Will President Trump’s long-awaited ‘Deal of the Century’ bring peace to the Middle East?
Most critics are bound to write it off as a dead letter before the ink has dried, but I’m not so sure.
Predictably, it is regarded by the mainstream media as heavily tilted in favour of Israel, and the BBC were quick to point out that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas hadn’t even been invited to the Washington unveiling.
What they didn’t say was that the Palestinians had denounced – and rejected – the plan long before its details emerged in spite of the huge financial incentives offered them. And you wouldn’t invite a guest to your party who had constantly, and publicly, rubbished your preparations ahead of time.
Nevertheless, the proposals “could be the last opportunity” for the Palestinian Authority to achieve its desire for statehood, Mr Trump has said. He thus presents “a realistic two-state solution” that does not compromise Israel’s security, something the international community has been promoting for a very long time.
The trouble, and the truth, is that a two-state solution is not really what the Palestinians want. They want all of the land – “from the river to the sea” – as their officials keep chanting, backed up by a chorus of Western supporters such as the British Labour Party’s hard-left.
But the Palestinians are in danger of missing out altogether as they are being increasingly marginalised by some of Israel’s more powerful Arab neighbours who are growing impatient with the PA’s lack of willingness to negotiate, along with the continued aggression of Hamas in Gaza. I am led to believe that three Arab nations were represented at the White House ceremony announcing the plan.
The reality is that the Saudis and other Arab states are forging new economic and diplomatic links with the Jewish state. And indeed the Sunni Muslims share a common defence interest with Israel against the aggression of Shi’ite Iran.
When all is said and done, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict boils down to the resentment of Arabs (on the whole) to the Jews returning to their ancient homeland over the past century or so in fulfilment of many Old Testament prophecies.
The United Nations tried to deal with this through their Partition Plan of 1947 – a two-state solution – but the Arabs rejected it outright and war broke out against the re-born Jewish state in 1948 when it came under attack from all sides.
Israel survived the ordeal, but Jordan illegally annexed Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem – territory taken back by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967 when the Old City of Jerusalem came into Jewish hands for the first time in nearly 2,000 years. Were the “times of the Gentiles” thus fulfilled? (See Luke 21.24)
The media mantra referring to ‘Israeli-occupied’ territory is, therefore, a fallacy. It was certainly never Palestinian land (though it was part of the Ottoman Turkish empire prior to 1917), for Jews were more likely than Arabs to be known as ‘Palestinians’ in the early days of Jewish re-settlement.
A history lesson: In line with the expressed intention of Britain’s Balfour Declaration of 1917 promising a homeland in the region for the Jewish people, the post-World War I San Remo Treaty of 1920 confirmed the League of Nations’ (the UN’s predecessor) allocation of all the territory from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, including Judea, Samaria and, of course, Jerusalem.
Simply put, Israel has not occupied any land except what is rightfully theirs, according not only to international law but to the promise of God to Abraham some 4,000 years ago when he said: “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you now reside as a foreigner, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (Gen 17.7f)
In light of this, and of the San Remo Treaty which has never been abrogated, the following sentence written by Daily Mail defence and security editor Larisa Brown is patently false: “Palestine has lost swathes of land to Israel since a 1947 UN resolution calling for the creation of independent Arab and Jewish states.”
Yet Mr Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are bending over backwards in an attempt to win peace by compromising on this issue and giving up land to allow a Palestinian state on their borders, even though it was never in the original plan, and would still potentially prove a security threat to Israel.
But this is not enough. It will never be enough, as far as Israel’s enemies are concerned, until the Jewish state is wiped off the map.
As for Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah predicted that the city would become “a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling” and “an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.” (Zech 12.2f)
President Trump evidently concurs with the biblical warning that it is best to leave Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital. According to the prophet Joel, judgment will be meted out to those countries who scattered God’s people among the nations and divided up his land! (Joel 3.2)
On this point Mahmoud Abbas is right: “Jerusalem is not for sale…” But it doesn’t belong to him either.
Bearing in mind Mr Trump’s reference to his plan as “a new dawn” for the Middle East, along with last week’s multiple royal presence at the Holocaust Forum, Isaiah’s prediction is surely apt: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.” (Isa 60.3)
A new dawn indeed – the best realistic offer of peace for many years.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; and A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International