Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land
Paradox Ministries: Promoting Reconciliation

Prayer for Peace in the Holy Land


May 21st, 2008 . by admin

srael has celebrated its 60th anniversary and the Palestinians held Nakba (“Catastrophe”) Day marking the anniversary from a Palestinian viewpoint. However there does seem to be hope in the present situation. One aspect is:



It seems that, through the good offices of the Egyptian Government and General Omar Suleiman (Head of Egyptian Security), that Israel and Hamas may be on the brink of a ceasefire.  Egypt announced it had gained the agreement of 12 organisation on the Palestinian side, but is still working to get confirmation of the agreement of some smaller groups. It is also awaiting an Israeli response.

Israel has said it will accept the ceasefire but will not make an official commitment to it. Instead it will see if the violence subsides and if it does respond positively, not only by ceasing military operations in Gaza but also by lifting the blockade of Gaza by opening the crossing points and allowing necessary goods into the Strip.

Meanwhile hostilities have continued including a rocket attack on Ashkelon in which 90 Israelis were injured.

Suleiman warned Hamas that if the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit was not released as part of prisoner exchange Israel would mount a major offensive against the Gaza Strip.  Hamas appear to be willing to release Shalit but are not prepared to accept the list of 450 Palestinian prisoners Israel is willing to release.

However the fact is that many in Israel feel that such an attack on Gaza would not be effective, would be condemned by the international community and would lead to excessive bloodshed on both sides. A former head of Mossad (Israeli secret service) and former senior military chiefs have recently warned against it.

Also a major Israeli attack on Gaza could precipitate an attack from Hezbollah in the North.  Furthermore, unless there is a ceasefire, Hamas could violently torpedo any agreement between Israel and Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile Osama bin Laden called on Egyptian Muslim militants to seek to remove the Israeli blockade of Gaza, adding: “We will continue, God permitting, the fight against the Israelis and their allies … and will not give up a single inch of Palestine as long as there is one true Muslim on earth.”



Israel and Syria are to hold peace talks which have been brought about by Turkish mediation. Secret meetings held between 2004 and 2006 are said to have produced (currently non-binding) political understandings that:

  • Israel would withdraw from the Golan Heights to the 1967 lines (the Syrians want that over 5 years, the Israelis over 15).
  • The border will be demilitarised.
  • A buffer zone in the form of a park along the Sea of Galilee, to which both Israelis and Syrians would have free access.
  • Israel will control use of water from the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee.
  • Syria will cease supporting Hezbollah (but urge it to be only a political party) and Hamas (with Hamas Chief Khaled Meshal leaving Damascus) and distance itself from Iran.
  • Syria would encourage peace in Iraq and a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Americans support the talks but if a full peace agreement is to be achieved they would need to be more positive towards Syria politically and diplomatically.



Hezbollah continues to grow in strength and influence in Lebanon. The government decided to dismantle Hezbollah’s telephone system etc., and, as a result, the organisation’s leader Hassan Nasrallah accused them of effectively declaring war on Hezbollah.  Consequently Hezbollah took over West Beirut for a time.

However, the two sides have just signed an agreement in Qatar which hopefully will end the 18-month crisis. Hezbollah gets 11 seats in a new government and the power of veto. The other side will have 16 with three being distributed by the new president.

This means that Hezbollah is effectively running Lebanon which hardly suits Israel.



The peace negotiations continue with both sides claiming there has been progress but still a long way to go.  They are not helped by the fact that Olmert has been subjected to yet another corruption investigation, which weakens him as a peace partner. Some progress has been made over Israel wanting to hand over 90% of the West Bank whilst the Palestinians are demanding 98%. Israel also wants to maintain the major “settlement blocs” and the Jordan Valley.

Both sides were unhappy about Condolezza Rice’s request that they produce a memorandum of understanding on their progress before George Bush visited Israel for its anniversary celebrations.

Israel and the Palestinian Authority are both unhappy over a request by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that they publish a memorandum of understanding on the progress of their final-status negotiations to date before U.S. President George Bush arrives on a visit next week.

More recently Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated that the two sides were unlikely to reach agreement on the core issues by the end of 2008. Abbas has threatened that he will resign if agreement is not reached in the next six months.



  1. Give thanks for the agreements about peace talks between Syria and Israel, between the factions in Lebanon and for the Egyptian mediation which promises and imminent Israel-Hamas ceasefire.
  2. However, also pray about the uncertainties, fears, suspicions, secret agendas which, together with the influence of extremists on all sides could hinder success in these processes.
  3. Pray for peace in the region.
  4. Pray for a breakthrough in the Israel-Palestinian peace talks.


May 1st, 2008 . by admin

The current situation is dominated by talk of a short-term ceasefire (tahadiyeh) between Hamas and Israel. Negotiations for a ceasefire do not involve direct contact between Israel and Hamas. It is the Egyptians who are relating to both sides aiming at a six-month cessation of hostilities. They have a vested interest in preventing Hamas being pushed more and more towards extreme groups like Al Qaeda. There were also rumours of a Hamas intention to breach the wall between Gaza and Egypt again, which led to heightened Egyptian security.

Israel is concerned that Hamas will be unable to control smaller terrorist groups such asIslamic Jihad in a ceasefire. Palestinians claim that eleven such groups have agreed to the ceasefire in principle. Under the agreement, Israel would maintain the ceasefire even if there were terror attacks in the West Bank or Israel.  Hamas want the ceasefire to include the West Bank, at least in the near future. Israel would also re-open the Rafah crossing between Gazaand Israel, together with crossings for goods vehicles.

Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas Prime Minister says the organisation is ready to offer a long-term ceasefire (hudna) if Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders and allows a Palestinian state with itscapital in Jerusalem and a right of return for Palestinian refugees.  This creates seriousproblems for Israel. Hamas refuses, however, to recognize Israel as a legitimate state.

FEARS & ADVANTAGES     There are, of course, fears in Israel that a temporary ceasefire will simply allow Hamas breathing space to strengthen its position in Gaza and its ability to attack Israel.  However it is also clear that Hamas has managed to keep up a steady campaign against Israel without a ceasefire. There is also concern that such a ceasefire could strengthen Hamas at the expense of the (Fatah) Palestinian President and negotiator Mahmoud Abbas.

One advantage for Israel is that a ceasefire would allow the re-opening of the Gaza crossings. The very negative effects of the Israeli sanctions on Gaza on the population have been condemned around the world. The United Nations‘ Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that lack of fuel will prevent distribution of food to 650,000 refugees, disrupt 214 schools and 19 health clinics. Hospitals have only a few days worth of fuel. Inoculationsfor 55,000 babies are threatened. Council rubbish collection has ceased.

Israel claims that Hamas itself is preventing the limited amount of fuel coming out of Israelfrom reaching the Gaza population, so creating an economic crisis for propaganda purposes, but Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups call on Israel to stop restricting fuel supplies.  Such a situation affecting one third of the Palestinian population militates against the Israel-Fatah peace negotiations.  A ceasefire would also be very welcome in the constantly bombarded Israeli town of Sderot and the western Negev region of Israel.

A few days ago Miyasar Abu Muatak and her four children Salah, 4, Musad, 18 months, Hanaa, 3, and Rudeynah, 6, sat down to breakfast when two Israeli missiles landed nearby and they were all killed. The IDF claims that the missiles didn’t directly cause the deaths but that they detonated bombs being carried by militants.

Some people in Israel, including Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, are critical of Israel’spotential agreement as legitimizing Hamas.  However former US President Jimmy Carter made a very controversial visit to the region, meeting up with Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas, in Damascus. He maintains that Israel must talk to everyone.

It must also be remembered that Hamas have been trying to improve their image in the West. They hired a media consultant who has helped them to portray themselves as a legitimate resistance movement, forced to attack Israel because of Palestinian suffering.  However anti-Israel terrorism continues and a number of Israelis have been killed in the last few weeks, including two civilians at the Nahal Oz fuel terminal through which Israel provides Gaza with fuel. Three IDF soldiers were ambushed and killed in Gaza. Rocket and mortar attacks have also continued.  Israeli intelligence forces anticipate attacks before Israel’s 60th Independence Day on May 18th.

Israel plans to approve employment of an extra 5000 Palestinian construction workers and it has re-opened the border after terrorist attacks to allow some trucks and some fuel oil through. The IDF is investigating allegations that 46 Palestinians were detained for no reason for 16 hours at a check point and their car tyres were punctured. They were not allowed to sit down or use toilet facilities.

The expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank continues to hinder the peace process. Mahmoud Abbas asked President George W. Bush to take action to discourage this.  Another hindrance is 500 IDF roadblocks on the West Bank which Israel has not yet removed. A joint Israeli-Palestinian report claims that ten such roadblocks have little security value and are unnecessarily hindering Palestinian trade.  The group behind the report included Palestinian officials, American experts and two IDF reserve officers who work in the West Bank Civil Administration.

Contact between Israel and Arab states continues. Qatar urged Israel to end the “crippling blockade of Gaza due to the difficult humanitarian situation” and to speed up the peace talkswith the Palestinians.  Oman also has re-established relations with Israel.  Meetings have taken place with Bahrein and United Aran Emirates too.


The other prominent factor on the scene currently is the possibility of talks between Israel and Syria, which are supported by all three candidates in the US Presidential election. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is reported to be willing to consider returning the Golan Heights to Syria. The Syrian Foreign Minister has said that if Israel is serious about this then that would remove the barriers to talks. But he also called for Israel to make a written commitment to withdraw asa condition of talks, which is a problem for Israel. Another call he made was for Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders for the sake of a Palestinian state. Syria, however, has said it will not break off relations with Iran for the sake of talking with Israel.

David Tal, Head of the Israel Knesset House Committeee says the Golan should not be returned without a national referendum and he has created a bill to that effect. Some Israelisfear the advance of Hezbollah into the Golan, which overlooks the Sea of Galilee, if the area isreturned to Syria. A recent survey discovered that only 32% of Israelis favour a full withdrawal from the Golan (amongst Jewish Israelis it is 25%). 74% don’t believe Assad is serious about peace.

The Americans decided to reveal the reason for the mysterious Israeli air strike in Syria on September 6th. They say it was on a nuclear reactor being built to produce plutonium with the help of the North Koreans, though the Syrians have denied this. The Americans made thisrevelation to pressurize North Korea into an agreement over nuclear weapons and as a warning to the Iranians. 

Contacts between Israel and Syria began after the Lebanon war in 2006. Syrian President Assad said that Turkey has acted as a mediator since April 2007.


 1.   That there may be a successful ceasefire between Hamas and Israel which will facilitate the peace process.

2.   For the people of Gaza, with Israel’s help, to be released from they serious economic problems which they face and to realise that peace is the best way forward, and to influence the Hamas government accordingly.

3.   For Israel to be serious about the peace process, to curb settlement expansion and remove all unnecessary roadblocks.

 4.  For successful talks between Israel and Syria so that the threat of serious military conflict will recede.