by The Rev. Tony Higton
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Ministry
in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and
Ministry in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Issue 36 April 2013
The newsletter is available free on
request to those who send their name and email address to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charity No. 1125582 See www.prayerforpeace.org.uk
© Tony Higton
BALANCED TEACHING ON THE END TIMES
(the Return of Christ, Judgment, Heaven etc.)
As you may already know,
I have begun a whole new ministry of seeking to encourage a sensible
approach to eschatology (the doctrine of the End Times) which many
Christians (including Christian leaders) neglect, either because they
don’t feel competent to deal with it or because they are embarrassed by
unbalanced extremists. In order to fulfil this, which I feel is a
divine calling, I need to reach as many people as possible with the
WILL YOU PLEASE HELP ME
IN THIS CAMPAIGN by encouraging anyone you know who might be
interested in this important subject to link up with me, by Facebook
(facebook.com/tony.higton.1) or Twitter (@Tony Higton) or by going on
my Eschatology Email Mailing list via email@example.com.
(I am open to invitations to speaking engagements and conferences about Eschatology on an expenses-paid basis).
SOME RECENT ADDITIONS TO THE BLOG ON ESCHATOLOGY
The meteor/asteroid coincidence – what does it mean? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=256)
Recent Tweets/Facebook messages (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=247)
Should we be thinking frequently about the Return of Christ? (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=224)
Hastening the return of Christ (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=222)
SOME RECENT ADDITIONS TO THE WEBSITE ON ESCHATOLOGY
Can we ignore what the
New Testament says about signs of Jesus’ return?
Some thoughts on the Book of Revelation (http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/SomeThoughtsOnTheBookOfRevelation.pdf)
HOPE FOR THE PEACE PROCESS?
MIXED MESSAGES FROM HAMAS
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
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
PALESTINIAN APPROACH TO THE UN
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).
ISOLATION OF ISRAEL
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,
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
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
TWO ARTICLES I HAVE WRITTEN WHICH MAY INTEREST YOU:
Is it right to divide the Promised Land? See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=284
My attitude towards Israel and the Palestinians. See http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/blog/?p=277
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