital in Jerusalem and a right of return for Palestinian refugees.  This creates seriousproblems for Israel. Hamas refuses, however, to recognize Israel as a legitimate state.

FEARS & ADVANTAGES     There are, of course, fears in Israel that a temporary ceasefire will simply allow Hamas breathing space to strengthen its position in Gaza and its ability to attack Israel.  However it is also clear that Hamas has managed to keep up a steady campaign against Israel without a ceasefire. There is also concern that such a ceasefire could strengthen Hamas at the expense of the (Fatah) Palestinian President and negotiator Mahmoud Abbas.

One advantage for Israel is that a ceasefire would allow the re-opening of the Gaza crossings. The very negative effects of the Israeli sanctions on Gaza on the population have been condemned around the world. The United Nations‘ Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that lack of fuel will prevent distribution of food to 650,000 refugees, disrupt 214 schools and 19 health clinics. Hospitals have only a few days worth of fuel. Inoculationsfor 55,000 babies are threatened. Council rubbish collection has ceased.

Israel claims that Hamas itself is preventing the limited amount of fuel coming out of Israelfrom reaching the Gaza population, so creating an economic crisis for propaganda purposes, but Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups call on Israel to stop restricting fuel supplies.  Such a situation affecting one third of the Palestinian population militates against the Israel-Fatah peace negotiations.  A ceasefire would also be very welcome in the constantly bombarded Israeli town of Sderot and the western Negev region of Israel.

A few days ago Miyasar Abu Muatak and her four children Salah, 4, Musad, 18 months, Hanaa, 3, and Rudeynah, 6, sat down to breakfast when two Israeli missiles landed nearby and they were all killed. The IDF claims that the missiles didn’t directly cause the deaths but that they detonated bombs being carried by militants.

Some people in Israel, including Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, are critical of Israel’spotential agreement as legitimizing Hamas.  However former US President Jimmy Carter made a very controversial visit to the region, meeting up with Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas, in Damascus. He maintains that Israel must talk to everyone.

It must also be remembered that Hamas have been trying to improve their image in the West. They hired a media consultant who has helped them to portray themselves as a legitimate resistance movement, forced to attack Israel because of Palestinian suffering.  However anti-Israel terrorism continues and a number of Israelis have been killed in the last few weeks, including two civilians at the Nahal Oz fuel terminal through which Israel provides Gaza with fuel. Three IDF soldiers were ambushed and killed in Gaza. Rocket and mortar attacks have also continued.  Israeli intelligence forces anticipate attacks before Israel’s 60th Independence Day on May 18th.

Israel plans to approve employment of an extra 5000 Palestinian construction workers and it has re-opened the border after terrorist attacks to allow some trucks and some fuel oil through. The IDF is investigating allegations that 46 Palestinians were detained for no reason for 16 hours at a check point and their car tyres were punctured. They were not allowed to sit down or use toilet facilities.

The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank continues to hinder the peace process. Mahmoud Abbas asked President George W. Bush to take action to discourage this.  Another hindrance is 500 IDF roadblocks on the West Bank which Israel has not yet removed. A joint Israeli-Palestinian report claims that ten such roadblocks have little security value and are unnecessarily hindering Palestinian trade.  The group behind the report included Palestinian officials, American experts and two IDF reserve officers who work in the West Bank Civil Administration.

Contact between Israel and Arab states continues. Qatar urged Israel to end the “crippling blockade of Gaza due to the difficult humanitarian situation” and to speed up the peace talkswith the Palestinians.  Oman also has re-established relations with Israel.  Meetings have taken place with Bahrein and United Aran Emirates too.


The other prominent factor on the scene currently is the possibility of talks between Israel and Syria, which are supported by all three candidates in the US Presidential election. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is reported to be willing to consider returning the Golan Heights to Syria. The Syrian Foreign Minister has said that if Israel is serious about this then that would remove the barriers to talks. But he also called for Israel to make a written commitment to withdraw asa condition of talks, which is a problem for Israel. Another call he made was for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders for the sake of a Palestinian state. Syria, however, has said it will not break off relations with Iran for the sake of talking with Israel.

David Tal, Head of the Israel Knesset House Committeee says the Golan should not be returned without a national referendum and he has created a bill to that effect. Some Israelisfear the advance of Hezbollah into the Golan, which overlooks the Sea of Galilee, if the area isreturned to Syria. A recent survey discovered that only 32% of Israelis favour a full withdrawal from the Golan (amongst Jewish Israelis it is 25%). 74% don’t believe Assad is serious about peace.

The Americans decided to reveal the reason for the mysterious Israeli air strike in Syria on September 6th. They say it was on a nuclear reactor being built to produce plutonium with the help of the North Koreans, though the Syrians have denied this. The Americans made thisrevelation to pressurize North Korea into an agreement over nuclear weapons and as a warning to the Iranians. 

Contacts between Israel and Syria began after the Lebanon war in 2006. Syrian President Assad said that Turkey has acted as a mediator since April 2007.


 1.   That there may be a successful ceasefire between Hamas and Israel which will facilitate the peace process.

2.   For the people of Gaza, with Israel’s help, to be released from they serious economic problems which they face and to realise that peace is the best way forward, and to influence the Hamas government accordingly.

3.   For Israel to be serious about the peace process, to curb settlement expansion and remove all unnecessary roadblocks.

 4.  For successful talks between Israel and Syria so that the threat of serious military conflict will recede.


April 11th, 2008 . by admin

The 20th Arab Summit took place in Damascus at the end of March. It was controversial because certain Arab nations wanted to show their disapproval of Syria’s links with radical Islamists. Lebanon did not send any representative. In fact, around half of the Arab leaders didn’t attend.  It did, however, reaffirm the Arab Peace Initiative.

Peace talks continue between Olmert and Abbas and between Ahmed Qureia (chief Palestinian negotiator) and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. All the core issues, including Jerusalem, Israeli settlements and the return of refugees are being discussed. On April 7th Olmert and Abbas stated they intended to reach agreement by the end of 2008, despite hindrances such as terrorism and settlements.

Olmert appears to be hoping their will be some signing ceremony during President Bush’s visit to Israel in May. He is well aware that the new American President will be pre-occupied with major problems such as Iraq, Iran and the current economic crisis.

There are, though, some concerns about the weakness of Abbas and Fatah although one hopeful sign is co-operation between Fatah and Jordan (which certainly does not want a Hamas takeover in the West Bank).

The Americans have pressed Israel to remove 50 roadblocks on the West Bank. Olmert urged the IDF to act sympathetically to Palestinians at roadblocks. “Take all the Palestinians who were stripped at the roadblocks, only because there was concern that some of them were terrorists. Take all those who stand at the roadblocks where there is concern that a car bomb will pass through. This can become a boiling pot that can explode and cause terrible burns, and it can also be something else, which only depends on your understanding and abilities to conduct yourselves with wisdom and determination.”


However Israel is expanding the settlement of Ariel and is building homes for Jewish people in East Jerusalem, which hinders the peace process.


The number of rockets fired from Gaza has reduced, although Islamic Jihad fired 22 on March 26th. Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas, stated that the organisation supports a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem. He also called for the return of Palestinian refugees. Hamas was ready for a ceasefire in Gaza and the West Bank.


However Hamas is building up its weaponry in Gaza. It has 20,000 fighters and has held training sessions in Gaza as well as Syria and Iran. It now has more advanced rockets and anti-tank weapons and is highly organised and prepared.  Hamas is also taking half of the fuel provided by Israel for military use and is thought to be intending to create a fuel crisis as a propaganda move against Israel.

A recent Israeli survey found that 84% of Palestinians support the Yeshiva attack, 64% support the rocket and suicide attacks. On the other hand, two thirds of Palestinians support the Arab peace plan, whereas 57% of Israelis reject it.


There is also extremism on the Israeli side. The senior rabbi in Safed called for the children of the yeshiva terrorist to be hanged from a tree. “It’s time to call a spade a spade name: Revenge, revenge, revenge. We mustn’t forget,” he said. Also, B’Tslelem,, the Israeli human rights organisation, published a report that the IDF had murdered four Palestinian activists in cold blood in Bethlehem.


There were heightened fears in Israel recently about an imminent war with Syria. But following this both sides made it quite clear that they have no intention of attacking each other. There are reports of numerous messages sent by Olmert to President Assad of Syria, but it appears that leading people in Syria reject any contact with Israel. The Americans also oppose peace talks between the two countries.  Ehud Barak, Israeli Defence Minister, said: “Syria is a weak country with many problems, but under certain conditions Israel will be willing to open the door to it. Israel considers negotiations with Syria and removing Syria from the circle of extremists as central to its policy.”


Another factor causing concern in the Middle East is the prospect of regime-change in Egypt. President Mubarak is almost 80 so change must happen soon. Egypt has excluded the extreme Islamist Muslim Brotherhood from the political process but in 2005 many of their candidates stood as independents and won 88 out of 454 parliamentary seats.  If Egypt changed its approach to issues like Hamas this could cause worrying changes in the region.

PRAYER TOPICS 1.       For the continuation of Arab desires for peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  2.       For the success of the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.  3.       For the curtailment of violence and the frustration of extremism.  4.       For peace talks between Israeland Syria.        5.   For stability in Egypt.


March 22nd, 2008 . by admin

After the traumas of the IDF attacks on Gaza and the attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem, there has been a lull in violence. Experience teaches that, even when a situation looks really bleak, it may be that secret negotiations are going on. They are denied, of course, but that is for political reasons. It seems there may have been negotiations between Israel and Hamas, perhaps brokered by Egypt. Israel denies such a deal, claiming that Hamas has acted only because of Egyptian pressure, but Mahmoud Abbas says it has been made. Some Israelis are calling for Hamas to be included in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Hamas claims that the reduction in violence is because Israel realizes its attacks on Gaza have failed to achieve their purpose.

Israel ordered the IDF to show restraint in Gaza and the IDF withdrew ground troops and ceased air attacks. The rocket attacks from Gaza declined dramatically. There are Israeli reports that an informal, unofficial set of rules have been agreed during Condoleeza Rice’s recent visit. However Israel killed five wanted militants on the West Bank, risking retaliation from Islamic Jihad.

It seems that the IDF may have agreed to stop attacks in Gaza if the rocket attacks cease. However air attacks will take place (and have recently taken place) if rockets are fired at Sderot. Apparently the IDF has said it will mount ground attacks if Ashkelon is hit by rockets. The last such ground attack resulted in over 100 Palestinian deaths. It is likely that Hamas has reduced its attacks partly due to pressure from Egypt.  General Omar Suleiman, Egyptian chief of intelligence, is due to visit Israel but his visit has been postponed more than once. Egypt is itself unhappy about the extremism of Hamas and its effect on extremists in Egypt which threaten the government. So the Egyptians are keen to help with negotiations and to seek a ceasefire. They will be rewarded by military aid from the US. Amos Gilad, a leading light in Israel’s security establishment has visited Suleiman in Egypt. Apparently Israel has agreed to more Egyptian forces moving to Sinai and to the Rafah border being opened under the control of a joint commission composed of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt, the EU and the UN. This arrangement could provide a foundation for a ceasefire. Both Hamas and the PA have accepted this agreement, which has been brokered by Egypt. But Hamas is demanding an end to the economic siege of Gaza, which is not fully acceptable to Israel. Hamas also wants its own supporters involved at the Rafah crossing which is a problem for Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. However, it seems that Hamas may be happy with a low-key involvement, allowing Salam Fayyad, PA prime minister, to oversee the security forces, and this may prove acceptable to the PA.

Another helpful move is that Israel and Egypt have agreed that Egypt should largely take over from Israel as the main electricity supplier to Gaza.

However, there is no room for complacency about terrorism. On the Israeli side some very inflammatory statements have emerged from the Israeli right wing concerning revenge for the attack on the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. Rabbi Dov Lior, a graduate of the yeshiva, now head of the Council of Rabbis of Judea and Samaria, pronounced in 2004 that the IDF was justified in killing innocent people. On the Palestinian side, Israel claims to have intelligence of a number of planned terrorist attacks. Their main concern is at the possibility of a combined Hezbollah, Syrian, Iranian response to the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh.

According to the Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar, which is linked with Hezbollah, Syria has conveyed to Israel its willingness to hold peace talks, on condition that there is a ceasefire with the Palestinians, that Israel is willing to withdraw from all “occupied Arab territories” and that simultaneous peace talks take place with the Palestinians and the Lebanese. An Arab summit will take place in Damascus between March 25th and 30th.

Meanwhile the Israeli- Palestinian peace talks have resumed


1. For an effective ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. 2. For the failure of revenge attacks by either right wing Israelis or extreme Palestinians. 3. For God to prosper helpful moves by the Arab nations, especially Egypt. 4. For peace between Israel and Syria.


March 6th, 2008 . by admin

Life in Gaza is bad. There is appalling poverty. Unemployment is 60%. Most people exist on UN food handouts. The hospitals are on the verge of collapse. Many people are being killed – over 100, including children, died in the recent Israeli incursion into the Strip.  Israel claims that 90% of those killed were militants. But B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, claims that “from 27 February to the afternoon of 3 March, 106 Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip. At least fifty-four of the dead (twenty-five of them minors) did not take part in the hostilities. In addition, at least forty-six minors were wounded.”

On the other hand, the Israeli town of Sderot has been on the receiving end of a total of 7694 rockets which have caused injury and death and which have made the population live in constant fear.  No country can allow its innocent civilians to be indiscriminately attacked in this way. Some Israeli response was inevitable.

However, Israel has come under widespread criticism for a disproportionate response to the rocket attacks from Gaza.  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told the Security Council: “While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed an injured so many civilians, including children. I condemn Palestinian rocket attacks, and call for the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism, which serve no purpose, endanger Israeli civilians, and bring misery to the Palestinian people.”

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert responded to this criticism by saying: “I hear criticism and claims that civilians are being hurt and that Israel is using too much force. Israel is defending its residents in the south, and with all due respect, nothing will prevent it from protecting them – and no one has the right to preach to us over actions that are in self defence.”

Israeli Minister of Defence, Ehud Barak had sought legal advice from the Attorney General on the legality of Israel moving Palestinian civilians from the rocket-launching areas.  The answer is that it is not clear if it is legal.

However, the question is whether military action or rocket attacks are the best way forward for the sides carrying the out. The idea that either side can beat the other into submission seems mistaken. The people of Gaza, not just the militants, have received punishment. The rocket attacks from Gaza have not ceased.

One unfortunate development is that, because of the Israeli attacks, Mahmoud Abbas broke off peace talks with Israel and the Egyptian Head of Intelligence cancelled his visit to Israel. This effectively gives the Hamas militants a victory and encourages their intransigence.

It appears that Hamas wants a ceasefire, so long as it doesn’t appear to be a defeat for them. And 64% of Israelis support the idea of the government having talks with Hamas. A Hamas spokesman in Gaza said: “We will halt our fire in exchange for a complete end to Israeli military operations in Gaza and in the West Bank, and a lifting of the blockade on Gaza. Otherwise, we have no intention of halting our activities against Israel.”  The Israeli and Fatah negotiating teams were due to re-establish contact today and Condoleeza Rice has stated she believes a peace deal could still be achieved this year.


1.    Pray that both sides will recognise the futility of violence and will find a way to achieve a ceasefire without appearing to lose face. 

2.  Pray that the peace talks between Israel and Fatah will indeed resume. 

3.  Pray that Israel and Hamas will find a way to talk which does not appear to imply the violence has    been successful.

4.  Pray that Egypt and moderate Arab states will resume their peace initiatives and co-operate positively with the western powers.

5.  Pray for the suffering innocent people on both sides: the fearful, the injured and the bereaved.

NEWS UPDATE Feb 21 2008

February 21st, 2008 . by admin



The news from the Holy Land is currently dominated by reactions to the assassination of Imad Mughniyah in Damascus. He was the top military commander in Hezbollah. Over the years, in addition to organising attacks on Jewish and Israeli targets, he has organised attacks American marines and the hijacking of US citizens. Therefore he was at the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted list. His death is a huge blow to Hezbollah and must be worrying for Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, because Mughniyah was part of his personal security forces.

Israel has denied any involvement in this daring attack in the middle of Damascus. Others think the assassination was carried out by the US or Syria, or resulted from internal strife in Hezbollah. The Kuwaiti daily newspaper Al-Rai blames “an Arab state” funded by the Gulf States.

Even if Israel is not responsible, and some Israelis doubt that, Hezbollah is making it a reason for an attack on Israel or possibly a Jewish target elsewhere. It can hardly do otherwise if it is to retain credibility in the Arab world.  The Israelis have mounted Patriot air defence missiles near Haifa.

Nasrallah has promised that Mughniyah’s blood “will lead to Israel’s fall.” An Iranian military leader stated: “In the near future, we will witness the destruction of the cancerous germ of Israel by the powerful and competent hands of the Hezbollah combatants.”

However Nasrallah has to bear in mind Hezbollah’s need to appear a legitimate Lebanese political party. This has restrained his terrorist activity in the past. It may discourage him from attacking Israeli or Jewish targets outside Israel, which he has not done since 1994.  If he mounted a massive rocket attack on Israel he would suffer severe retaliation which would not improve his popularity in Lebanon.  A token attack on Israel would not maintain his credibility.  He might send an unmanned drone loaded with explosives over Israel. The Israelis have shot several down already.  Israelis speculate that he might bomb an Israeli embassy in Africa or Asia, attack an El-Al plane, assassinate an Israeli leader or perform some other spectacular attack.

Israeli commentators say that, if Israel is responsible, they need to learn from history that such high-profile assassinations don’t achieve anything. In fact they lead to harsh retaliation and the people who take over from those killed have often proved worse than they were.


Sir John Holmes, who was involved in negotiations over Northern Ireland and now is UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs has warned Israel not to invade Gaza and to rely on diplomacy. He pointed out that Britain never considered bombing the IRA.

The Israelis are in a dilemma: if they invade Gaza this could destroy Mahmoud Abbas politically. If they organise a ceasefire, that would be a victory for Hamas.  They are afraid that, according to Israel’s ambassador to the EU, Europe might recognise Hamas as the legitimate government in Gaza.


Controversy has arisen from contradictory remarks emerging from Olmert and Abbas about discussions over Jerusalem. Olmert said that Abbas had agreed that Jerusalem had been taken off the agenda until later but Abbas denied this.  It is possible that this agreement was meant to be kept private but that, once public, Abbas could not afford to be seen to be in agreement.  It is certainly true that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei are discussing Jerusalem. Livni and Saab Erekat, Palestinian negotiator, criticised any delaying of the Jerusalem discussions. Only recently, Olmert was saying that discussing the borders between Israel and a Palestinian state was an easy matter. It is difficult to see how that discussion could be settled without discussion about dividing Jerusalem.

However Benjamin Netenyahu, leader of the Israeli opposition Likud party claimed recently that Olmert is secretly negotiating to divide Jerusalem.

Discussions are taking place on Palestinian membership of international organisations, water supplies (a very important and contentious issue), internal security (including entry permits and border crossings), economics, etc.


  1. Pray that it may become clear who assassinated Imad Mughniyah and that no innocent parties will be harmed.2.Pray that tensions between Hezbollah and Israel will not lead to an escalation of violence.3.       Pray for peace with justice in the relationship between Israel and Gaza.4.       Pray for the success of the peace talks.

NEWS UPDATE February 12 2008

February 12th, 2008 . by admin

There is a growing danger of a major escalation in violence occurring between Israel and Hamas.  Hamas seems to be true to its foundation charter which states: “Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it …. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavours. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with.”  The organisation’s representatives in Iran have stated that the Dimona bomb is a warning that Hamas will launch more terror attacks in Israel.

Hamas is enjoying an increased popularity resulting from its recent successes, namely:

a. Its landslide election victory amongst the Palestinians

b. It’s well-planned takeover of Gaza

c. It’s equally well-planned destruction of the wall between Gaza and Egypt which humiliated both the Israelis and the Egyptians.

Now, after every IDF reprisal attack on Gaza, Hamas fires a barrage of rockets into Israel for several days. Israel has suffered casualties, including an 8-year old boy who has lost one leg and might lose the other. Palestinians have also been killed and injured. Israel has complained to the UN Security Council about the rocket attacks.The Egyptians have warned that any Palestinian crossing the border will have his legs broken, but they are maintaining dialogue with Hamas because the organisation has extensive influence in the Arab press. The Egyptians are afraid that Israel is trying to dump Gaza on them so that it becomes an Egyptian problem. They see Hamas as furthering that plan.

IDF reprisals on Gaza continue and attempts to assassinate Hamas leaders are being stepped up. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak stated that Israel aims to destroy Hamas in Gaza.

Israel is considering the possibility of allowing an international force in Gaza. But it is thought that countries would only agree to send troops if Gaza were stabilized through the demise of Hamas.

The spectre of a major Israeli military attack on Gaza looms. Israeli PM Ehud Olmert has survived the Winograd Report. Prior to that, political instability in Israel discouraged such an invasion. In addition there is the increase in Qassam attacks, the Dimona bomb and the Hamas threats of further terrorism. It is known that the IDF are making preparations. Obviously no sovereign state can sit by and allow its innocent citizens to be killed and maimed by attacks from adjoining territories. But such a military attack on Gaza would cause a great deal of bloodshed.

And yet, the constant vicious circle of attacks and reprisals will achieve nothing positive. If only Hamas, or the Gaza population, would realise that the attacks on Israel will not achieve their ideal purposes. Israel is not going away. On the other hand, Israel could seek to improve the lot of the Gazans by stopping the reduction of supply of electricity etc., and perhaps by opening the border under strict security controls. Could this undermine popular support for Hamas and force them to negotiate? Maybe Israel should remember that the amount of their exports to Palestinians is second only to their exports to the US.

Meanwhile, the Syrians have acquired more sophisticated missiles and other military hardware. Hezbollah has smuggled may Katyusha rockets into Southern Lebanon under the noses of the UN security forces.


1. For the population on both sides to become sickened by the vicious cycle of bloodshed and to press their leadership to negotiate.

2. For Hamas and the Gazan population to realise the attacks will not achieve the aim of removing Israel, but rather will continue to bring suffering upon themselves.  3. That Israel will take action to improve the lot of the people of Gaza so that a military strike on Gaza, and an increase in terrorism in Israel, might be avoided.

After Dimona

February 5th, 2008 . by admin


It was only to be expected. Israel was on full alert. The breaking down of the wall between Gaza and Egypt left the border open for 12 days, enough time for numerous terrorists to infiltrate Israel from the Sinai across the 300km border with the Negev Desert. Some had been arrested by the Egyptians in Sinai.

At 10.30am on Monday February 4th, for the first time for a year, a suicide bomber blew himself up in a shopping mall in Dimona, the town adjacent to Israel’s nuclear facility. Another suicide bomber was knocked out by the blast and was shot dead before he could detonate his own bomb. A 73 year old woman was killed and dozens injured.

It is a real cause of concern that various groups claimed responsibility: the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and (for the first time since 2004) Hamas. The worry is that this indicates that all these groups had sent terrorists into Sinai and genuinely believed the two bombers were theirs. This would confirm that numerous terrorists have infiltrated.

With Hamas agreement Egypt closed the border on Sunday February 3rd, erecting barbed wire and spikes set in concrete. However the absolute closure, which left some Gazans still in Egypt, led to violence in which 44 people, Gazans and Egyptians, were wounded. So Egypt re-opened the border. Egypt is taking a difficult route, negotiating with Hamas and yet refusing to accept them as the legitimate government of Palestine.

Hamas have asked Egypt to take over from Israel providing goods for Gaza. This would, of course, remove the economic weapon from Israel. Egypt hasn’t rejected the idea but it would face strong opposition from Fatah and the US. It would also have to accept responsibility for the economic welfare of Gaza.

Egypt wants Hamas and Fatah to co-operate in policing the border, with EU monitors. The EU monitors were withdrawn after the Hamas takeover of Gaza. Javier Solan, EU foreign policy spokesman, said the monitors could return if all parties agreed.

Meanwhile Shas, the right wing Israeli political party, has called on the government to cease negotiations with the Palestinians and to concentrate on building a fence across the 300km border with Egypt. The Israeli cabinet says it will do so by 2010 at the earliest at a cost of some $400-750 million. Others are calling for a harder line to be taken against Gaza.


1. For the traumatized and frightened people of Dimona and security for the people of Israel.

2. For the people of Gaza, still finding it difficult to obtain the necessities of life and for their protection from violence.

3. For God to frustrate the evil intentions of men and women of violence.

4. For proper control of the Gaza-Egypt border, perhaps with EU monitors.

5. For a successful government overseeing both the West Bank and Gaza, fostering peace negotiations, human welfare and extensively reducing violence.

6. For constructive relationships between Israel and Egypt.

7. For the peace negotiations to continue.

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