by The Rev. Tony Higton
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Ministry
in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Issue 20 October 1st 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
OLMERT'S DEPARTURE AND THE
After less than three years in office, Ehud Olmert has
resigned as Prime Minister in the face of persistent
allegations of corruption. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has
been elected the new leader of the Kadima party in place of
Olmert. Only if she can construct a viable coalition out of
various factions will she be able to become Prime Minister.
If she is unsuccessful there will be a general election
early next year. This is an important matter for the peace
process. Livni has been deeply involved in the peace
negotiations. If there were a general election which brought
in a new more right wing government, this might prove a
hindrance to the talks.
Before he resigned Olmert warned that if the peace
negotiations failed there could be increasing pressure,
particularly amongst the Palestinians and the international
community for a single bi-national state. This has been
raised several times recently, although may be a political
ploy to apply pressure to Israel which would see a
bi-national state as meaning the end of a safe Jewish
homeland, in that the country would very soon have an Arab
Before Olmert resigned, Livni stated: “Now most Israelis
understand that having two states in the lands comprising
historic Palestine is an Israeli interest .... Nobody,
nobody can afford in the region a terror state, a failed
state or an extreme Islamic state between the Jordan river
and the Mediterranean sea.” Olmert had proposed to the
Palestinians that they would receive 93% of the West Bank
(allowing Israel to retain settlements like Ma’aleh Adumim)
plus 5.5% of Israeli land adjacent to Gaza. It has just been
announced that Olmert offered Abbas sovereignty over the
Jordan Valley in exchange for Israel retaining control over
the West Bank settlements of Ariel,
Ma'aleh Adumim, and the Gush Etzion bloc.
There would be compensation for the Palestinian refugees and
the return of a few thousand to Israel. He advocated that
this could be achieved over a decade, starting now. Olmert,
did not go as far as accepting Israeli responsibility for
what happened to the Palestinians in 1948 but he did say:
“I join in expressing sorrow for what happened to the
Palestinians and also for what happened to the Jews who were
expelled from Arab states.
Olmert also proposed that Israel and the Palestinians
involve the international community (the U.N., U.S., EU and
Russia, Jordan, Egypt, the Vatican and possibly the king of
Morocco) in discussions concerning sovereignty over
Jerusalem and its holy sites, though the decision would be
made only by Israel and the Palestinians. Livni was more
cautious about Olmert’s proposals and believed more detailed
discussions were required.
Ehud Barak has said that some Arab areas of East Jerusalem,
together with nearby villages could become part of a
Palestinian capital but a few days ago Olmert
controversially stated that Israel would have to withdraw
from East Jerusalem if it wanted peace. Some Israelis fear
that many Israeli Arabs would exercise their right to move
to West Jerusalem and that many Jewish people might move out
of the “frontier territory” of West Jerusalem.
HINDRANCES TO THE PEACE
Peace Now claims that there is an increase of development by
Israel of the settlements on the West Bank with 1000 new
buildings being built. Its latest report states that:
“Israel is erasing the Green Line through intensive
construction intended to create territorial continuity
between settlement blocs and isolated settlements in the
heart of the West Bank, with this construction approaching
Palestinian cities such as Bethlehem and Ramallah.
Israeli TV recently showed filmed evidence of Jewish
settlers rampaging through a Palestinian village shooting at
Palestinians, destroying property and painting the Star of
David on buildings. IDF soldiers were shown witnessing this
behaviour. The settlers were responding to the stabbing of a
10-year old boy but there is no evidence the Palestinians
attacked were responsible. Ehud Olmert said the government
would not allow settlers to carry out “pogroms against
non-Jews” and added: “The phenomenon of [settlers] taking
the law into their own hands and lashing out with violence
and brutality is unforgivable, and will be dealt with by the
law enforcement authorities.” Sadly, Israeli courts tend to
be soft on settlers who take such action, as do the police
and the IDF.
the other hand, Mahmoud Abbas said, shortly after Israel
released 199 Palestinian prisoners, that peace would only be
achieved when all Palestinian prisoners had been released.
Hamas is demanding that over 1000 be released.
tragic happening occurred at a checkpoint on the road to
Nablus. A young Palestinian woman had suddenly gone into
labour and urgently needed to get to hospital. Despite her
agonised cries and the pleas of her husband, she was kept
waiting at the checkpoint for an hour. Eventually paramedics
were called but by the time they arrived the baby had died.
Afterwards the IDF squad commander was imprisoned and there
are calls for criminal proceedings.
Israeli commented: “The occupation kills - never has this
slogan sounded so true as on that night, two weeks ago, at
the Hawara checkpoint south of Nablus. No convoluted excuse
or explanation from the Israel Defense Forces spokesman
(military sources were quoted the day after the incident,
making this outrageous comment: "This baby would have died
anyway") can erase the simple, chilling fact that for
officers and soldiers in the occupation army we have
established, human feeling has become alien, at least when
it comes to Palestinians. Or the fact that there are still
officers and soldiers in the IDF who behave with such lack
of feeling toward a woman in labor who is about to lose her
several other such incidents have been documented.
It would, of course, be possible to record
similar harrowing stories resulting from Palestinian
terrorism, but the fact is that none of this behaviour is
justified. Rather it is inhuman and only serves to hinder
the process towards peace with justice for both people
number of rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza and
in Jerusalem a young Palestinian drove into a group of
pedestrians. His family claim it was an accident but the
Israelis say they are certain it was a terrorist attack,
like the earlier incident where a bulldozer was used. Six
such attacks have taken place in Jerusalem this year, all of
them apparently individual initiatives. By the nature of the
case they are almost impossible to prevent and they engender
an atmosphere of fear amongst Israelis.
THE PALESTINIAN SITUATION
a positive note, even Israel acknowledges that security and
law and order on the West Bank has improved under the
control of the Palestinian police. Armed militia have been
eliminated from West Bank cities and even the Al Aqsa
Martyrs Brigade has virtually disappeared. Many Hamas and
Islamic Jihad charities, which encourage support of the
radical organisations, have been shut down or taken over by
However, grinding poverty persists in the
Palestinian areas and encourages radicalism. The
economy is still struggling. Israeli Gross National product
is 10 times that of the West Bank (and 20 times that of
Gaza). Unemployment is very high. The corruption amongst the
Palestinian leadership with respect to overseas aid
contributes to the poverty.
Egypt is seeking to bring reconciliation between Fatah and
Hamas but Hamas is angry at the Egyptian refusal to open the
Rafah crossing point between Gaza and Egypt. Meanwhile the
PA military Chief of Staff has said recently that the PA
must be ready to use force to bring Hamas into line, after
its takeover of Gaza.
Pro-Palestinian peace activists successfully broke the
Israeli blockade of Gaza using a small boat. The Isarelis
decided that to intervene would cause a PR disaster so they
allowed the boat through.
ISRAEL AND SYRIA
Indirect talks between Israel and Syria continue and, if
they succeed, could have an important effect in the Middle
East by weakening the influence of Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran
and strengthening moderate influence amongst Sunni Arabs.
Israel is demanding that Syria breaks off relations with
Hezbollah and Hamas and distances itself from Iran. Syria is
demanding the return of the Golan Heights from Israel. A
Kuwaiti newspaper reported that senior Hamas leader Khaled
Meshal was asked by the Syrians to leave Damascus for Sudan,
although this has been denied by Hamas.
However, Syria and Israel cannot agree on the route of the
border and the Syrian president claims he will not sever
links with Hezbollah, although Foreign Minister Walid
Moualem stated yesterday that Syria was not supplying arms
to Hezbollah. Israel has warned citizens travelling abroad
that Hezbollah intends to abduct Israelis.
days ago Ehud Olmert stated that Israel would have to
withdraw from the Golan Heights if it wants peace with
Syria. However yesterday Syrian President Bashar Assad said
the Syria-Israeli talks will not weaken Syria’s relationship
with Iran. He added that he didn’t trust the Israelis
because “they had carried out many massacres since 2000.”
ISRAEL AND IRAN
war of words between Iran and Israel continues. In a speech
to the UN, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called Israel “a germ of
corruption” which must be wiped off the map. Israeli
Pensioners Affairs Minister Rafi Eitan responded by saying:
“It could very well be that a leader such as Iranian
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suddenly finds himself before
the International Criminal Court in The Hague.” This was
interpreted by Iran as a threat to kidnap Ahmadinejad,
especially as Eitan was involved in hunting down former Nazi
officials. Iran’s ambassador at the UN called the comments:
“vicious threats ... in blatant violation of the most
fundamental principles of international law.”
US has installed and will run an early warning radar system
in Israel to detect Iranian missiles. Before this Israel
could only detect missiles six minutes after launch, by
which time they would be half way on their journey. The new
system can detect them moments after launch.
Former IDF chief Moshe Ya'alon said recently that
military action between Israel and Iran was inevitable.
Israel has asked the US to facilitate an Israeli air attack
on Iran. Israel would need permission to over-fly Iraq and
more advanced refuelling tankers for its fighters. In
addition it would need “bunker buster” bombs which weigh 2.2
tons each, can penetrate six meters of reinforced concrete.
Iran has responded to Israeli threats by warning that such
an attack would lead to a world war.
However, Iran is suffering economic problems with an
inflation rate around 25% and Ahmadinejad faces re-election
on June 12, 2009. It is possible that the Iranian people
could react against the radicalism of the likes of
the new government in Israel will be the one which will
serve God’s purposes.
Israel will act with integrity and justice over West Bank
settlements and that both sides will be willing to make
appropriate compromises to achieve peace with justice.
a curbing of settler violence against Palestinians and of
Palestinian terrorism such as the recent vehicle attacks in
the IDF to act with justice and humanity at all checkpoints.
the alleviation of Palestinian poverty and the curbing of
success in the Israel-Syria talks .
a reaction by the Iranian people against radicalism and