The dispute in the Middle East began a new phase as Washington’s Kerry announced that the first direct talks in three years would begin. Senior negotiating team from Israel and Palestine met in Washington this past Monday and Tuesday to discuss a procedural work plan for peace negotiations.
Palestinians have been demanding that Israel accept their preconditions to peace negotiations. Those conditions are:
- The release of all prisoners
- A freeze on all settlement building
- Acceptance of the so-called 1967 borders (they were never borders, but rather truce lines drawn in 1949).
In good faith and to draw the Palestinians back to negotiations, Israel agreed to release 104 terrorists over the next nine months. Most of these terrorists were imprisoned for attacks that took place prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords. Releasing imprisoned terrorists is a move that not a popular decision among Israelis.
However, in regard to the 1967 borders, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett (chairman of the pro-settlement Jewish Home party) said: “We will continue building and you will see this soon. I am sending the message from here to all the parties in the negotiations: ‘The land of Israel belongs to the nation of Israel’” (according to news source JTA).
Kerry said the peace process will be difficult in light of the obstacles from years of hostility and mistrust. However, he believes an agreement can be achieved. Some of the major obstacles have been:
- Jewish settlements in the territory Palestinians claim is theirs
- The status of Palestinian refugees seeking return to the region
- Control of Jerusalem
Not everyone in Israel is confident that Palestinians will actually negotiate in good faith, based on the past. “For 20 years the Palestinians haven’t budged a millimeter in their demands. They’ve only enlarged them. They haven’t given in on anything. Not the ’67 lines, not on Jerusalem, not even on the ‘right of return’ in the negotiating room. The only ones who budged in those 20 years are us,” Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin said. (Times of Israel).
We will all watch and see and all eyes will be on the Middle East negotiations. Questions being raised now are “Can peace be negotiated over the next nine months?” “Will the Palestinians budge at all?” “If a peace agreement is not attained, will Palestinians attack Israel as they have done in the past?”
As we watch Israel, we keep our Bibles open to see the story unfold as it was predicted. We know that true peace will never be achieved in Israel until Jesus, the Messiah, returns. As we “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” we recognize that this prayer is really for Messiah to come!