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Israel needs ‘amicable divorce’

29 November 2013

GAVIN DRAKE

The Rt Revd David Gillett, trustee of the Council of Christians and Jews, with Israeli Ambassador to London, Daniel Taub, at a fringe meeting of the General Synod

The Rt Revd David Gillett, trustee of the Council of Christians and Jews, with Israeli Ambassador to London, Daniel Taub, at a fringe meeting of the...

THE Christian Church has a "tremendous potential" to bring reconciliation in the Middle East, the Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Taub, said after a fringe meeting of the General Synod last week.

During the meeting, which was organised by the Council of Christians and Jews with the Board of Deputies of British Jews, the Ambassador delivered a biblical exposition of the dispute between Jacob and Esau, giving pointers for modern-day conflict-resolution theories, and applying them to the continuing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Both parties, and the people who believe in peace on both sides, seem to believe that what we need is not a marriage, but an amicable divorce," he said. "That has to be the first stage. If we can't live together as neighbours, trying to live together in the same house is probably not going to succeed."

He said that the two governments could not deliver reconciliation, merely the structure within which the two peoples could work together. "I have a tremendous amount of confidence that the business communities on both sides, that the people of faith on both sides, that the artistic communities on both sides, the sporting fraternities on both sides - they will be the ones that try to fill [the structure] with meaning."

There are, he said, "parts of the Christian community in the UK that have persuaded themselves that they are making a contribution to resolving our conflict, and they are really not because . . . they are not advancing understanding, but are diminishing understanding in some ways".

People who seek to promote their own "solution" to the conflict were "exporting their ignorance to our part of the world. We have enough ignorance ourselves. . . We don't need you to export it." He called on the Church to think about what "comparative advantage" it could bring to the situation. "I think there's a tremendous role to be played [by the Church] in creating the environment in which non-threatening and deep interactions can take place.

"Many branches of the Church have all sorts of institutions scattered throughout the Middle East - in Israel, in the West Bank, and so on. Wouldn't it be wonderful if these became places of joint study, of joint meeting, of projects between the two sides?

"The Church has a tremendous potential to be a help. . . It first of all needs to listen very carefully to both sides to create the trust that they're going to be listened to."

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