by The Rev. Tony Higton
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Ministry
in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Issue 15 January 23rd 2008
Ministries encourages Christians to understand and pray
about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, seeing it through
the eyes of both people groups involved, and taking the
needs, fear and pain of both sides seriously. Its director,
the Rev Tony Higton, who was Rector of a church in the Old
City of Jerusalem for a number of years, circulates this
email newsletter, speaks at seminars and encourages support
of indigenous reconciliation ministry in Jerusalem. The
is available free on request to those who add their email
address to our Newsletter update list, available on the top
of the 'Newsletter'
page. Alternatively, send your email address and name to
us via our online
Please encourage others to join the mailing list.© Tony
Paradox Pilgrimage to Israel
October 26th – November 4th
Led by the Rev Tony Higton, with an Israeli guide
and, in addition to sightseeing, meeting some
local people (Jewish and Palestinian) and thinking
£1058 for 10 days
Half Board: all inclusive
Includes Breakfast and Evening Dinner at 4 star-plus
hotels plus all tips, entrance fees, etc (other tour
firms have hidden costs). Only lunches and insurance
extra. Prices are based on sharing a room which we
can arrange, if you wish.
The tour will visit Jerusalem, the Shepherds’ Fields
of Bethlehem, Caiaphas’ House, the Garden of
Gethsemane, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Garden
Tomb, Temple Mount, the Antonia Fortress where Jesus
faced Pilate, the Pool of Bethesda, Yad Vashem,
Masada, En Gedi, the Dead Sea, Qumran, Jordan
valley, Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, Mount Hermon,
Caesarea Philippi, Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum,
Nazareth, Valley of Armageddon, Mount Carmel, Beth
Shean, Caesarea, Jaffa, Ein Kerem.
CONTACT TONY HIGTON VIA THE 'CONTACT
US' PAGE FOR MORE INFORMATION
WILL THE PEACE PROCESS SUCCEED?
“I do not ignore all the obstacles which are sure to emerge
along the way. They are right in front of me. I came here,
despite the concerns and doubts and hesitations, to say to
you, President Mahmoud Abbas, and through you, to your
people and to the entire Arab world: it is time. We no
longer, and you no longer, have the privilege of clinging to
dreams which are disconnected from the sufferings of our
peoples, the hardships they experience daily and the burden
of living under ongoing uncertainty, with no chance for
change or hope
….I believe that there is no path other than peace. I
believe that there is no just solution other than the
solution of two national states for two peoples. I believe
that there is no path which does not involve painful
compromise for you, Palestinians, and for us Israelis.”
So said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the Annapolis
Peace Summit on November 27th. The Annapolis
“Joint Understanding on Negotiations” stated: “We express
our determination to bring an end to bloodshed, suffering
and decades of conflict between our peoples, to usher in a
new era of peace, based on freedom, security, justice,
dignity, respect and mutual recognition, to propagate a
culture of peace and non-violence, and to confront terrorism
and incitement, whether committed by Palestinians or
In order to achieve this, Israel and the Palestinians
To aim at a two-state solution, in accordance with the
“Road Map” agreed by the Quartet on 30th
April 2003. [The Quartet: US, Europe, Russia and UN
called for a two state solution, a freeze on Israeli
settlements, PA action to stop terrorism, Israel to
avoid civilian casualties, ease the humanitarian and
economic plight of the Palestinian people and cease
deportations; confiscation and/or demolition of
Palestinian homes and property, destruction of
Palestinian institutions and infrastructure].
To begin negotiations immediately, including about core
issues such as the future of Jerusalem, the
international border and the refugees right of return,
making every effort to reach an agreement by the end of
That (Palestinian President) Abbas and Olmert will
continue to meet every two weeks.
George Bush, who sponsored the summit, and visited the
Middle East, including Israel and the West Bank this month,
is overtly supporting and encouraging the process. He has
promised to make a return visit in May.
On December 17th representatives of 87 countries
and organisations met in Paris and promised $7.48billion to
the Palestinian Authority, more than expected.
But what are the chances of success for the peace process?
HINDRANCES TO PEACE
There are numerous hindrances to peace:
The rocket attacks on Israeli territory from Gaza.
No sovereign state can stand by and see a constant barrage
of rockets fired at it civilian centres without taking
action. Since Annapolis this bombardment has increased,
causing some injuries. Hamas, which was excluded from the
summit, has been doing its best to undermine the Peace
Process from the outset. At a “Rejection Committee” held in
Gaza at the same time as the summit they affirmed:
“Palestine from the sea to the river [i.e. the
Mediterranean to the Jordan] belongs to the Palestinian
All Palestinian refugees must move back to their land.
The whole of Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.
The Palestinians must continue to attack Israel and
never accept normalisation with Israel.
Iran, of course, backs Hamas in this approach and rejected
Annapolis. One reason was that, especially with Syria’s
involvement alongside other Arab nations, Iran, which wants
to become the regional superpower, feels isolated.
There were 113 identified rocket attacks on Israel during
December, 23 of them on Christmas Day. One rocket fell in
Northern Ashkelon which is the furthest any rocket from Gaza
has ever travelled. In response, Israel has carried out
targeted killings within Gaza. On one such air attack 18
Palestinians were killed, most of them Hamas terrorist
operatives. Among them was Hussam al-Zahar, the son of
senior Hamas activist Mahmoud al-Zahar.
The continuing attacks have led to Israel’s controversial
reduction of power supply to Gaza. Human rights activists in
Israel and elsewhere claim that such targeting of civilians
is illegal and could cause
loss of life, because of its effect on hospitals, on the
water and sewage system, on the use of household appliances
such as refrigerators, etc. The UN Human Rights Council has
deplored Israel’s “grave violations” of human rights in
Gaza. However the High Court has declared that power
reduction in itself is legal. Olmert says Israel will not
target hospitals or allow a humanitarian crisis to develop
However, the situation has changed with the demolition of
much of the wall the IDF constructed between Gaza and Egypt.
Tens of thousands of Gazans have flooded into Egypt to
obtain provisions. This is a major coup for Hamas which
showed its discipline and sophistication in this carefully
planned event. Unbeknown to Israeli intelligence, Hamas set
explosives at 20 points along the wall.
Israel wants to avoid a major military intervention in Gaza
because it would lead to many casualties on both sides,
including amongst civilians. Hamas is trading on that
reluctance to try to force Israel into a ceasefire. This
would strengthen Hamas, which Israel definitely wants to
avoid. Hence they are applying the economic pressure on Gaza
to try to harm Hamas. Both the UN and the EU have pleaded
with Israel to reverse this decision.
It should be noted that there is Israeli opposition to the
peace process as well as that of Hamas. For example, there
have been Israeli demonstrations against the prospect of the
division of Jerusalem. 5000 demonstrators formed a human
chain around the Old City walls. The chairman of the Temple
Mount Faithful called for Olmert to be tried for treason
because he was even discussing the issue. However a
demonstration in Har Homa, a settlement just south of
Jerusalem, close to Bethlehem, against partition drew only
2000 people. In 2000 demonstrations against partition
attracted over 300,000 people.
The lack of Israeli action on removing settlements on
the West Bank.
Israel did release over 450 Palestinian prisoners as a
positive gesture after the summit. They also transferred to
the Palestinians armoured personnel carriers plus rifles and
However, soon after Annapolis, Israel announced it was going
to construct 307 new houses in Har Homa. Currently
construction is being delayed and this has led to
Is Olmert serious about peace? Some Israelis are scathing
about Olmert, claiming that he is not serious about the
Peace Process. As evidence they point, among other things,
to the repeated promises to dismantle some of the outlying
settlements – particularly those constructed after March
2001 - which have not led to action, despite American
pressure. During his visit Bush told Olmert: “The outposts
must be evacuated. We have been talking about this for four
years. They are illegal and they have to evacuate them.”
Olmert assured him he would take action. Defence
Minister Ehud Barak has reached agreement with the leaders
of 18 settlement outposts on peaceful evacuation to
“neighbouring communities.” In any case the Israeli High
Court is expected to order evacuation.
One Israeli wrote: “The settlements are flourishing, 10,000
Palestinian prisoners are rotting in prisons, Gaza is
starved and blacked-out, Shin Bet security service
investigators are torturing, the checkpoints
incarcerating….” Another wrote: “For 40 years now, Israel
has been settling in the occupied territories while
pretending that it is prepared to withdraw at any moment if
only a chance for peace develops. With its own hands, Israel
has been rendering the two-state solution irrelevant, while
declaring to all and sundry that this is the only possible
solution. The United States is not seriously demanding that
the outposts be taken down - because if it ever had made
such a demand unequivocally, the outposts would have been
eliminated long ago.” They claim that even if he is sincere,
Olmert is afraid or feels unable to take tough action on the
settlements which could lead to his political downfall.
Already Avigdor Lieberman, Minister for Strategic Affairs
has resigned from Olmert’s coalition, taking his small
right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu Party with him. Olmert still
has a viable coalition.
STOP PRESS: As we go to publication, Olmert has frozen new
construction on all West Bank settlements.
It has to be said that Israel is unlikely to withdraw from
the West Bank whilst the rocket attacks from Gaza continue.
Were such rockets to be transferred to the West Bank they
could hit Tel Aviv and the airport. Israel is afraid of the
possibility of having a terrorist state on its doorstep. It
is a real cause of concern that simple rockets were recently
discovered in Nablus (a West Bank town). (It should be noted
that Hezbollah in Lebanon has rockets capable of reaching
south of Tel Aviv. Two rockets from Lebanon hit the Israeli
town of Shlomi in early January.
The conflict between Fatah and Hamas.
Despite attempts at reconciliation by Saudi Arabia, Fatah is
refusing to talk with Hamas until it reverses its military
takeover of Gaza. Fatah is taking action against Hamas and
arrested 250 Hamas activists, including some from charitable
organisations, claiming there are financial irregularities.
The humanitarian wing of Hamas is appreciated by
Palestinians because they provide essential services. Hamas
continues to suppress Fatah violently in Gaza.
The weakness of Fatah in maintaining law and order.
On December 28th two off-duty IDF soldiers were
shot dead by a renegade Fatah group.
However in Nablus the Palestinian security forces
confiscated 120 weapons and a Hamas bomb factory. They have
brought relative calm to the city after years of violence.
There is a certain sense of urgency about the Peace Process.
President Bush stands down at the end of the year, as does
Mahmoud Abbas in January 2009. Their successors may not be
so committed to peace and may need to consolidate their
position before being involved. Failure in the peace
process is likely to strengthen Hamas and could even enable
them to take over the West Bank.
Pray for success for all those working for peace and
justice in the Holy Land and that they will act wisely,
sincerely and courageously.
Pray that rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza (or
anywhere else) will cease.
Pray for the suffering people of Gaza that they will be
set free from oppression, injustice and violent attack
(including from their own government), and for the early
restoration of power and fuel deliveries.
Pray that Hamas and other Islamist groups will see the
futility of violence and the need to compromise
Pray that Israel will act on its promises concerning
Pray that Fatah will succeed in establishing law and
order in the Palestinian territories.
Pray that by the end of 2008 a viable two state solution
will be closer.
Pray for all believers in Jesus in this situation that
they may speak, live, pray and act in ways which extend