by The Rev. Tony Higton
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Ministry
in Israel and the Palestinian Territories
Issue 5 July 2006
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
Yet another Crisis!
I wasn’t intending to circulate another newsletter so soon
but the situation in the Middle East is currently so
sensitive and dangerous that I feel obliged to encourage
PROGRESS IN NEGOTIATIONS
The encouraging factor was that Hamas seemed to be moving
towards some acceptance of the proposals drawn up by
Palestinian prisoners in Israel which Mahmoud Abbas had
challenged them to do.
Only a week ago Hamas and Fatah agreed:
to limit resistance operations against Israel which will
“focus on the 1967 borders”
to join in a government of national unity (presumably
with Hamas retaining a majority)
to recognise international agreements ( which further
the welfare of the Palestinians)
to accept the PLO continuing as the sole representative
of the Palestinians
These agreements display a very significant move by Hamas in
a positive direction, which de facto recognises Israel, but
it does not recognise the “legality of occupation” because
that might be interpreted as Israel’s occupation of the
whole of the land and not just the West Bank..
Some will say that this is just a cynical move by Hamas to
get out of a difficult situation with almost worldwide
economic sanctions against them. But I am more hopeful
because Hamas realise that:
Olmert and Abbas met in Petra and the two embraced but this
meeting led to serious criticism of Abbas as a lackey of the
Israelis. Whatever the motives (which are often very mixed
in politics) I think we should thank God for all this as an
answer to prayer. However there were two very negative
THE DEATH OF INNOCENT PALESTINIAN CIVILIANS
There is argument as to whether it was an IDF shell which
killed the innocent civilians on a Gaza beach on June 9th.
The IDF, which normally accepts its errors, after a full
investigation (including concerning tracking and the type of
shrapnel), claims it was not an IDF shell that caused the
tragic deaths. Whether one accepts that or not, the fact is
that the Palestinians believe it was an IDF shell.
Obviously, this has done enormous damage to the negotiations
and to Palestinian attitudes towards Israel.
THE KIDNAP OF GILAD SHALIT
The surprise and very effective Palestinian attack on the
IDF via the tunnel in Gaza came as a great shock and
humiliation to the Israelis. The kidnap of Corporal Shalit
is a huge trauma for them. Some say the attack was in
revenge for the death of the innocent Palestinians, but,
given the tunnel construction, this would seem to be a
long-planned action. It may be that the kidnap was an
unplanned, opportunist event. But it is important to
understand the emotional impact this has on Israelis. The
army is an important, ever-present fact of life in Israel.
Each family will have someone close in the forces and so a
kidnapping is really traumatic. Link all this – the shock,
humiliation and trauma - with the Israeli conviction that
only zero tolerance can prevent more such events and you
have the background to the heavy military response with
tanks and forces massing on the Gaza border and the warning
shots which have caused extensive damage to the Gaza
infrastructure. A power station, several roads, a university
and other buildings were hit. This has led to power and
water shortages for Palestinians. However, Israel decided to
put a full scale offensive on hold as they have been urged
to do by other countries including Egypt.
Meanwhile the IDF arrested 64 Palestinian Government
Ministers and 23 military activists. They have made it clear
that not even Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is safe from
arrest. Israel claims that this is action against a
terrorist organisation but it greatly inflames the
situation. Furthermore Israeli planes have “buzzed” the
palace of the Syrian President because Khaled Mashaal, the
supreme Hamas leader is in exile in Syria.
Israel has also refused to comply with Palestinian demands
that Palestinian prisoners should be released in exchange
And all this comes at a time when the possibility of peace
moves seemed very clear.
HOW SHOULD WE PRAY?
As is often the case, it is possible to give up hope. It
seems a disastrous situation with both sides taking action
which is guaranteed to wreck the whole peace process.
However, there are some signs of hope:
Some in the Palestinian government clearly disapprove of
the kidnapping. Hamas Government spokesman, Ghazi Hamed
called on the kidnappers not to harm Shalit and PA
Deputy Prime Minister Nasser al-Sha’ar called for his
release. Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attack. Also at
least one senior Fatah member has blamed Hamas for the
Egypt is negotiating with Hamas head Khaled Mashaal, in
Syria, urging him to order the release of Shalit.
Although some call Israel’s military reaction blackmail,
it does seem that it could possibly have the effect of
bringing about more positive moves towards peace. Both
Israel and the Palestinians must realise that further
escalation would be very serious and would benefit
no-one. In particular the Hamas Government could fall
(which many could regard as a good thing but the
alternatives may not be better. Also it would
re-galvanise the violent activities of Hamas). Also
Israeli citizens, especially on the West Bank, could
become very vulnerable to kidnapping. Negotiations have
not ceased and could have a positive outcome.
United Kingdom, and
are pressurising both sides to exercise restraint. China
is advising restraint and urging the Palestinians to
Give thanks for positive moves by the Hamas Government
(however they have been caused).
Pray for restraint by both sides.
Pray that Shalit will be released unharmed and that
Israel will respond in a way which will further the
Pray for the Palestinians who, in addition to on-going
poverty, are, in Gaza, facing lack of electricity and
water supplies. Pray that these will be restored
Pray for Gilad Shalit and his family and all who are
traumatized by his kidnap.
Pray for a Palestinian coalition government which will
accept a two-state solution.