|HIGHLIGHTS OF DAWN||June 2002|
The Land Given to Abraham
FOR MORE THAN the last 18 months there has been warfare, with numerous suicide bombings, in the land that was once given by God to Abraham. In the midst of this time period worldwide attention was drawn to the horrors of terrorism. Commercial airline planes in the United States were hijacked and used to destroy the World Trade Center in New York and inflict considerable damage to the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., with the loss of thousands of lives. The world has become aware of suicide bombers through these events, but Israel has had this terror in their midst for a long time. They have continued to suffer such attacks periodically since the September 11 incident in the United States.
TERRORISM IN ABRAHAM’S LAND
It is little wonder then that articles started to appear in the media about the effect these terrorist attacks were having on the people of Israel. One such article appeared in the Sacramento Bee newspaper on February 2, 2002. It was entitled, “Israelis Appear More Open to Radical Change.” It was an Associated Press article printed in conjunction with the Los Angeles Times. It said:
“Prime Minister Ariel Sharon started the week by reassuring Israelis that they had nothing to fear. ‘Israel,’ the former general told his Cabinet, ‘has never lost a war and will win this war as well.’ But between Sunday, when Sharon made that observation, and Wednesday, ten more Israelis were killed and the prime minister came under attack from left and right.
“After almost seventeen months of fighting with the Palestinians, growing numbers of Israelis are clamoring for a radical change. The ideas vary widely, from a unilateral pullout from most, but not all, of the West Bank and Gaza, to the no-longer-fringe notion of expelling Palestinians from their lands. But they share a common factor: the feeling that negotiating a peace deal has proved too difficult, perhaps impossible.
“On the right, members of Sharon’s own Likud Party pronounced his year-old government a dismal failure. They urged him to launch a war to destroy the Palestinian Authority and oust its president, Yasser Arafat, from the West Bank. On the left, growing numbers of Israelis called on the prime minister to dismantle at least some Jewish settlements and unilaterally withdraw from large parts of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip immediately.
“Both approaches are condemned by Palestinians and by Israeli centrists, who argue for the need to hold fast until peace talks can resume. But more and more Israelis fear that day may never come.
“An influential group of 1,200 former Israeli military, security and intelligence officials, the Council for Peace and Security, joined the argument this week by coming out for a pullback from much of the occupied lands while unilaterally imposing a new border.
“‘The peace process is at a dead end,’ but keeping troops in the West Bank and Gaza remains a ‘strategic and moral liability’ for Israel, the group said in a document written three months ago but publicized only now.
“It said Israel should withdraw from much of those areas, abandoning dozens of Jewish settlements, and also fortify the new border to keep most Palestinians out of Israel—both to minimize violence and preserve Israel’s Jewish majority.
“Israel’s efforts to protect its citizens have failed because attackers easily cross the invisible frontier that now snakes through hundreds of miles of hills, forests, fields and desert. And Jewish settlements are islands that require constant guarding.
“Born into the Arab-Israeli conflict more than 70 years ago, Sharon—as a general and, later, as a leader of the right-wing Likud in opposition—often taunted Labor Party prime ministers that he would know how to snuff out Palestinian terrorism if given the chance.
“Now he counsels Israelis to be patient as they cope with a national life dominated by the macabre parade of seemingly endless attacks, counterattacks and funerals. The way is long, the sacrifices are great, the prime minister is fond of saying, but Israel will prevail in the end.
“A reporter asked Sharon on Monday: What do you tell Israelis who are too scared to drive from their homes to their offices for fear they will encounter a suicide bomber en route?
“‘The citizens have greater endurance than those who write about them,’ was his terse reply.
POLICY CHANGES CONSIDERED
“But experts here disagree with the prime minister. Israelis, they say, are longing for a clear-cut solution to the conflict and sickened by the carnage that has claimed the lives of more than 1,000 Palestinians and Israelis in the past seventeen months.
“‘We are getting very, very close to the boiling point,’ said Shlomo Gazit, a retired general and former director of military intelligence.
“‘From a security standpoint, it doesn’t make sense to invest so much effort in providing security to small, dispersed settlements that have no security value whatsoever’ said Nati Sharoni, a retired general and a leader of the group.
“Unilateral withdrawal is opposed by many Israelis, including Sharon, who say it would be perceived as a sign of weakness and only invite more demands from the Palestinians as well as attacks on a more vulnerable Israel. Land should be given up only in exchange for a formal peace, contend even some doves like Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
“Many Palestinians oppose the idea as well. They say they fear Israel would keep much of the land that Palestinians say they need to run a viable state.
“Indeed, few of the unilateralists are willing to leave all the areas Israel has occupied since 1967, as the Palestinians demand. That would mean abandoning or removing 200,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza and a similar number of Israelis in East Jerusalem.
“Under the plan by Sharon’s group, up to fifty settlements would be given up and Israel would keep relatively small parcels of land near the pre-1967 border containing scores of other settlements, where most settlers live. The proposal bears some resemblance to ideas now taking hold in Israel’s peace camp, whose members were crushed by the eruption of violence in September 2000 and the collapse of peace talks a year ago.
“Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak had offered the Palestinians a state in Gaza and more than 90 percent of the West Bank with a foothold in Jerusalem. Arafat held out for more land and a ‘right of return’ to Israel for Palestinian refugees—convincing many Israelis that a final peace deal was unattainable.
“Many Israelis say opening their country to Palestinians would end its Jewish identity; Israel now has just over 5 million Jews and 1 million Arabs.
“Advocates of a pullout argue the same thing would happen from keeping the West Bank and Gaza, home to 3.5 million Palestinians.
“With their far higher birth rate, Palestinians would become the majority even without a refugees’ return if Israel, the West Bank and Gaza effectively melded into a single entity.
“That realization has caused growing numbers of nationalist Israelis to support the relocation—often called the ‘transfer’—of Palestinians to Jordan or other countries. Its proponents say they hope to induce Palestinians to leave voluntarily, but acknowledge that if this failed, the possibility of expulsion remains.”
SAUDI’S PEACE PROPOSAL
Shortly after such articles appeared in the news media, a peace initiative proposed by Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was leaked to the New York Times. The prince proposed that all Arab countries make peace with Israel if Israel relinquishes the lands it gained in the 1967 war. President George W. Bush immediately voiced his interest and approval of the plan. Should he have been so quick to voice his approval in light of the fact that fifteen of the nineteen hijackers in the September 11 attacks were Saudi Arabians? Time magazine in its March 11 issue published an article profiling the prince, entitled “The Man Behind the Plan.” It said in part:
“Abdullah’s leaking of a peace initiative to the New York Times was plainly part of a well-plotted charm campaign to improve Saudi Arabia’s image in the light of its connections to September 11. But the proposition has generated enormous attention worldwide, far exceeding the expectations of the Saudis themselves. Abdullah’s offering is simple: he proposes that all the Arab countries state in advance that they will make peace with Israel if Israel relinquishes the lands it conquered in the 1967 war—that is, if it returns the Golan Heights to Syria and hands over the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinians. That equation, ‘land for peace’ is as old as U. N. Resolution 242, passed in 1967, which the Saudis had already embraced by attending the 1991 Middle East peace conference in Madrid. But this is the first time the Saudis have explicitly defined ‘peace’ as full normalization between Israel and all Arab states.
“In the current environment, with the Israelis and Palestinians killing one another and no one so much as discussing a cease-fire, Abdullah’s ‘statement of vision’ was at least something. Last week the latest Palestinian suicide bomber killed nine Israelis in Jerusalem. Israeli army incursions into two Palestinian refugee camps left twenty Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers dead. Abdullah’s initiative prompted the Bush Administration to dispatch CIA chief George Tenet and Middle East special envoy William Burns to Jiddah to take the matter up with the Crown Prince in person. The European Union’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana made the same stop the day before. Every key Arab state except Syria has voiced support for Abdullah’s ‘vision,’ making the Crown Prince confident he will win official backing at an Arab League summit later this month.
“Even the Israelis could not entirely dismiss the initiative, despite the fact that its terms are unacceptable to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. To the Times, Abdullah spoke of ‘full withdrawal from all occupied territories … including in Jerusalem.’ Israel insists on keeping parts of the territories, and Sharon rejects any Israeli pullback in Jerusalem. The Saudis might be more flexible on these points than Abdullah indicated; Saudi officials now say the kingdom would endorse any border compromises acceptable to the Palestinians and Syrians. In any event, Sharon invited Abdullah to explain his ideas in detail. He insisted that before Israel would judge Abdullah’s offering, Saudi Arabia and Israel must talk directly. (They never have.)
“The Saudis insist on the opposite order; they aren’t interested in talks unless Sharon endorses Abdullah’s vision. In any event, the Saudis say they have nothing more to add. They have no interest in the laborious—and until now unsuccessful—work of hammering out details of a peace accord. ‘We are not in the real estate or zoning business,’ says Crown Prince’s foreign policy adviser Adel Jubeir. According to Arab diplomats, Abdullah has two immediate objectives. One is to lure the United States back into its old role as mediator between the Israelis and Palestinians, a function President Bush has largely abandoned. The second is to give Israelis hope in the peace process, so that they will throw Sharon out of office and elect a more moderate leader. That objective seemed somewhat farfetched; Abdullah’s initiative created little popular enthusiasm in Israel.
“For his part, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat publicly supported Abdullah, though a senior official of the Palestinian Authority says that privately Arafat worries that the Saudi initiative is just meaningless talk. The consensus within the Authority, this source notes, is that Abdullah was less interested in helping the Palestinians than in improving Saudi Arabia’s image.”
Will it ever be possible through the negotiations of men to assure the Israelis that a fanatic of Islam won’t jeopardize their society as a suicide bomber? Can land be given back that was miraculously attained? Should this land ever be given up?
THE LAND PROMISED TO ABRAHAM
When God came to Abraham, he asked him to “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.” (Gen. 12:1) Although God told Abraham that he would bless him and that through him all the families of the earth would be blessed, he said nothing more about the land until Abram and Lot separated several years later. Lot chose the plains of Jordan and went into the valley to live. Abraham stayed in the hill country of Judea where he had a good view of the land in all directions. The Scriptures say “The Lord said … Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever.” (Gen. 13:14,15) The Lord also said, “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.”—vs. 17
Later God renewed his covenant with Abraham and said, “Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” (Gen. 15:18) In the succeeding verses are listed all the nations occupying the land at that time, who would have to be displaced. The boundaries indicate a greater area than currently is in dispute including lands occupied by Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Yet Stephen reminded us when speaking in his defense before the Sanhedrin, that Abraham never came to own any of that land. (Acts 7:3-5) He had to buy a burial place for Sarah when she died.
The natural descendants of Abraham, the nation of Israel, did get the opportunity to possess the land. After being liberated from bondage in Egypt, God gave Moses the Law on Mt. Sinai. In doing so he outlined how his angel would lead them to this land possessed by the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and the Jebusites; and that these nations would be cut off. The entire plan for giving them the land is outlined in Exodus 23:23-33. The boundaries of this land are confirmed as they were to Abraham in verse 31 which says, “I will set thy bounds from the Red sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the desert [the wilderness of Zin] unto the river [the river Euphrates].”
POSSESSION OF THE LAND
The nation led by Moses was well on the way to take possession of this land. They sent spies out to explore the area, one from each tribe. Ten of the spies brought back a false and evil report, and were able to persuade the people that it would not be possible to conquer the inhabitants of the land. Joshua and Caleb were the only spies who brought back a favorable report. (Num. 13,14) As a consequence, the Lord had Moses turn around and march toward the wilderness which they did for a period of forty years. When all those who, at the time of the ten spies’ evil report, were twenty years of age and above and had rebelled because of the report, died in the wilderness, then their children, along with other loyal Israelites, were permitted to enter the land. Prior to their entering the land, the Lord defined the boundaries of this land as recorded in Numbers 34:3-12. Joshua was told by the Lord what land was to be given to him.—Josh. 1:4
Under Joshua, the land finally came into the possession of the natural descendants of Abraham. They spent many glorious years there, but eventually because of their idolatry and sinfulness, they were removed from the land. The ten-tribe kingdom was taken captive to Assyria, and later the two-tribe kingdom of Judah was taken captive to Babylon. Although they were permitted to go back to their land after 70 years of captivity, they lived there under the control of the Gentiles. After God gave them 490 years of exclusive favor their polity came to an end and they were dispersed as a people throughout the earth. The land came under the control of caretakers who were not interested in cultivating the land but defended it fiercely. They permitted it to become a desolate place.
THE REGATHERING OF ISRAEL
The time arrived when God wanted to bring his people back to their land after centuries of dispersion throughout the earth. The land was now a part of the Ottoman Empire. With the revision of the treaty of San Stefano made by the Berlin Congress of Nations in 1878, the way was opened for portions of this land to be purchased by the rich international banking firm of the Rothschild’s. This was done to encourage Jews throughout the world to return to this land. The Zionist organizations that were formed then did likewise and communities of Jews began to live again in this land.
World War I brought a complete liberation of the land from the Ottoman Empire. Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration in 1917 which pledged British support for the Zionist hope for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine with the proviso that the rights of non-Jewish communities in Palestine be respected. The British, with the aid of the Arabs, gained control of Palestine defeating the Ottoman Turks and were given a mandate by the League of Nations to control Palestine. The mandates issued by the League of Nations were in the form of trusteeships to be exercised until the people of the region could stand on their own. At that time (1919) there were about 568,000 Arabs, 74,000 Christians, and 58,000 Jews in Palestine.
There were problems for the British in carrying out the mandate. They had obligated themselves to the Arabs for their assistance in World War I. They also were obligated to Chaim Weizman for developing a chemical process for acetone to assist them in the war and the Balfour Declaration was in response to his wishes.
Because of these promises the mandate was considered unworkable, and Great Britain sought partition of the land as a solution. The Arabs rejected the proposal, and Great Britain, in struggling with the problem of a large influx of Jews, tried to limit immigration as well as purchase of the land. Despairing of finding a solution to the problem, Britain gave up its mandate and turned the Palestine problem over to the United Nations.
ISRAEL BECOMES A NATION
The United Nations, in 1948, partitioned the land and gave part of it to the new nation of Israel that was formed, and the other to the Palestinian Arabs. The Arabs in their greed to have all the land were told by the Arab League to withdraw from the boundaries given to Israel, because their intent was to ‘push Israel into the sea’ and gain all the land for themselves. No independent state was set up by the Arabs as had been by the Jews. The Arab League declared war and the new nation of Israel had to fight for existence. Invaded by armies of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq they fought from May 1948 until January 1949 when armistice agreements were reached. By then Israel had increased its holdings of land by fifty percent.
Border clashes continued, and in 1956, provoked by threats of Arab invasion, Israel made a preemptive attack on Egyptian territory and in a few days took over the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. Pressured by the United States and the USSR, as well as the United Nations, Israel removed its troops from these areas and they were occupied by UN peacekeeping forces. However, Israel now had access to the Red Sea for commerce. Egypt, under Nasser in 1967, mobilized its army and planned to invade Israel. The Israelis attacked first and drove across the Suez Canal into Egypt. They also launched preemptive attacks on Jordan and Syria, taking over the West Bank and the Golan Heights in the Six-Day War. Israel was pressured by the USSR and the United Nations to withdraw from these occupied territories but Israel asked for negotiations for peace. Nothing happened until 1973 when Syria and Egypt attacked Israeli positions in the Sinai and the Golan Heights on Yom Kippur, catching Israel by surprise. Israel drove across the Suez Canal and encircled Egypt’s third army while driving Syria back towards Damascus. A cease-fire was negotiated and peace negotiations were held in Geneva, Switzerland. By 1974 agreements were reached with both Egypt and Syria. Ever since, parts of this land have been used for negotiating peace. But peace has not come.
PEACE NOT ACHIEVED
Since the Saudi peace proposal appeared in the New York Times, the Arab League held a summit meeting. Arafat was not permitted to attend the meeting being kept locked in at his headquarters in Ramallah by the Israelis. No conclusion was reached at this summit meeting. The wording of the “full normalization between Israel and all Arab states,” proposed by the Saudis, was so vague and indefinite that Israel could not see any hope of achieving the peace they were seeking by this means. Instead, Israel has penetrated the West Bank and Gaza Strip with tanks and soldiers and has embarked on a program to ferret out those responsible for the suicide bombings.
Meanwhile, President Bush sent envoys, including Secretary of State Powell to broker a peace settlement, asking Israel to withdraw its troops from the West Bank and Gaza. As they started to comply, more suicide bombings occurred and at the conclusion of Colin Powell’s visit, the program remained the same for both sides.
What will happen to this land? The decision will be made by our Heavenly Father, because the land really belongs to him. As he has said, “The world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” (Ps. 50:12) Specifically referring to the land of Israel, he said, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine.”—Lev. 25:23