Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and Ministry in Israel and the Palestinian
50 March 2020
newsletter, which seeks to take the hopes, needs, pain and fears of both
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Registered Charity No. 1125582 See www.prayerforpeace.org.uk © Tony Higton
IN THIS ISSUE
God yearns to bring Israelis to
faith in Jesus and to make Israel a blessing internationally. But:
Israel faces serious threats from Iran and
Hezbollah and still faces international bias not least after the US withdrawal
and the Trump peace process which is deemed anti-Palestinian. Pray for her
protection and for her to act with justice. Pray for the right people to lead
The Palestinians continue to suffer, including
from their leaders. Pray for their welfare and for them to avoid terrorism.
We look at:
POLITICAL TENSION IN ISRAEL: After
three elections in a year no new government has been established.
US ACTION: The US has recognised Jerusalem as the capital of
Israel and the Golan Heights as being in Israel. It has supported Israel
annexing the West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley.
PALESTINIAN SITUATION: There is serious poverty in the Palestinian
areas and Human Rights Watch calls Gaza and the West Bank “police states” which
practice oppression and torture.
WITH HEZBOLLAH: This terrorist group in Lebanon has increased
its influence in Lebanon and since the US withdrawal, especially in Syria and
Iraq. It frequently threatens to destroy Israel and is said to have bought
GROWING INFLUENCE OF IRAN: This affects Lebanon, Syria and Iraq and is an
increasing threat to Israel.
PROCESS: Many see the two-state settlement as dead,
especially after the recent US actions, and there is less concern about it in
the Arab world.
Netanyahu did well in the
third Israeli election within a year, but he did not win a clear majority. He
needed 61 seats in the 120 seat Knesset. His right wing Likud party gained 36
seats and his allied right wing and religious parties won another 22. He will
now be seeking to get three Knesset members to defect from other parties
because it is unlikely that he will be able to form a coalition with other
parties (other than the right wing and religious parties linked with Likud).
The largest other party is the “Blue and White” coalition of centrist
and liberal political parties led by Benny Gantz who refused to form a
coalition with Netanyahu, as did other smaller parties.
Netanyahu’s limited success is controversial as he is facing
imminent court cases over bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
Left wing Israeli newspaper Haaretz accuses him of incitement, division and
racism. It called his success “a defeat for the rule of law” because “millions
of Israelis voted for a candidate charged with committing felonies.” It
predicts that Netanyahu will major on halting the legal proceedings against
him. He says the accusations against him are a political witch hunt. He has
unsuccessfully tried to push through immunity laws which would prevent him from
being indicted but he could face ten years in prison for bribery.
The Arab Joint List party did well in the election, gaining
15 seats. In the April 2019 election it received 337,000 votes but in this
election it received over 575,000. It is anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian but some 20,000
Jewish people voted for it. It is thought that the success of the Arab Joint
List was a reaction to Donald Trump’s Peace Plan, which they see as
anti-Palestinian and was also a reaction to Netanyahu’s negativism towards
them. Many Israelis see the Joint List as supporting terrorism. However some
Israelis think it is not impossible that the “Blue and White” coalition might
seek an alliance with the Joint List. Others disagree.
Since I wrote the above, the President of Israel has asked
Benny Gantz to try to form a government because he had managed to secure enough
support from the 120-member Knesset to form a majority of 61 seats. However it
includes support from the Arab Joint List and from Avigdor Lieberman, head of
the Yisrael Beiteinu party, who strongly oppose each other. So it remains to be
seen if Gantz will succeed. He is also trying to get legislation through the
Knesset which would prevent Netanyahu from entering a third term as prime
minister. The involvement of the Arab Joint List is a cause of concern to many Israelis
because the Arabs involved could make demands which would reduce the Jewish
character of Israel.
Recognising Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights
Donald Trump has, of
course, taken controversial action with respect to Israel including the recognition
of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. Then in March 2019 he
recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights which Israel captured
from Syria in 1967. This is despite the fact that Syria was demanding the area
back as a condition of any peace treaty. Trump’s official statement said “aggressive
acts by Iran and terrorist groups, including Hezbollah, in southern Syria
continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks on
Israel. Any possible future peace agreement in the region must account
for Israel's need to protect itself from Syria and other regional
threats.” The action met with international condemnation.
Trump’s Peace Plan
Many people see the
two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as dead. An
Israel Democracy Institute survey discovered that support for the two-state
solution by Jewish Israelis has reduced from nearly 70% in 2008 to 47% in 2019.
Only a third of Israelis in the 18 - 34 age range supported it in 2018. Israel’s
ambassador to the UN said “Palestinian leaders have rejected multiple peace
overtures, launched intifadas and wars, and sponsored countless acts of
terrorism in adherence to this belief.”
Sir John Jenkins, former Middle East director of the UK
Foreign Office also blames the Palestinians for the decline of the two-state
solution. He said the Palestinian political structure had collapsed and that
the Palestinian Authority is “widely distrusted and despised as corrupt by many
Palestinians.” Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia said that for
four decades the Palestinian leadership “has missed opportunities again and
again and rejected all the offers it was given.” He added “It’s about time that
the Palestinians accept the offers, and agree to come to the negotiating table
- or they should shut up and stop complaining.”
However, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey
Research published a poll which shows that support among Palestinians for a
two-state solution to the conflict has fallen. A poll in September 2019 found that 56
percent of Palestinians polled opposed the two-state solution and nearly a
third (especially younger Palestinian voters) supported the establishment of one
binational state for Palestinians and Israelis. Netanyahu has on several
occasions declared his intention to annex Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
He has said “Not a single settlement or a single settler will ever be
Donald Trump’s peace plan reaffirms recognition of Jerusalem
as the capital of Israel, allows Israel to annex its West Bank settlements and
recognises the Jordan Valley (about a third of the West Bank) as part of
Israel. In return, the Palestinians would be given land near Gaza. They would eventually
be given a state (but no army) so long as they demilitarise Gaza, recognise
Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and Israel as a Jewish state. They could be given
Abu Dis, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, as their capital. Certain border towns
currently in Israel but adjacent to Palestinian territory might be transferred
to the Palestinian state but the Israeli Arabs who live in them would lose
their Israeli citizenship. Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in conflicts
with Israel would lose their right of return.
People describe Donald Trump’s peace plan as “money for
peace” rather than “land for peace.” He is offering to open up the West Bank
and Gaza to regional and global markets in order to improve the Palestinian
economy. The US clams that this would double the Palestinian economic output
within ten years.
Reactions to Trump’s plan
The Palestinian Authority
rejected Trump’s plan and cut off all ties with the US and Israel. The chief
Palestinian envoy to Britain said that the plan gives Israel a green light to
establish an apartheid state. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, which
has 57 member states, rejected the plan. The UN Security Council condemned the
idea of Israel annexing West Bank settlements. Jordan, Turkey, Iran,
Yemen, Hezbollah and Hamas also expressed disapproval. But Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United
Arab Emirates and Kuwait were more positive.
The legal status of the settlements
The UN continues with its criticisms of Israel over the West
Bank settlements. When he was UK Foreign Secretary in March 2019, Jeremy Hunt
said the British Government would oppose every UN Human Rights Council measure
about Israel’s alleged violation of Palestinian rights in the West Bank and
Gaza. The US was also critical of the fact that Israel’s human rights record is
debated at every session of the UNHRC, which is not done with any other
country, including Iran, Syria, North Korea and Myanmar.
In January 2019 the US and Israel quit the UN Educational, Scientific
and Cultural agency for criticising Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem,
naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites and granting full
membership to Palestine in 2011.
In December 2019 the International Criminal Court decided to
investigate alleged war crimes by Israel in the Palestinian territories. The
Israeli attorney-general claimed the ICC had no jurisdiction over the
territories because the Palestinians are not legally a state. The court
responded that since Palestine became a member of the ICC in 2015 they can ask
the court to investigate.
The situation in Gaza
The situation in Gaza is grim. Half of its 1.9 million
population live under the poverty line, over 70% of its youth are unemployed
and 97% of the water is undrinkable. The UN said in May 2019 that Gaza was on
the verge of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in which 1 million Palestinians could
go hungry. It added that they would have to close schools and people would have
no access to the health care system. The Palestinians cut off diplomatic ties
with the US after Trump recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Then Trump ended
US support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and cut US bilateral
aid to the Palestinian Authority.
In February 2020 Israel extended the Palestinian fishing
zone off Gaza to 15 miles and increased the number of work permits for
Palestinians entering Israel by 2000. Off the record, Palestinians express a
desire to work in Israel. And some Palestinian parents arrange for their
children to have medical treatment in Israel, only to abandon their children at
the border and disappear into Israel. One man from Gaza said: “I know lots of
people who supported Hamas in the past, but became disillusioned with their
policies. If you look at Hamas demonstrations five or ten years ago, they had
tens of thousands of participants. Now they garner only a fraction of that, so
Hamas avoids big rallies. They are trying to conceal diminishing public
support.” About 120,000 Palestinian Arabs working legally in Israel and the
Jewish settlements, and thousands more are seeking work permits or seeking to
enter Israel illegally.
On the other hand there have been violent clashes between
Gaza and Israel with many rocket attacks on Israel and Israeli reprisals which
have killed numerous people in Gaza. Israel and Gaza have been negotiating for
ceasefires with the help of Egypt and Qatar.
The Palestinian situation
Human Rights Watch has produced a scathing report on the
Palestinian leadership. It called both the Palestinian Authority in the West
Bank and Hamas in Gaza “police states” accusing them of “systematic arbitrary
arrests and torture.” Shawan Jabarin, Director of al-Haq (a Palestinian human
rights organisation and member of a Human Rights Watch committee) said: “The
fact that Israel systematically violates Palestinians’ most basic rights is no
reason to remain silent in the face of the systematic repression of dissent and
the torture Palestinian security forces are perpetrating.”
Christians are being persecuted and churches attacked in
Palestinian areas but they are pressured not to report these incidents because
this could undermine the financial support from Europe.
The World Bank says unemployment is around 18-19% in the
West Bank and over 50% in Gaza.
It seems that some Arab leaders no longer regard the
Palestinian situation as a major priority. So ambassadors from Oman, Bahrain
and the United Arab Emirates were present when Trump unveiled his controversial
peace plan in the White House. There have been muted responses from Saudi
Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Egypt and even from Jordan and Lebanon. It seems that they
no longer regard the plight of the Palestinians as a top priority.
Hezbollah in Lebanon
Hezbollah is dominant in Lebanon and more powerful than Lebanon’s
army. It is backed by Iran and has been fighting in Syria on behalf of
President Assad. Now the civil war in Syria is winding down, the Israelis are
worried that Hezbollah will start to refocus on Israel. It is thought to have
150,000 rockets capable of reaching almost the whole of Israel.
Iran continues to be influential in Syria and is seeking to
retain its military presence there. It is also a dominant influence in Lebanon
and is seeking to control Iraq. All of this increases its threat to Israel. It
continues to make threats against Israel saying it is ready to “eliminate it
from the Earth” not least because Israel launches attacks on Iranian targets in
Syria. A leading Iranian politician said: “If America attacks us, Israel will
survive for less than half an hour.” There are reports that Iran has bought
nuclear weapons from other countries. Netanyahu has said that “Iran is directing
Hezbollah to build secret sites to convert inaccurate projectiles into
precision-guided missiles, missiles that can target deep inside Israel within
an accuracy of ten meters.” Now that Trump has decided to pull out US Special
Forces from Syria, Iran believes it can become a leading regional power. The
leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps said “We have become powerful
and invincible and all the enemy’s options orchestrated against the country
have been weakened and cannot confront us and this reality has been proven
today and is visible.” He added that Iran had the “capability to
annihilate” Israel which must “be wiped off the world (map) as soon as
Susie Gelman Chairman of the Israel Policy Forum expressed
the following concern: “Despite offering a veneer of commitment to Israel, the
current White House is actually shaping an environment, both in the Middle East
and internationally, that is less stable and less safe for the Jewish State.”
Pray for revival in Israel so that many Israelis will come
to faith in Jesus (cf Rom 11:25-26 “Israel has experienced a
hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in
this way all Israel will be saved.”).
Pray for Christians being persecuted in Palestinian areas
and Messianic Jewish believers facing attacks from ultra-Orthodox Jewish
Pray for Israel and the Palestinians to act with justice
towards each other, and for an end to corruption and violence.
Pray for the welfare of Palestinians,
especially in Gaza, for an end to oppression and torture and for the proper
provision of the necessities of life.
Pray for the right people
to be given leadership in Israel. The country is clearly very divided
Pray for the protection
of Israel, especially with the growing influence of Iran, and against the bias
and antisemitism in the world, including the UN. (Many Christians see the bias
in the UN and widespread antisemitism as setting the stage for the biblical
predictions to be fulfilled of the nations gathering against Israel - Zech