© May 2006 by Asher Intrater
Opposite the window of my office in the hills of Judea, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, I see a group of tractors and backhoes, working on a new stretch of the security fence. Behind that fence are several Muslim Arab villages, some relatively cooperative, some quite violent. The question arose as to where to place the fence. Even though the fence is not supposed to be a border, it is becoming one "de facto." If we place the fence on this side of the villages, then those villages and the land on which they sit become part of "Palestine." If we place the fence on the far side of the villages, they become part of "Israel." The next question then arises, "Which do we want?" or even "Which do the Palestinians want?" You can't "have your cake and eat it as well," as the saying goes. Does Israel want more land, and more Arabs within Israel? Do the Palestinians want to be part of Israel, or not part of Israel? Make your choice.
Part of the question here is one of demography. When we talk about biblical principles concerning the Holy Land, we have to take into account the number of people living in the land. In the Gaza Strip, there were some 1,000,000 Arabs and 8,000 Jews. The choices facing Sharon were: 1. wage war to evict one million Arabs and settle Gaza, 2. invest huge military and financial resources to protect the settlements there, or 3. move the Jews living there into the main part of Israel and close the border. He chose the third. Most local Israelis agreed with him.
The recent election, which gave the government to Ehud Olmert and the Kadima party, was in some ways an affirmation of Sharon's decision, and in other ways a call from the people for the government to start dealing with deep problems plaguing Israeli society: crime, drugs, unemployment, educational breakdown, government corruption, prostitution, medical care, violence in families, etc.
The people have been disillusioned with both Left and Right wing solutions. They don't believe there is a partner for peace negotiations with the Palestinians; and they don't believe that military strength alone can warrant investing in and protecting isolated settlements in heavily Arab populated areas. The majority of Israelis want separation; they want to get away from the problems with the Arabs.
In 2006, we stand with a new government, now facing a new question of what to do with the West Bank, or the Judea and Samaria territories. In those territories live approximately 250,000 Jews - about 50,000 in relatively smaller settlements and about 200,000 in larger settlement blocks. In that same territory live about 1.8 million Arabs, mostly Muslim. [Within Israel there are another 1.4 million Arabs alongside the 5.5 million Jews. (The figure of all the Arabs on this side of the Jordan river, including Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, reaches 4.2 million!)]
The choices facing Olmert are: 1. incorporate West Bank Arabs into Israel as citizens – which would threaten the Jewish majority, 2. maintain all the settlements there with ongoing military control over the Palestinians, 3. wage war to evict the Arabs, 4. pull out most of the Jewish population and negotiate a peace treaty with all the Arab world based on the 1967 border, or 5. move the more scattered settlers unilaterally into the larger settlement blocks and build the security fence around them.
I'd have to say that none of the options look good. The Olmert government's position is number 5. Whether that means moving 1,000 or 10,000 or 100,000 is not clear. Whether that means recognizing a Palestinian state or not is also not clear. Whether the Palestinians would continue to wage a terrorist war or not is another question. Whether such a maneuver would be generally accepted by the West, by the UN, or by the other Arab nations, is yet another question.
It is easy to sit in an arm chair at home and criticize the Prime Minister of Israel. But what would you do in his position? What alternatives would you have to offer? – Not theoretically, but if you really had the responsibility for the decision and its outcome; if you had to weigh the financial, moral and military factors. For those of us who believe in the covenant promises and prophecies to Israel, these are difficult issues.
Many Christians are saying today, "If Israel does what I think she should, I will support her. If not, I will give up on her." Some criticize Israel from the Left; others criticize her from the Right. A little bit of humility might help our discernment here. I believe Christians should be supportive of Israel as she struggles to make these decisions. Some "replace" Israel on the Left; others "replace" her authority to decide from the Right.
The vehicle that God has chosen to bring about the resettlement of the Land of Israel and the restoration of the nation in these end times is the government and army of Israel. We need to respect that vehicle and pray for those in authority.
The demographic situation in Israel and the territories is practically impossible to solve. The two peoples, Arab and Jew, are locked together in a bizarre wrestling match that is reminiscent of Jacob and Esau in the womb of Rebecca. It is interesting that after Jacob's time in "exile" with Laban, when he had to face Esau again after many years, the stress of that situation caused him to wrestle again, this time with the Angel of YHVH, an image of the pre-incarnate Messiah.
The good news is that the Good News is spreading more and more among the people of Israel than ever before. Another bit of good news is that there is a beautiful and growing testimony of love and reconciliation between those Jews and Arabs who have accepted the Good News.
Don't be discouraged or frustrated. Don't give up the faith. Pray with courage, hope and patience. The last bit of the Good News is that the "good" guys win. There will be revival both in Israel and among the Arabs; the Messiah will return, there will be peace on earth.
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