by The Rev. Tony Higton
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Ministry
in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Issue 26 April 16th 2010
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
This year has been a very traumatic time for the Palestinian
WITHIN 24 HOURS YOU WILL RECEIVE ANOTHER EMAIL FROM
A new Christian Teaching Resources website
Patricia and I have spent
months preparing a new website of free, practical,
user-friendly, resources for church leaders and
churchmembers based on updated material which we
have produced over the last 42 years of ministry,
together with new material.
It will cover apologetics
(defence of the faith), biblical material, church
development, church issues, devotional,
eschatological (teaching on the End Times)
evangelistic, interfaith and pastoral resources plus
sermons and guided meditations and the books
we have written. We hope eventually to include audio
My apologies if you receive
two copies of the next email about the new website.
Some of you will be on my main Contacts list as well
as my Paradox list and it is too difficult to
prevent all duplication
ISRAEL WANT PEACE?
myself as a friend of Israel (but also a friend of the
Palestinians). I am against unfair criticism of Israel, let
alone the anti-Semitism which is sadly alive and well in the
West. However I sometimes wonder if Israel is serious about
the peace process. I am wholeheartedly in favour of the
Jewish people having a secure homeland, which I believe to
be God’s will. But that does not require claiming every inch
of the traditional homeland and it certainly does not
justify injustice to the non-Jewish, non-Israeli person in
the Holy Land which conflicts with the Torah (biblical law).
Israel-Palestinian peace talks are on
hold. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas insists that
direct talks can only take place when Israel completely
freezes the settlements and agrees to withdraw to the 1967
borders. Israel rejects these preconditions. Abbas has
however recently agreed to indirect talks with the Americans
as mediators, and with support from the Arab nations.
all allowed ourselves a degree of optimism that Barack Obama
would achieve more than his predecessors in the Middle East
peace process, despite its great complexity. But it seems
that this opportunity has been wasted so far, and one factor
is the intransigence of a right wing Israeli government.
encouraging to hear Netanyahu’s acceptance of the two state
solution. But Israel is determined to build more settlements
in the Palestinian territories. When the government agreed
to a 10-month freeze on such settlements (which was itself
seen as very inadequate by the Palestinians and others)
building didn’t actually cease. Israel:
construction over the Green Line for schools, public
buildings, housing units, a synagogue etc.
has allowed Jewish
people to settle in the East Jerusalem neighborhoods of
Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.
construction of 110 housing units in Beitar Illit, a
settlement for the ultra-Orthodox sandwiched between
Bethlehem and Jerusalem.
is building a new
site for the Ariel settlement’s industrial estate
Highway 443 in the West Bank.
has decided to
include the Tomb of the Patriarchs and Rachel's Tomb (both
in Palestinian territories) to the list of historical
heritage sites due for renovation.
The most spectacular example of this
settlement development was the decision to allow 1,600 homes
to be built in Ramat Shlomo, and to announce it during the
visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. President Obama's
chief political adviser, David Axelrod, commented: “It was
an insult, but that's not the most important thing, [it]
seemed calculated to undermine [the impending resumption of
the peace talks], and that was ... distressing to everyone
who is promoting the idea of peace and security in the
It has to be remembered that this
announcement was made by a civil servant on the Jerusalem
District Planning and Building Committee, not by the
goverment. Prime Minister Netanyahu reprimanded Interior
Minister Eli Yishai for the decision's “wretched, displaced,
insensitive” timing. But it must also be pointed out that
ultimately it is the government’s responsibility and is
evidence of the inconsistency between what Israel says and
what it does.
Netanyahu has also
insisted that the
Palestinians accept verbal agreements made privately by
Israel with President Bush (without Palestinian agreement)
that settlement blocs and natural growth would be excluded
from a settlement freeze.
Israel will never share Jerusalem or withdraw to the 1967
refused to start
negotiations where they left off in the past. In other words
he is ignoring past agreements.
These do not seem to be the actions of a
government and prime minister who are serious about the
However, under pressure from the
Americans, Netanyahu has agreed
to ease the
blockade on the Gaza Strip so that the UN can transport
construction materials to Gaza to rebuild sewerage systems,
a flour mill and 150 apartments in Khan Yunis.
to discuss all
core issues (borders,
return of Palestinian refugees, settlements, Jerusalem,
justice over water supplies and security arrangements)
during the indirect talks (via the Americans) with the
Palestinians, with the assurance that final decisions will
only be reached in direct talks with the Palestinians.
hundreds of Fatah prisoners.
It should be noted, though, that the
Americans are also saying Netanyahu should reverse the
decision about the 1,600 homes in Ramat Shlomo.
has defended his views over building in East Jerusalem by
pointing out that since 1967 no Israeli government stopped
building in Jerusalem, east or west. But Israel President
Shimon Peres responded: “Previous governments built in
Jewish neighbourhoods, but not in Arab ones.”
poll shows that 69% of the Israeli public believes that
Obama's approach to Israel is fair and even friendly. 48%
said Israel should continue building in all parts of
Jerusalem, whatever the consequences, 41% said Israel should
stop building in East Jerusalem until the end of the peace
talks. In another poll 46% said building in East Jerusalem
should be frozen and 51% disagreed. These are very
significant figures showing the division in Israeli opinion
had to fight for its existence and feels insecure because it
is confronted by nations who would like to see it destroyed.
It is understandable that it does not want a “terrorist
state” on its doorstep, which it sees as the real danger
with a strong Hamas and a weak Fatah. Israel has often had
to go it alone and to defy international opinion. However it
is important that it only does so when really vital issues
are at stake. The settlements and particularly settlement
expansion are not such vital issues.
Israel has seriously offended its main friend – the USA.
Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the US has described
the current situation as the worst crisis between the two
countries in 35 years. Then Israel has offended other
western countries by misusing their citizens’ passports in
the Dubai assassination, despite previous assurances that
they would not do so. Consequently, the head of Mossad in
London was asked to leave.
not seem to have realised that its friends have changed. Dov
Weisglass, who was senior adviser to Ariel Sharon, has said:
“Netanyahu should have taken into account the change within
the American Jewish community. Their support for Israel is
decreasing and they will defend Israel in the face of the
administration only on matters where there is a real threat
to Israel. I have serious doubt that U.S. Jews see the
Netanyahu government's territorial aspirations in Judea and
Samaria [West Bank] and the Palestinian neighbourhoods in
Jerusalem as an existential matter.”
remain bad in Gaza. There have been sporadic rocket attacks
on Israel from Gaza and Israeli reprisals, although Hamas
has recently pressurised four militant groups to cease
firing rockets. Israel is developing an “Iron Dome” rocket
defence system which uses cameras and radar to detect
incoming rockets so that they can be shot down.
comes under extensive criticism for its blockade which, as
mentioned above, will hopefully improve. However Hamas is
also at fault. During and after the war in Gaza the IDF
offered to treat Gazans in a field
hospital near the Erez crossing but this was resisted by
Hamas. The IDF delivered hundreds of thousands of tons of
food and medical aid to Gaza but Hamas intercepted them.
Also Hamas is more concerned to smuggle missiles and
explosives into Gaza, rather than food, medicine and vital
building materials. However, under Egyptian pressure, Hamas
has recently shut down smuggling tunnels into Egypt. The
Egyptians are building a security fence between them and
Gaza, which weakens Hamas.
called for a Day of Rage on March 16th and there
were clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security
forces on Temple Mount, East Jerusalem and elsewhere with
nine security officers injured. Some Israelis fear another
Intifada (Palestinian uprising).
Other recent developments in the Middle
East are the growing economic, security and diplomatic links
between Syria, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. This is
replacing the old axis of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia and
gives Syria a new strategic importance. It is little wonder,
therefore, that the US has decided to send an ambassador to
Damascus after a four-year absence. Israel would be
well-advised to seek peace with Syria in order to undermine
the link between the Syrians and the Iranians. Hezbollah,
backed by Iran, will soon have restored its military
strength after the Lebanon war. Syria has a great deal of
influence in Lebanon and over Hezbollah, which is another
reason for Israel pursuing peace with Syria.
On the other hand Syria has made
aggressive comments towards Israel recently. They have
spoken of responding to any Israeli aggression. The
Syrian Foreign Minister said: “You know that war at this
time will reach your cities.”
Also Syria has supplied Hezbollah with
Scud missiles. Syria accused Israel of making allegations
about the Scuds as a pretext for a possible attack on Syria.
Nevertheless there are reports that Syria is willing to
consider a gradual withdrawal by Israel from the Golan
Heights leading to normal relations between the two
countries. Netanyahu has offered to meet Syrian President
Assad without preconditions. Turkey has also offered to
Pray for a sincere
commitment to peace on behalf of both Israel and the
Palestinians, and that the extreme views of both Netanyahu
and Hamas will be moderated.
President Obama will be successful in facilitating peace in
the Holy Land.
Pray against men
and women of violence in both the settler and the
Pray for the
citizens of Gaza facing serious hardships.
Pray for peace
between Israel and Syria.
Pray that Iran
will be prevented from producing nuclear weapons.
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 an indigenous reconciliation ministry in
Tony is convinced that one cannot understand Israel
without remembering the vivid and enduring memory of the
Holocaust, in the context of centuries of anti-semitism
which continues today, not least in the Arab world. They
feel that long and bitter experience shows they cannot
trust the world to protect them. Despite their military
strength, they fear extinction as a nation.Tony feels
that one cannot understand the Palestinians without
remembering their humiliation of not having their own
state and their sense of betrayal by the world powers,
not least in the re-establishment of the State of Israel
on what they regard as their land.They also feel
humiliated and oppressed by Israel. Many of them believe
that armed resistance is legitimate. Whatever their
strengths and weaknesses, God loves both people groups,
so should we.
available free on request to those who send their name
and email address to:
Please encourage others to join the mailing list.
Charity No. 1125582
© Tony Higton
includes history of the conflict of Anti-Semitism and
Anti-Arabism, critique of Christian Zionism and
Dispensationalism, teaching on reconciliation and
justice, material for churches etc. Respond also to
Tony Higton’s blog
Please tell others about the website and blog and it
would help if you were to link your own website to it.