by The Rev. Tony Higton
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Ministry
in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Issue 17 May 21st 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
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Please encourage others to join the mailing list.© Tony
Israel 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:
THE PROSPECT OF A CEASEFIRE
BETWEEN ISRAEL AND HAMAS
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, will 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. Hamas
has built 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.
recent Israeli survey found that 64% of Palestinians support
the rocket and suicide attacks. On the other hand, two
thirds of Palestinians now support the Arab peace plan,
whereas 57% of Israelis reject it.
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. Inoculations for 55,000
babies are threatened. Council rubbish collection has
Israel claims that Hamas itself is preventing the limited
amount of fuel coming out of Israel from 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 now Ashkelon, and the
western Negev region of Israel.
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 talks with the Palestinians. Oman
also has re-established relations with Israel. Meetings
have taken place with Bahrein and United Arab Emirates too.
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.”
One 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.
ISRAELI-SYRIAN PEACE TALKS
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
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
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.
recent survey discovered that only 32% of Israelis favour a
full withdrawal from the Golan because they are afraid it
will make them too vulnerable (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, claiming it was an empty military
building under construction. The Americans made this
revelation to pressurize North Korea into an agreement over
nuclear weapons and as a warning to the Iranians.
AGREEMENT IN LEBANON
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.
OLMERT-ABBAS PEACE NEGOTIATIONS
The 20th Arab Summit took place in Damascus at
the end of March and reaffirmed the Arab Israeli-Palestinian
Peace Initiative. The peace negotiations 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 and 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.
Also it is expanding the settlement of
Ariel and is building homes for Jewish people in East
Jerusalem, which hinders the peace process.
Another hindrance is Israeli road blocks
on the West Bank. The Americans have pressed Israel
to remove 50 roadblocks on the West Bank. 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.
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.”
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.
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.
thanks for the agreements about peace talks between Syria
and Israel, between the factions in Lebanon and for the
Egyptian mediation which promises an imminent Israel-Hamas
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.
for peace with justice and security for all parties in the
for a breakthrough in the Israel-Palestinian peace talks.
BEIT NETANEL UPDATE - THANK YOU TO ALL WHO DONATED
We thank God that in 2007, in addition to the £141,200
sent to Israel towards the purchase of the Beit Netanel
Ministry Center in Jerusalem, £8020 was also sent to
support the ministry of Rachel Netanel. Bank charges
have been £140 and other expenses (largely the cost of a
display board for meetings and of printing leaflets)
have been £462.21. (A fair amount of Gift Aid is still
to be added to that figure).
However, £150,000 raised other than through Paradox was
in the form of interest-free loans, which, of course,
have to be repaid. So we shall be grateful to receive
more gifts to offset those loans, or regular gifts for
Rachel Netanel’s on-going ministry.
Please send your gift
cheque made out to “Paradox Ministries” and sent to the
Rev Tony Higton, The Rectory, 47 Castle Rising Road,
South Wootton, King’s Lynn, Norfolk PE30 3JA. If you are
a UK taxpayer please Gift Aid your donation using the
form attached to this email OR take out a standing order
to support the ministry regularly using the form
attached to this email.
gift, however small or large, is most welcome. Each gift
is an investment in extending the Kingdom of Jesus, Lord
and Messiah, among Jewish and Arab people in Jerusalem
and facilitates reconciliation.