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A settlement too far
WHEN ISRAEL ELECTED Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister at the end of 1995 it was understood that he was not the moderate that his predecessor had been. His centre-Right government included several hardline religious groups which would never make the necessary compromises to ensure peaceful coexistence with the Palestinains within and Arab States without Israel's borders. The world held its breath, waiting for the storm to burst.
Instead, for many months, and despite all predictions, the Oslo Accords seemed to be working. Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians took control over ever-increasing tracts of land, and policed them effectively. Now, over the last few weeks, the tenuous peace has been broken, blood shed, and passions aroused.
Events in the Holy Land have an impact on Western Christians, not only because they effect the pilgrimage industry, and not only because we have a strong attachment to the places associated with our biblical "forefathers in faith", but also because we relate so closely with the people who live there. We are close, of course, to our fellow Christians, although perhaps slow in showing them our support, but we are also bound to hold Muslims in high regard and to remember the spiritual ties which link us with Jews. (Nostra Aetate, 3,4).
So we are torn, appreciating the appeai to the Jews of the "promised land" after centuries of being persecuted and particularly after the Holocaust, and we agonise for the Palestinians, marginalised in the land of their ancestors.
However, to criticise Israel is not to be equated with antisemitism, however certain Zionists might try to make the link. So Christians can deplore the new housing development on the land in East Jerusalem annexed by Israel in 1967 and urge the government of Netanyahu to desist. It is not worth antagonising the Arab League and fuelling civil disturbance when, with compromise and consultation, both people might find an accommodation with which they can live and together build up a lasting peace and a future of prosperity and security.