Category: Islam & The Middle East

August 9th, 2011 by Christine Colbert

by Christine Colbert


The United States has long acted as the peace broker between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. But with negotiations at a standstill, Europe is emerging as a key player. In recent weeks Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas have sought to gain support of key European leaders. Neither of them has visited Washington since spring.

White House officials indicate that President Obama has been keeping a low profile since he unsuccessfully tried to break the long-standing stalemate by suggesting a return to pre-1967 boundaries as a model for negotiating the contours of a Palestinian state.

The PA’s anticipated push for recognition by the UN would almost certainly be supported by the more than 100 developing countries in the General Assembly. But among the UN’s 15-member Security Council, the US is expected to oppose the push. For this reason, Britain, France, and Germany would be influential swing votes.

Europe has not often been so pursued by Middle Eastern emissaries. Europe has taken a lead role in the NATO military campaign in Libya, and apparently finds its new Middle East power broker role to be gratifying. But this new role may lead to a European Union split, with some countries supporting the Palestinian push and some supporting Israel. Divisiveness is particularly undesirable in the light of the EU’s having been strained by the debt crisis in Greece. It appears that Germany and Italy would reject the Palestinian campaign, while France and Spain appear to be receptive. The British position has not been disclosed.

Apparently some Europeans see their role in determining the outcome of the PA push for UN recognition to be a means of pressuring Israel to return to negotiations. This process came to a halt last fall. A few months later, President Obama proposed reinstating the pre-1967 Arab-Israeli war borders, but adjusting these to allow for Jewish settlements in the West Bank as a basis for resuming negotiations toward a new Palestinian state.

Prime Minister Netanyahu initially rejected this formula, saying it would leave Israel indefensible. However, an Israeli official has indicated more recently that Mr. Netanyahu has moved closer to accepting the proposal — on the condition that the PA agrees to recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. The Palestinians have long refused to do this.

In mid-July the US tried to build support for this “quid pro quo” among the Quartet on the Middle East, which also comprises representatives of the EU, the UN,  and Russia. The Quartet’s endorsement would have put pressure on both Israel and the PA to resume negotiations, which would have had a dampening effect on the Palestinian push toward UN recognition.

European representatives have publicly supported Mr. Obama’s proposal for resuming negotiations; but several of them, including Russia, have balked at the requirement that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The Quartet has not taken an official position. Israel’s defense minister Ehud Barak has warned that Israel may face a “diplomatic tsunami” if the PA succeeds in advancing its proposal.

The executive director of the American Task Force on Palestine, Ghaith al-Omari, has predicted that if the PA continues its push for UN recognition “it would be highly destabilizing.” The US has tried to dissuade the PA from the planned move by reminding Palestinians that if they continue to push for UN recognition rather than negotiating Congress may vote to stop providing aid to the PA.  The US appears to be leaving the responsibility to former British prime minister Tony Blair, who serves as special envoy to the Quartet, to dissuade the PA from this strategy.

President Obama has signaled that he would veto a Palestinian statehood resolution, although wide speculation ensued that the US would not want to be alone in vetoing the resolution. Sources close to the administration indicate that it appears less concerned by this prospect than previously thought.

Thus far the PA insists it will continue on course with the push for recognition. The Palestinians may decide to tone down their effort by petitioning the General Assembly rather than the Security Council and requesting nonmember status in hopes of dodging a US veto. It is widely agreed that the Palestinians will not push for full recognition without the support of larger European countries like Britain and France.

The global community awaits a signal from European countries regarding the PA’s anticipated strategy.


Posted in Islam & The Middle East, News

March 30th, 2011 by Christine Colbert

Hussein “Steve” Mashni is a Palestinian Arab who has published the website, as well as authoring books and other content.

Mashni grew up in America in a home with a Muslim father and a Catholic mother. He says that his mother wasn’t religious, so the Muslim culture was emphasized in his home. He was devout even as a child, and as he grew older he pleaded with “Allah” to show up in a way that he could comprehend. Nothing happened, and this was of great concern to Mashni.

In a recent interview he said that as a teenager he was watching an Oral Roberts event on television. He said that suddenly he knew beyond a doubt that Jesus was right in the same room with him, “that He is the Son of God, and that He is Messiah.” These perceptions are in direct opposition to tenets of his Muslim upbringing.

Like other former Muslims who are finding the courage to “come out” with their stories of finding Christ — or more accurately, as in Mashni’s case — with their accounts of Jesus’ coming or appearing to them, Mashni’s conversion was not without difficulty. His life was never the same after his conversion experience.

As we listened to him describe his experiences and perceptions about Arab nations, we were increasingly convinced of his sincerity and devotion.

We visited Israel last year. It is an exceedingly precious Land. Our guide talked with us about the antagonistic graffiti we saw in some of the Palestinian Arab communities. Antagonistic toward Israel, of course.

He said that it’s all about “a kind of one-upmanship” or rivalry.

As we read Scripture with its prophecy about the nations that will “come against Israel” in latter days that is being fulfilled before our eyes, the ugliness of this rivalry and its most appalling manifestation in acts of suicidal terror, often on the parts of young men — and even women — came to mind.

But Mashni has opened our eyes to a new perspective on the Arab experience.

Most of us know the remarkable ancient story of Abraham and Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac.

Mashni says that the pain of Ishmael — of being sent out of his father’s house — is still the source of deep “woundedness” in Ishmael’s Arab descendants today.

Mashni says this deep cultural wound “creates anger and jealousy,” — and that we see this borne out in Arab cultures.

But Mashni reminds us that just as in the old scriptural story God continued to care for and about Ishmael and his mother — Jesus is appearing to many Muslims today and working to heal this woundedness of the Arab people, whose forefather Ishmael was so painfully close to those who were “chosen” to be the forebears of the Messiah — even living under the same roof with them! — yet he, and through him the Arab people — were not the chosen!

Increasingly reports are coming in about people throughout the Arab world having dreams and visions of One they often describe as “the man in white.”

As we come to more fully understand a primary cause of the longstanding strife in this area from Mashni’s personal experience and perceptions, this fuller understanding motivates us to continue praying and working for the end of all division between the Arab and Israeli cultures and the increasing presence of the “one new man” (or humanity) in Messiah that Ephesians 2:15 foretells.


Christine Colbert is a writer and editorial consultant, and is part of Or HaOlam Messianic Congregation in Overland Park.

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