“Also I will restore the captivity of my people Israel, and they will rebuild the ruined cities and will live in them…I will also plant them in their land, and they will not again be rooted out from their land which I have given them, says the Lord your God”
Settling the Land?
If Israelis-be they “settlers” in the usual sense or not-build their homes in territory that does not fall within the area allotted to Israel in the 1947 UN partition of “Palestine,” they are judged by the world to be illegally occupying someone else’s land. The settlers, on the other hand, believing they were enabled by the grace of God to return to their erstwhile homeland, feel they have a biblical mandate to cover the land with their homes and institutions. In response, the world cries “foul!”
However, one cannot illegally “occupy” a certain territory unless it clearly belongs to someone else. In this case, though the Palestinians say they own the land, it is in fact not clearly theirs. At best, it is “disputed” land. Where there is no sovereign state to make laws and draw borders, citizens are free to build houses wherever they choose.
The European settlement of North America might be a case in point. Though the world is full of people who believe the Native Americans were wronged (and they were to some extent), ultimately God determines who lives where. He gave the Amorites 400 years to get their act together, and because they didn’t, he brought the Israelites into the land and pushed the Amorites out. As for Palestine, the case has been successfully made by other writers that the land had been woefully neglected by her Ottoman overlords-so much so that it was deemed “God-forsaken” by a well-known writer-as many of you know. That being the case, those living there at the time (so-called “Palestinians”) deserved something better than the rule of the Ottoman Turks.
Now, once again Jewish citizens (a.k.a. “settlers”) are asserting their biblical right to the land. Generally speaking, Jewish people beautify and greatly enrich the land, wherever they go. This is clearly seen in the handsome limestone homes, red tiled roofs, well-tended gardens and parks, and the well laid out streets of Jewish towns (cf. S’derot). The new area currently under dispute is the outpost of Oz Zion, located near Beit El in Samaria (part of the heartland of Israel). The IDF just recently attempted to shut down the outpost, but they were confronted by about 150 settlers determined to stop them. The melee resulted in injuries to at least five Border Guard officers.
In actuality the Oz Zion outpost has been evacuated and then resettled several times. Now, attempting once again to clear the area, the IDF has met strong opposition. As of this writing the evacuation has failed, partly because the start of the Sabbath intervened. Word is that IDF officers are trying to persuade the settlers to leave peacefully. Security forces are expected to remain at the outpost throughout the weekend to watch the area and try to prevent additional activists from flocking to the area. The IDF Spokesperson’s Office said the outpost would be evacuated on Saturday evening, after the close of Shabbat.
An Interesting Proposal
Most people are familiar with the old saying, “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” It is just possible that Israel and the Palestinians could be back to square one-that is, they could conceivably return to an arrangement similar to the 1967 situation in which Jordan held part of the land and most Palestinians considered themselves Jordanian citizens, or at least having a relationship with Jordan.
Recently Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu held talks with Jordan’s King Abdullah, in which the two leaders mooted the possibility of a confederation between a Palestinian West Bank state and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Nothing was decided at this meeting, and the two leaders agreed to hold further discussions in the coming days. But the idea has apparently become a focal talking point in Amman, Washington, and Palestinian centers.
According to Debkafile, Netanyahu brought some pointed questions to the highly confidential one-on-one talks at the Hashemite palace: He asked the king how much responsibility would Jordan undertake in controlling West Bank security and intelligence activity? What were his plans for extending such control from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip? And how would Jordan’s intentions fit into the security arrangements demanded by Israel in both territories as part of any accord with the Palestinians?
According to US and Jordanian sources, the goal for the next stage of Israel-Palestinian negotiations in the coming months would be a long-term interim accord. It would leave the core disputes on permanent borders, Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees and the future of Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria to a later round of negotiations at some unspecified time in the future. The problem is, it is not clear whether or not the Palestinians would accept such an arrangement.
The establishment of a Palestinian-Jordanian confederation might sidestep the difficulties of reciprocal recognition-a Palestinian state recognized by Israel, and Israel recognized by the Palestinians as the national state of the Jewish people. Jordan has recognized Israel and the two nations maintain full diplomatic relations. “The confederation’s ruling body as such would be able to recognize Israel without requiring a public Palestinian declaration of acceptance. Equally, Israel would be saved from having to formally accept Palestinian statehood and could simply greet the new joint entity and extend an assurance of cooperation that in practice would be implemented through Jordan or any Muslim Arab element taking part in the move” (Debkafile December 27).
It appears that Palestinian leaders may be mulling such a possibility. In early December, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas secretly advised certain Palestinian leaders “to be prepared for a new confederation project with Jordan and other parties in the international community.” By “other parties” he may have been referring to Egypt, Turkey, and Qatar-in other words, the more or less pro-American Sunni-led bloc of Arab states.
The Conflict Is Not about Territory
In a recent speech, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was time for the world to finally grasp the truth that the Israeli-Arab conflict is not about tiny scraps of territory, but rather about the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East. Back in the early 1900s when Jewish aliyah was picking up steam, Emir Faisal magnanimously declared, “We will wish the Jews a hearty welcome home,” but he was apparently referring to a short visit and not an extended stay. “My home is your home” did not apply to the Jews.
Speaking at a meeting of the Nation Public Diplomacy Forum, Netanyahu said, “Our top public diplomacy mission is to explain that the root of this conflict is not territorial.” He said the recent Gaza war was further evidence of this. “What was the war about? The war was about our very existence. We left areas that we captured in the Six Day War, like the Gaza Strip, and [now] they fire missiles at us.” he said. He reminded his listeners that prior to 1967 and Israel’s capture of the currently disputed territories, Israel was also under constant attack. And the start of the peace process did nothing to change that.
“Day in, day out, and hour by hour, they have been preaching that Israel has no right to exist,” continued Netanyahu. “So … the lie has taken root, and there is no way to fight a lie except with the truth.”
Some, even in Israel, will argue that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has recognized Israel. However, there is a big difference between Abbas’ recognition that Israel does exist, and Israel’s demand that he recognize its right to exist. This is a major sticking point for Israelis because if future generations of Palestinians are not taught that Israel has a right to exist, and are in fact taught the opposite, then the stage will be set for perpetual conflict.
Without a public recognition of Israel’s right to exist and a revision of the Palestinian education system to reflect that, no signed agreement will result in genuine, long-lasting peace. (Ryan Jones, Israel Today, December 5).
“Canada Will Not Let the Jews or Israel Stand Alone”
In recent days, when under President Obama, the United States’ friendship for Israel is increasingly in doubt, it has been refreshing and encouraging to this writer to note that Canada is a staunch friend of Israel-at least under the Stephen Harper government. (Our admiration for Canada has been enhanced by the fact that some of our own family members are now permanent residents of the province of British Columbia.)
Recently, before the UN vote on Palestinian statehood, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird delivered a speech supportive of Israel. He said, “The bottom line is we [the Canadian government] will not let the Jewish people and the State of Israel stand alone when the going gets tough.” In a phone interview from New York, Baird said he had “absolutely no hesitation” about taking the podium and opposing the Palestinian bid, something he knew was not a popular position in the hall.
The Canadian foreign minister criticized Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for the hostile tenor of his speech. “Knowing that he had such overwhelming support, this would have been an occasion for him to reach out to the government and people of Israel, to embrace the Jewish people, to talk about his hopes for peace and be magnanimous,” Baird said. “Unfortunately it was a rather aggressive speech that will really do nothing to advance the cause of peace or the peace process.”
Baird also said he was “disappointed with some countries in Europe for failing to stand up. I thought the Czech Republic was courageous to take the position it did and stand alone in the European Union. I certainly admire their leadership.” The Czech Republic was the only EU country to vote against the Palestinian resolution, and – along with Israel and Canada – made up a group of nine countries that opposed the resolution.
The Bible promises a blessing to those who befriend Israel. I believe that the United States has for a long time been a recipient of that blessing. With America’s friendship for Israel in decline, God could very well transfer that blessing to Canada.
“And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you…and in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:2-3).