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The economic reality of tit-for-tat destruction begins to hit home

By S Ross Jones - posted Thursday, 15 August 2002

Elijah once felt that all was lost, that only he was left to glorify the Lord. Yet the Lord sent him back to this land and eventually acted through him to defeat the prophets of Baal in a way that Elijah could not have foreseen. Perhaps today we need to be ready to recognize the Lord's hand working in unexpected ways. Some 15 people were killed yesterday in several separate incidents, the most serious of which was a bus-bomb retaliation for the Israeli bombing of Gaza. There has been a steady series of such horrible incidents since that horrible bombing. Yet the climate has changed in recent weeks.

First there was a long quiet period before the bombing of Gaza, and it has been well-reported that the bombing happened after Israel learned the PA, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad had completed an agreement to announce a unilateral cease-fire. It had received all necessary signatures and awaited only the press conference. Prime Minister Sharon so obviously shattered those plans with the bomb that even Shimon Peres said publicly that Sharon had no interest in peace. After promising revenge, even some Hamas members have said they will reconsider the cease-fire agreement at a later time.
Meanwhile Sharon has indicated that the Israeli reaction to yesterday's violence will be more measured. There will be no tightening of the restrictions on Palestinians and no crushing military action, though the Defense Forces did enter Nablus in some force.

My personal reading of the situation is that finally the need for revenge is giving way to greater needs. One hears more condemnation of suicide bombers in places where it would not have been heard earlier. Not everyone is yet at that point, but I think the swing is obvious. The bottom line now is economic. Palestinians are finally realizing that bombers hurt Palestine more than Israel, and Israel is realizing they cannot afford a continuing escalation. Israel is also facing a storm of international criticism for the humanitarian plight of a couple million people they have kept under house arrest.


A USAID-sponsored study showed a fifth of the children suffering from malnutrition, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Israel must either assume responsibility for distribution of food and supplies or loosen the restrictions so Palestinians can do it for themselves. Not all Israelis admit the economic crisis, so Sharon is facing increasing opposition in the Knesset. Yet I believe the majority on both sides are being forced to the same conclusion: it is time to bury the hatchet.

The one other factor is the US intention in Iraq. Should armed conflict happen in Iraq, it would have a tremendous effect here. The USA would be making a mistake to invade Iraq in any case, but particularly if the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is not settled. There just simply does not seem to be enough support in the Middle East for the USA to go forward. Should they do so, it would bury the rest of the economy here. I pray reason will prevail in the USA and they will look at the consequences of simply relying upon military power. Israel is Exhibit A for that path.

Surely the Lord works through economics as much as through national leaders. Certainly leaders should have peace as a priority, but perhaps the Lord is forcing their hands. Perhaps the economy is awakening the general public to the fact that we are all better off if we spend our time feeding the hungry and visiting the sick rather than trying to force our solutions on the Lord and each other. Jesus tried to tell us that a couple of thousand years ago, but we seem to be slow learners.

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About the Author

The Very Reverend S Ross Jones is Dean of St. George's College Jerusalem.

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