A PALESTINIAN STATE?
In today’s world, news flows from the Middle East, especially Israel, like water through a ruptured dam. United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, just returned from his 11th shuttle diplomacy trip to Israel, and plans on returning in the next few days. Although both the Israeli and Palestinian sides are showing signs that Kerry is wearing out his welcome, our administration continues its’ relentless march toward a two-state “peace agreement” solution between Israel and the Palestinians. At the core of such an arrangement is a not so hidden agenda within the framework of the US proposals that would require Israel to return to 1967 borders. To the Israelis this is unthinkable, and irony of all ironies, it is also a serious problem with the majority of the 1.5 million Israeli Arabs living in Israel!
Why would so many Arabs NOT want a Palestinian State? Isn’t that what all Arabs long for in Israel? Isn’t that the reason for past terrorist attacks on Israeli Jews? Or, the incessant demands by the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas and its rival counterpart Hamas in the Gaza Strip for Palestinian rights? Or the greater majority of world opinion to end so-called Israeli settlement occupation of certain territories within Israel? What is so problematic about a Palestinian State that is mapped along what many refer to as pre-1967 borders, that are not really borders at all … in the sense of a border between the US and Mexico, or France and Germany, or even between Israel and Jordan. Rather, these internal borders are more like cease-fire lines.
A Brief History
To better understand why at least 70% of Israeli Arabs don’t want to live in/under an Arab Palestinian government, we need to take a quick refresher course in the modern history of Israel. Following the United Nations resolution and subsequent declaration of Israel’s Statehood in November, 1947 and May, 1948, respectively, the Jews had to immediately fight for the very survival of their reborn nation. Against insurmountable odds, the Jews were victorious over five Arab nations in their War of Independence of 1948. They also prevailed in the 1956 Suez conflict with Egypt.
Then, in June, 1967 one of the most amazing conflicts in military history began and ended in less than a week! To this day it is still referred to as the Six-Day War, in which Israel soundly defeated a coalition of Arab nations, and once again against staggering odds. Although Israel took the offensive in this war, they had no other choice; it was crystal clear that surrounding Arab nations, particularly Syria and Egypt, planned to attack Israel. In order to assure victory and protection against further invasion, Israel seized the following territories that had previously been under Jordanian, Syrian, or Egyptian control.
Golan Heights: A high mountainous area near Israel’s northern border with Syria … a crucial strategic location to prevent Syrian incursions in and attacks on Israel.
Gaza Strip: A fairly narrow strip of land along the southeast coast of the Mediterranean Sea, in which Jews lived alongside a majority of Arabs.
West Bank: So-called because of its location along the west bank of the Jordan River, in the east central portion of Israel. Historically and rightfully called Judea and Samaria as regions in Israel’s ancient homeland. Now occupied predominately by Palestinian Arabs.
Sinai Peninsula: The large, mostly desert southern land mass that currently separates Israel from Egypt proper.
East Jerusalem: Technically, a segment of the West Bank; but, nevertheless, still an integral and indispensable part of the entire city of Jerusalem.
All of these territories would prove vital for Israel’s defense and ultimate victory in the subsequent Yom Kippur war of 1973; in which Israel was attacked without warning on Israel’s holiest day of the year by Syria and Egypt (with other Arab allies), and would turn out to be the most deadly/costly war in Israel’s brief modern history.
Unfortunately, Israel partially bowed to international pressure exerted primarily by the United Nations and, over varying intervals of time, returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, the Gaza Strip to Egypt, and most of the West Bank to Jordan. Egypt and Jordan subsequently allowed the Gaza Strip and West Bank Arabs to govern themselves. The only sector that Israel didn’t relinquish to any degree was the Golan Heights; it was simply too dangerous to return this tactical high ground to the Syrians. For a period of time, Israel maintained a military presence in the Gaza Strip and West Bank (strictly for security purposes, i.e. to help prevent terrorist attacks), but that is gone in the Gaza Strip (2005) and present in only a small portion (percentage of land) to protect Israeli settlements in the West Bank. To be sure there are still checkpoint crossings between Israel proper and Palestinian held areas, again for security reasons.
However, the most significant of all was the Israeli decision, soon after the Six-Day War, to return East Jerusalem to Jordanian control, including the Temple Mount itself. This was a colossal concession; in fact, to many Jews then and now, a monumental mistake.
To comprehend just how painful this world-opinion induced surrender (of the Temple Mount) was to the vast majority of Jews, listen to the message delivered by Israeli Chief Army Chaplain Rabbi Shlomo Goren to the IDF paratroopers who liberated all of Jerusalem, including the beloved Western Wall in June, 1967: “Soldiers of Israel, God be with you valiant warriors! I am speaking to you from the Western Wall, remnant of our Holy Temple. The dream of all the generations has been fulfilled before our eyes. The City of God, the Temple site, the Temple Mount, and the Western Wall—symbol of the Jewish people’s messianic redemption—have been delivered this day by you, heroes of the Israel Defense Forces.”
I vividly remember watching on television battle hardened IDF soldiers weeping at the Western Wall, which is also called the Wailing Wall. They shed tears of grief over hundreds of years of oppression and defeat; but mostly tears of joy over the astounding capture of Jerusalem and rightful return of Temple Mount to the Jews. It was, as heralded by Rabbi Goren, truly an event of messianic proportion (a prophetic precursor to the imminent return of Messiah). I shed tears of joy with them at this stunning historical event, only to be filled with sorrow when the Temple Mount was relinquished back to the Arabs. It is the only edifice remaining of the walls that surrounded the magnificent Jewish Temple before the Romans destroyed most of Jerusalem in 70 AD, including the Temple.
What would have happened if the United States had allowed the Confederate states to continue with their own nation; or even more absurd—for the Confederate headquarters to occupy the eastern or southern half of Washington D.C. after losing the Civil War? Actually, Jefferson Davis and many southern constituents did want the southern states to continue with their succession from the Union even after they surrendered. Abraham Lincoln would have none of that. All southern states would return unconditionally to the Union of the United States of America; albeit with the same authority of state rights afforded to the northern states.
Concerning today’s Temple Mount, Jews are not allowed to express any gesture of worship or prayer or planned assemblies on the Temple Mount. All such activity must be confined to the Western Wall just below Temple Mount. Can you imagine that? If not, then imagine that you as an American citizen would not be permitted to set foot on the hallowed ground of the Statue of Liberty. It’s pretty much the equivalent of restrictions placed on Jews with regard to the Temple Mount, their most holy place, in the most holy city of Jerusalem, in the holy land itself.
Rest assured: One day God will change all that and return all of Jerusalem including the Temple Mount back to the Jews through their (our) Messiah! Listen to what the Lord says concerning the end times restoration of Israel … which is taking shape in Israel daily, i.e. the massive return of Jews to the reborn sovereign State of Israel.
“And I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I will give them their land and increase their numbers, and I will put my Temple among them forever. I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And when my Temple is among them forever, the nations will know that I am the Lord, who makes Israel holy” (Ezekiel 37: 26-28). *Note: the word holy means separate, distinct, set aside for a special purpose.
What else does God say about Jerusalem and the Temple Mount? “In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s house will be the highest of all—the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For the Lord’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. The Lord will mediate between peoples and will settle disputes between strong nations far away. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore” (Micah 4: 1-3, italics for emphasis).
Obstacles to a Two-State Solution
There are several divisive issues and obstacles to a peace accord between Arabs and Jews in Israel, including an independent Palestinian State within Israeli borders. But none more so than the question of Israeli control of Golan Heights and the Jordan Valley for national security reasons. And then for religious and political reasons—exclusive control of East Jerusalem by the Arabs which would, for all practical purposes, mean that Jerusalem is not Israel’s capital.
But let’s return to the secondary (yet still a very contentious matter) problem of citizenship in a newly created Palestinian State and the reasons why most Israeli Arabs don’t want this to happen, at least not according to the framework currently proposed by the United States.
First, what is the modern-day difference between an Israeli Arab and a Palestinian? An Israeli Arab is, in fact, an Israeli citizen; the majority of whom live in East Jerusalem and throughout Israel, such as Nazareth … a predominately Arab community. Palestinian Arabs are not citizens of Israel, and reside in either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank, with population of over three million. There are also tens of thousands of Palestinians who live in refugee camps in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, because those countries will not allow Palestinians to become citizens.
As mentioned in past articles on this blog site and/or information that you may have already known, Israeli Arabs have all the privileges of citizenship enjoyed by Israeli Jews, including the right to vote and, amazingly, even the opportunity of election to the Israel’s Parliament, the Knesset. Currently, of the 120 members of the Knesset, 12 are Israeli Arabs. This phenomenal fact alone should silence all those who seek to disenfranchise and delegitimize Israel by calling them an apartheid state and seeking to boycott their livelihood and sanction their every move. Many citizens of surrounding Arab countries have few or limited civil rights, let alone the advantage to serve in their government.
Who knows exactly what (how many) issues must be resolved before a final roadmap to peace is finished? Who can predict exactly what boundaries will encompass a Palestinian State; if, indeed, that is even possible in the first place? Who could possibly imagine that Israel would divide its capital by granting total sovereignty of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians or seriously jeopardize its security by yielding the Golan Heights to Syria? But there is one thing that Israel seems prepared to do up front, in response to non-stop Palestinian and international demands, including US plans, that Israeli West Bank settlements be evacuated (after the fashion of the Gaza Strip extradition).
From an article in an Israeli daily newspaper, Ma’ariv, we read that Israel has responded to the American proposals, by suggesting that Israeli Arab communities currently within Israel and under Jewish sovereignty be transferred to the Palestinian Authority as part of any future land swap; which, in turn, would return Jewish settlements of the West Bank to total Israeli sovereignty. Actually, this idea is not all that new, but it tends to fit with future boundaries suggested by Secretary John Kerry.
And as Palestinian journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh writes in his article for Gatestone Institute, “It was hard this week to find even one Israeli Arab who publicly supported the proposal.” Khaled goes on to say, “Arab Knesset members … do not want to wake up in the morning and discover that they are citizens of a Palestinian state. It is much easier for them to accuse Israel of racism than to admit that they do not want to be part of a Palestinian state.”
At face value that seems and sounds incredible—that Palestinians wouldn’t want to be governed by their own people. But after further review, it’s all too practical and easy to grasp. Pretty much ever since Israel became a nation, and especially since 1967 when hundreds of thousands more Arabs suddenly became citizens of Israel, those Israeli Arabs have been far better off than their Palestinian brothers living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Although there’s still a lot of hostility emanating from Israeli Arabs toward Israel, they understand that Israeli citizenship affords them much more freedom, democracy, a higher standard of living, movement throughout Israel, more places to shop for and buy the things they want and need; in short, a better way of life. The last thing they want is an abruptly changed life in a Palestinian State, controlled by a Palestinian government that could just as quickly take away many of the privileges they currently enjoy as Israeli citizens.
The Palestinian journalist goes on to say, “The Palestinians have their own parliament in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. But this parliament, known as the Palestinian Legislative Council, has been paralyzed since Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. In most Arab countries, parliament members who dare to criticize their rulers often find themselves sitting at home or behind bars.” And I might add to Khaled’s astute observations: An Israel Arab Knesset member is free to criticize his/her own government (and often does) without fear of any reprisal. They can return to their home after a hard day at the Knesset, and start all over again the following morning.
A Personal Experience
I have seen first-hand this inexplicable, almost bizarre dichotomy between the real-life benefits experienced by so many Arabs with Israeli citizenship, juxtaposed with their historical (ancient) anger toward Israel that (irrationally and illogically) simultaneously floods their heart and soul.
On the last day or next to last day of a trip to Israel that my sister and I made in March, 2006, we returned from the Western Wall and Temple Mount to our hotel in Jerusalem via a taxi. The taxi was driven by an Israeli Arab who I estimated to be about 63 years of age.
As with many Israeli taxi drivers, he was talkative and asked what brought us to Israel. My response was that I was doing research for a book (what at that time was my first book, a novel, called O Israel, and published in 2007). One thing led to another and I asked him whether he and his people the Arabs were better off under Jordanian rule or Palestinian authority or under Jewish government. I’ll never forget his answer. He replied that things were definitely better living in Israel (as an Israeli citizen) than under the old Jordanian government and (implying) under the PLO in the West Bank. He cited such things as jobs, schools, goods, freedom to move around, and opportunities in general. But then he abruptly halted his modest praise of this freedom in Israel, and said emphatically (a close paraphrase), “The Jews are wrong. This is still our land. They took it from us.”
The fact is that, with the exception of the aforementioned regions captured by Israel in 1967 (most of which were given back to Palestinian functional control), Israel has not taken any land from the Arabs. The Jews purchased nearly all the land where they currently reside, despite the evidence that it was given to them by the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and again by the UN in 1947. For that matter, any land captured in war, even by means of aggressive expansion has historically been conceded to the conqueror. None of Israel’s wars had anything to do with a deliberate attempt to annex more property and/or displace Palestinians. They were all conflicts of self-defense and national survival. Yet, they still returned most of the land gained through the blood of their soldiers and civilians. Think for a moment about our own Revolutionary War against the British. We gave not a single acre back to England; instead we went Westward Ho and accumulated millions of more acres all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Yes, the views expressed by our taxi driver exactly mirror the mindset of the Arabs in Israel, even the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (if they would admit it): We know we’re much better off as citizens of Israel, but they are still our eternal enemy.
Things to Ponder
– The bottom line is that the Jews long for peace in Israel, their God-given ancient land. They are willing to make major concessions for this peace; indeed, just to be recognized as a people and State. Not so with the Arabs: they ultimately want a piece of Israel here, a piece there, until all the pieces fit into a map that says Palestine, instead of Israel.
– Ultimately, the only possible way to change such thinking is to first change one’s heart. And the only one who can do that is Jesus Christ, our Jewish Messiah to the entire world, including the Arabs. Which is why he is called Sar Shalom, The Prince of Peace. Only Christ can (and will) bring real peace to a weary, war-torn world full of hate and grief.
– Earlier in this article, I quoted from the prophet, Micah, “…They will hammer their swords into plowshares…” This is one of the rare occurrences in the Old Testament where two prophets were given virtually the same prophetic words. Who is the other prophet who wrote these same words? Can you find the chapter and verse? Actually, it is that Biblical reference which is more often quoted than Micah.
Don’t miss the next series of articles beginning with a spectacular, but lesser known, prophecy from the book of Daniel.