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 37 October 2013
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Charity No. 1125582 See www.prayerforpeace.org.uk
© Tony Higton
Pray for the Peace Talks
After much hard work by US Secretary of State, John Kerry, the peace
talks between Israel and the Palestinians began again in Washington,
after a 3-year break (the September 2010 talks only lasted 16 hours).
The main negotiators are Tzipi Livni (Israeli Minister of Justice) and
Sa’ab Erekat (Palestinian chief negotiator). There is also a US
mediator. The talks are intended to last for nine months and to achieve
a solution by the middle of 2014.
Before the talks the Palestinians had demanded Israel should provide a
definite proposal about the boundaries of a Palestinian state and
Israel had responded by saying the priorities were the recognition of
Israel as a legitimate state by the Palestinians and the issue of
Israeli security. In response to Palestinian demands Israel released 82
Palestinian prisoners who had been in captivity for over ten years.
More releases are to follow.
There are pressures on both sides. The Israelis were both alarmed and
furious at a European Union decision published on July 19th. Over the
years there has been a widespread perception that Israel is not serious
about the peace process. This, linked with the expansion of the West
Bank territories (and the violent activity of some extreme settlers)
has led to the European Union deciding to block scientific and
financial cooperation with Israeli institutions linked to the
settlements. This includes “grants, prizes and financial instruments
funded by the EU” which amount to 300 million euros. The EU is also
moving towards recommending member states label products made in the
settlements. There could well be a boycott of goods manufactured over
the Green Line. It is noteworthy that the US did not criticise the
Israeli PM Netanyahu is also clearly concerned about the danger of
Israel becoming a bi-national state if there is no two-state solution.
This could cause important problems for Israel, for example if, as is
likely, an Arab majority developed in Israel, which is a democracy.
Israel is also under pressure from the fact that the Palestinians had
started the process of seeking recognition by the UN, without waiting
for a peace settlement and could resume it if peace talks are not
The Palestinians are also under pressure from the turmoil in the Arab
countries and the threat of extreme Islamists. Hamas, which was around
the same time officially listed by the EU as a terrorist organisation,
has stated that Palestinian PM Mahmoud Abbas does not have the right to
negotiate with the Israelis and they regard the talks as futile (Hamas
is also worried about the loss of their Egyptian patron Mohammed
Morsi). So both the US and the EU want Hamas excluded from the talks
but realise that a settlement is only possible if it is with the whole
Palestinian people, including Hamas.
The Palestinians are divided. In April the respected Palestinian Prime
Minister Salam Fayyad resigned because he objected to Abbas
unilaterally declaring Palestinian independence at the UN General
Assembly, a declaration which would lead to Israeli sanctions against
the Palestinians. Reports suggested that Abbas was exercising a
semi-autocratic rule in the West Bank which included suppression of
opposition. Rami Hamdallah replaced Fayyad, only to resign two months
later because of divisions and conflict within the government. Hamas
had condemned his appointment by Abbas because it conflicted with the
agreement to form a unity government for both the West Bank and Gaza.
Both sides are also under pressure because these peace talks could be
their last chance to achieve a two-state solution. There is also a
danger that the US would step back and leave the Israelis and
Palestinians to their own devices. A senior US official told the press
that John Kerry would abandon his initiative if the two sides were not
serious about the peace talks. There is a perception in the Arab world
that American influence is weakening in the region partly beca-use of
hard lessons learnt in Iraq and Afghanistan and partly by what is seen
as vacillation over the Syrian chemical weapons situation. Any such
weakening would be a cause of great concern to Israel.
However, it is helpful that in April the Arab League for the first time
expressed support for minor adjustments to the 1967 borders between
Israel and the Palestinians in any settlement. There could be minor,
mutually-agreed swapping of land.
Israeli opposition to the two-state solution
Some of the Israeli government are against a two state solution. In a
meeting of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) one member shouted at Tzipi
Livni; “This is our land, this is our land.” Livni replied: “This is
our land, but the question is if this state will remain ours or not.”
Israeli Tourism Minister, Uzi Landau, quoted Abba Eban, Israeli foreign
minister in the 1960’s: “Eban once said that the 1967 border is the
border of Auschwitz. What country would like to achieve borders which
make it impossible to defend itself?” This shows the concern of many
Israeli deputy Defence Minister, Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu’s
Likud Party, stated in June that the coalition government is “staunchly
opposed to a two-state solution and would block the creation of a
Palestinian state if such a proposal ever came to a vote.” Netanyahu’s
office distanced themselves from Danon’s comments and said they were
not the view of the government or of Netanyahu.
However, Naftali Bennett, Israeli Economy Minister said that the idea
of establishing a Palestinian state had reached a “dead end.” He called
on Israel to annex large amounts of Palestinian land in the West Bank.
He told a conference of West Bank settlers: “The most important thing
in the land of Israel is to build, build, build. It's important that
there will be an Israeli presence everywhere. This land has been ours
for 3,000 years. There was never a Palestinian state here and we were
never occupiers. The house is ours and we are residents here, not the
Little wonder that Netanyahu said in July that a proposed two state
solution would be put to a referendum in Israel. Abbas followed suit,
saying he would have a referendum amongst Palestinians. Surveys show
that 70% of Palestinians want a two-state solution but 80% think it
will never happen. 39% of Israelis would vote for a peace deal, another
16% probably would do so but 20% would vote against.
New settlement activity
Since Netanyahu was elected in 2009 the growth of Israeli settlements
in the West Bank has been faster than ever. A few days after the peace
talks resumed the Israeli cabinet approved special funding going to
outposts in the West Bank which a few months earlier Israel regarded as
illegal. Shortly afterwards some 1,200 housing units were approved in
the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Israel is also proceeding with legal justification for seizing property
in East Jerusalem belonging to absentee Palestinian landlords.
In late September Israel demolished the Palestinian village of Khirbet
Makhoul which had been declared illegal four years ago. The new factor
was that the army prevented any humanitarian aid, including tents,
being offered to the expelled villagers. The Israeli High Court
subsequently stated that the army had gone too far in preventing
humanitarian aid. One problem is that it is almost impossible for
Palestinians to get Israeli building permits.
Quite apart from issues of justice, this activity on the West Bank does, of course, threaten the peace process.
Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned racism against Arabs including right
wing vandalism against Palestinian property on the West Bank. He also
condemned segregation between Jewish and Arab schoolchildren in an
amusement park near Tel Aviv.
Two days after the Peace Talks resumed Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Palestinian
Authority Minister of Religious Affairs preached a sermon which was
broadcast on Palestinian TV. In it he compared the new peace
negotiations with those made by Mohammed with the Quraish tribe of
Mecca, which were condemned by many of his colleagues. But Mohammad
replied that the peace treaty was essential to buy time so that his
forces could increase and successfully attack Mecca. Two years later
this happened and Mohammad conquered Mecca.
This month two Palestinian human rights groups, Al-Haq and the
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, have petitioned the International
Criminal Court to investigate alleged crimes committed by Israel in the
Palestinian territories. They argue that the ICC can take this action
even though the Palestinians have not yet formally signed up to it.
This will cause deep concern and antagonism in Israel and could
undermine the peace talks. Israel is very worried about the prospect of
the Palestinians joining the ICC. The US has pressed the Palestinians
not to take such action.
Threats to Israel
There have been rocket attacks from Gaza which have led to Israeli
retaliation. Israeli right wingers called for the government to do a
thorough “cleansing” of Gaza. Meanwhile, a water crisis is looming in
Gaza. 90-95% of the water from its only aquifer is polluted and the
desalinisation of sea water will only provide enough for about 29% of
the population. All of this heightens tensions.
In May Israel mounted an air attack on Iranian missiles being
transported through Syria to Hezbollah, widely regarded as a terrorist
group, which has attacked Israel in the past. In retaliation, shells
were fired into Israel from Syria on several occasions. Israel was also
concerned that Syria could mount chemical attacks although hopefully
that danger has now receded. The situation was worsened when Syrian
rebels seized a border crossing in the Golan Heights causing Austrian
peacekeepers to withdraw. Israeli experts have warned that Israel is
not keeping pace with the rocket-firing potential of Hamas and
Hezbollah. Brig. Gen. Meir Elran of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for
National Security Studies warned that in a war some 1,500 short- to
mid-range rockets could be launched against Israel each day for a whole
The new President of Iran, Hasan Rouhani, has projected a more moderate
image and has denied that Iran intends to develop nuclear weapons. This
has led the West to respond positively and to suspend aggressive
attitudes towards Iran. He also tweeted New Year greetings to Iran’s
Jews. However Israel is, not unnaturally, suspicious. They point
out that Rouhani said in a speech in August: “The Zionist regime has
been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound
should be removed.” President Shimon Peres of Israel also stated that
Rouhani had made it clear in a speech that Iran would continue to build
long-range missiles. Israel also reminds the world that the real power
in Iran is not in Rouhani’s hands but in the hands of the Ayatollah
Khamenei whom Netanyahu said led a “messianic, apocalyptic, radical
cult.” It is significant that when Rouhani returned to Iran from the UN
some crowds applauded him but others threw shoes and eggs at him.
It is obvious that the Peace Process urgently needs our prayers.
How should we pray? –
1. That the peace talks have resumed.
2. For the skills of John Kerry, US Secretary of State.
3. For the pressures on both sides to be serious about the Peace Process.
1. For the peace talks to be successful in bringing peace with justice with security for both sides.
2. For God to curb extremists on both sides: those
who provocatively seek to hinder or torpedo the Peace Process and
violent Israeli settlers and Palestinians who might seek to fire
3. That Hamas will become committed to a peace settlement.
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 foster a new constructive approach from Iran and to prevent it from gaining nuclear weapons.
7. For peace, stability and true democracy in all Middle East countries.
8. For the UN and other countries to act with wisdom
and justice towards both sides in order to encourage the Peace Process.
9. Pray for the evangelistic and reconciliation ministry of Rachel Netanel in Jerusalem
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