Amidst the ongoing conflict over land allegedly occupied by Israel, what is the truth and why is there so much confusion? The Bible is quite clear about it: the Jews were promised this land (significantly more than they presently occupy) thousands of years ago (Genesis 17.8). But even on a political level, Israel has every right to this much fought-over real estate. It’s just that politicians have agendas, along with short memories.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, at the United Nations, has called for a Palestinian state based on the borders proposed in the 1947 UN Partition Plan – borders they rejected outright themselves at the time. So how is it likely to satisfy them now? Their real problem – then and now – is the existence of a Jewish state.
The 1947 UN plan recommended the land being divided to create independent Jewish and Arab states existing alongside one another. Even this was a betrayal of Jewish aspirations, for they had originally (through the 1920 Treaty of San Remo, which has never been superseded) been promised a much larger area including the land now known as Jordan.
But in a compromise designed to appease the wrath of dissenting Arabs, Britain imposed a ‘two-state solution’ by granting the region east of the Jordan River to the Arabs. It duly became known as Jordan. But memories are short, and there was soon talk of a further ‘two-state solution’.
Nevertheless, the Jews accepted the UN offer despite the fact that it represented only a fraction of the territory originally promised them. Yet the Arabs rejected it, and are still seen by many as the victims.
Now Abbas calls on the UN to declare 2017 “the international year to end the Israeli occupation of our land and our people.”
But since when did it belong to the Palestinians, who did not exist as a people in 1947? In fact Jews from the region were more likely to be known as Palestinians then.
Following the War of Independence in 1948, Jordan (not the PA) illegally took control of Judea, Samaria and east Jerusalem. But when threatened with annihilation by surrounding Arab countries in 1967, Israel won an astounding victory in just six days and duly captured this disputed territory, which was certainly never ‘Palestinian’.
Now Abbas is claiming that Jewish settlements in these territories are an obstacle to peace.
But as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu put it, the conflict is not about settlements. “If the Arabs had said yes to a Jewish state in 1947, there would be no war, no refugees, no conflict. And when they finally say yes to a Jewish state, we’ll be able to end this conflict once and for all.”
Or as he told the UN, the core of the conflict is the “persistent Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish state within any boundary.”
As to the PA’s demand that a Palestinian state be free of Jews, Mr Netanyahu described that as “ethnic cleansing”, adding that “the concept of ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd”.
Even U.S. President Barak Obama has got himself in a muddle over this, referring to Israel’s persistence in occupying “Palestinian land”, which is patently not the case, even in international law.
Meanwhile the Israeli leader invited his PA counterpart to address the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, and told him: “You have a choice to make. You can continue to stoke hatred, as you did today (at the UN), or you can confront hatred and work with me today.”
However, Bibi was uncharacteristically upbeat about the future. Citing growing relationships with countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and even among Arab nations, he predicted that delegates would soon get calls from their leaders with a short message: “The war against Israel at the UN has ended.”
But he was scathing about the General Assembly bias displayed last year when they passed 20 resolutions against his democratic state versus just three for the rest of the world where human rights violations abound.
Britain was also taken to task by the PA president in his address at the UN for issuing the so-called Balfour Declaration in 1917, which promised to do all it could to create a homeland in Palestine (as the region was then known) for the Jewish people.
In fact Abbas has threatened to sue Britain over this declaration, which he claimed had reaped catastrophe, misery and injustice for his people.
But Mr Netanyahu countered that if he went ahead with such an action, “he should also sue Cyrus the Great for letting the Jews come back to Israel to rebuild the Temple, and organize a class action suit against Abraham for buying a parcel of land in Hebron”.
We must pray for greater understanding – amongst politicians, writers and clergymen – of the principle that blessing the Jews is the key to individual and national prosperity (Genesis 12.3). Palestinians and other enemies of Israel would save their beleaguered people so much heartache, poverty and strife if only they would buy into this principle – so well understood and practiced by the biblical Ruth.
As a Moabite, Ruth was seen as a ‘foreigner’, yet she blessed her Jewish mother-in-law Naomi in staying by her side for her return to Judah (not Palestine) after losing her husband and sons. As Boaz put it, she had left her father, mother and homeland to come and live with a people she did not know. And his prayer for her was: “May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” (Ruth 1.11f)
As with Ruth, who came from present-day Jordan, most Palestinian leaders are also foreigners from various Arab lands in the region (for example, PLO founder Yasser Arafat was Egyptian). The idea of Palestinian nationality was a political invention of recent times to provide an excuse for driving out the Jews. But we praise God for the growing number of Arabs and Palestinians who are being reconciled with their Jewish brothers through the atoning death of Jesus on a cross outside Jerusalem.
Pray that eyes will continue to be opened to the wondrous truth expounded by St Paul in his letter to the Gentile Ephesians, reminding them that they were once “separated from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility…” (Ephesians 2.12–14)
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon, and Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com