Israel Update 

The Plans of Men and the Plans of God

By Sarah Ann Haves


"Why do the nations rage and the people plot a vain thing"  Psalm 2:1.

In January, American President George W. Bush will be coming to the Middle East to use his influence in a new peace process that began in Annapolis, Maryland in November; a process which he hopes will be completed by the time his term ends in 2008. But, the expectations of Bush and his Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice are far from what Israel and the Palestinians say they can deliver in a final status deal expected to be completed by the end of next year.

This became evident in the first serious negotiations since Annapolis that took place in Israel on December 12; a meeting which was almost cancelled at the last minute by the Palestinians. Reportedly, neither they nor the Israelis discussed the hard core issues (Jerusalem, borders, refugees), but instead spent their time complaining about unfulfilled expectations on both sides.

Professor Shlomo Avineri from the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem says that American influence can only help if the two sides want to move forward. "When both sides, Israeli and Arab, have the political will and political power, and have already paid the political price for making the mutual concessions, but there still are some issues which are unresolved, and you need to push both sides to go the extra mile, or the extra range, then the America president can put the squeeze on, or turn on his charm, or both."

Avineri explains that American power comes into play only when a political peace process is already on its way and needs that extra push. "When there is no political will, it is dead on arrival. And, the Road Map wasn't dead on arrival, but it didn't fly. It didn't lead anywhere... If you don't have somebody who can work out the details on a daily basis, and you don't have the local political will, it won't work." Avineri adds, "There's enormous American strength and at the same time enormous American weakness; it depends on the context."

The Annapolis meeting could not even bring about a joint declaration of principles, only a joint agenda quoted by Bush. But, Avineri thinks the fact that the meeting took place was significant. "It was very important to have Israelis and Palestinians talk to each other, not just in Annapolis, but in anticipation of Annapolis; talking to each other and not shooting. We have not been talking to each other in six years. This should not be overlooked."

Yet, the problem with the current stalemate is that the core issues are causing more arguments than peace between neighbors, and neither side is ready to make concessions, nor is it able to do so because of political and social pressures.

For example, the majority of Israelis, along with the Jewish community in the Diaspora, are against dividing Jerusalem, or giving over sovereign rights of the Temple Mount and holy places to the Palestinians. The Jews believe, as stated in the Tenach (their holy scriptures), that these areas must be preserved for the coming of the Messiah and the re-building of the Temple in Jerusalem that was destroyed in 70 AD. The majority of Palestinians, however, believe that Jerusalem is their capital and that the holy places belong to them, including the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa mosque, sacred to Moslems.

While Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had said, from the beginning of his term, that he was willing to withdraw from most of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), a majority of Israelis are disappointed by the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, ordered by former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Once Israel left Gaza, Islamic terrorists took control, and today, the border town of Sderot experiences a daily barrage of rocket attacks which not only threatens that town but other areas of the Negev, including important security installations in Ashkelon.

Furthermore, while the U.S. government, along with the Palestinian leadership protests any building within settlements in Judea and Samaria, or even within certain neighborhoods in Jerusalem, so far the Olmert government has been careful not to cause an upheaval in Israel about this dispute. Olmert knows that too much pressure on Israelis at this time could cause the break-up of his government, which includes members who are supportive of the settlements and of neighborhood expansion in Jerusalem, like Har Homa.

Israelis in Judea and Samaria continue to protest any removal from settlement outposts, let alone from settlement cities or towns. If Olmert's withdrawal plans were to be seriously considered, at least 70-100,000 Israelis would have to be removed from their homes, along with the security risks involved in leaving such strategic territory.

Meanwhile, the Palestinians are demanding that Israel withdraw to the 1949 Armistice lines, but they are unable or unwilling to control territories currently under their own jurisdiction in the West Bank. Instead of reigning in gun-toting Palestinian gangs, and trigger-happy Palestinian policemen, into one internal security force, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, has been seen as a weak leader, spending more time abroad pushing for a Palestinian state, than at home building the foundations towards one.

In addition, the Palestinians have insisted on what they call "the right of return." Those Arabs who fled Israel during the War of Independence in 1948 want to return to Israel and claim back what they perceive is their territory. The current Israeli government wants to help the Palestinians achieve their own state (Palestine), but has not been willing to allow a massive influx of Arabs to settle in Israel.

Most analysts believe that "the right of return" is a code phrase Palestinians use for wanting to dismantle the Jewish majority in Israel. No Israeli government has agreed to meet this demand. "A two state solution will have to be based on a Palestinian reversal on their insistence of the 'right of return,' " says Avineri. He claims that Israel will not concede to the Palestinians on this issue.

Avineri believes that 2008 will be a time of conflict management rather than conflict resolution. He thinks that confidence-building measures will take place on both sides to make it easier for Palestinians and Israelis to live with each other. Only then, he says, can the core issues be seriously considered.

But, questions remain as to how this conflict will be resolved in the future. Biblically, the land the Palestinians are demanding was given as an inheritance to Abraham, and through a God-given covenant to Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants to settle in forever. The Jewish people, through this everlasting covenant, are to be stewards over this land, which includes the mountains of Judea and Samaria. In Ezekiel Chapter 36:1-7, the Bible states clearly what happens to nations that try to divide the land, demanding it for themselves. Those who are Israel's enemies in the nations take possession of the ancient heights. These same nations slander the people of Israel with their words. This area becomes plunder and mockery to the nations all around. The God of Israel burns with anger against these nations. Israel bears the shame of these evil deeds carried out. The nations experience God's judgment.

Ezekiel Chapter 36, verse 7: "Therefore, thus says the Lord God: I have raised My hand in an oath that surely the nations that are around you shall bear their own shame."

Much of the rest of Chapter 36 deals with the return of the Jewish people from the nations back to Israel, in what today is called, "Aliyah". It's apparent then that, while the Palestinians are demanding their own "right of return" to Israel, the Bible speaks of a very different plan. Moreover, the nations that surround Israel are warned biblically not to divide the land, or try and claim portions of it, or plot vain ways of obtaining it.

As 2008 draws near, it's important to pray that leaders in the international community, including those in the Bush Administration, adhere to these words spoken thousands of years ago through the prophet Ezekiel. As men make their diplomatic plans regarding the nation of Israel, may they seek counsel from the God of Israel and allow Him to plan their way. May this happen before it is too late and before His judgments come.

Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting from Israel on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues affecting the nation.

(c) 2007 Messianic Vision all rights reserved. This article is not reproducible except with permisson from Messianic Vision. 

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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