Commentary on Israel's 60th Anniversary:
The Birth of a State
By Sarah Ann Haves
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, Jerusalem, Israel
"Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once....? (from Isaiah 66:8)
In just a few short weeks, people from all over the world will be converging on Jerusalem to celebrate 60 years since the birth of the modern state of Israel. Celebrations are occurring globally, as countries stand in solidarity with the goals and purposes of this unique nation.
Israel's government leaders have been questioning whether the establishment of the state of Israel is a miracle of the 20th century, or a miracle of all history. In a recent speech commemorating the opening of an exhibit at Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust museum, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said, "We can say with certainty that the State of Israel is a wondrous phenomenon, unique in human history. There was never such a human phenomenon in the history of any other people; there was never the phenomenon of a people returning to its land, of reviving its language, renewing its culture, rehabilitating its national and sovereign existence in the ancient land as happened to this people - as happened to us in the middle of the 20th century and since."
But, if Olmert were to give a State of the Union message now, assessing issues of safety and security for the Israeli population, his account would fall far short of marked goals for the survival of the Jewish people in their own sovereign state.
A majority of Israelis, who once supported the signing of the Oslo peace accords in 1993, have admitted that the agreement between former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and former Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat failed to achieve peace. Instead, Israel experienced violent Palestinian uprisings, with suicide bombings and rocket wars leaving hundreds of Israelis dead and thousands wounded.
The 2005 unilateral withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza along with the transfer of thousands of settlers to other parts of the country, has now been seen as a significant failure of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government. Gaza has become an Islamic state with Hamas and Palestinian terrorists intent on destroying all of Israel. Hamas has built a formidable army of 20,000 men who have learned advanced methods in Lebanon from Hizbullah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guards. Al Qaeda now has a presence in Gaza thanks to weakly controlled border crossings and the smuggling of terrorists through underground tunnels.
Hamas continues to upgrade its military arsenal with arms received from Iran and Syria. Longer-range Katyusha rockets have recently entered Gaza along with anti-tank missiles, thousands of rocket-propelled grenades, anti-aircraft missiles and machine guns. The Hamas terrorist army is being trained to use these weapons, preparing for Israel's future incursion into Gaza. Both Israel and Hamas have assessed that a future war will result in heavy losses. Learning from Hizbullah, Hamas is shielding its weapons arsenal and rocket launchers within the Palestinian civilian population. Hamas also has aspirations of wrenching control of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) from the Palestinian Authority. It is only the presence of Israel's Defense Forces (IDF) in that area that has limited Hamas advances.
While Israel today enjoys a cold peace with Egypt on its southern border, it is threatened by terrorists infiltrating the Sinai, and smuggling high quality weapons into Gaza to use against Israel. Egypt, itself, is under pressure from radical Islamic groups such as the Moslem Brotherhood, which hopes to eventually control the Egyptian government. Egypt could very well become an Islamic fundamentalist state once there is a transition of power from President Hosni Mubarak's long-time rule over the nation. Meanwhile, a change in public opinion is needed as blatant anti-Israel sentiments plague Egyptian newspapers, and Egyptian children grow up indoctrinated with anti-Semitic ideology.
Israel enjoys a warm peace with Jordan on its eastern border, with increased cooperation in many fields, especially domestic intelligence. But, Jordan's leader, King Abdullah refuses to consider a joint Jordanian-Palestinian federation in which Jordan would take partial responsibility for the millions of Palestinians living in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). Nor is the King willing to receive Palestinian refugees, in spite of the fact that the majority of Jordan's population is Palestinian. Furthermore, under the peace treaty with Jordan, Israel is required to give Jordan a substantial amount of water resources, despite the fact that Israel, itself is experiencing drought like conditions throughout the country.
Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 by Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak advanced the causes of the Iranian backed terrorist army, Hizbullah. This created another Islamic stronghold in Lebanon, resulting in the Second Lebanon War of 2006 in which Israel did not experience a decisive victory. Hizbullah has now re-armed itself with three times as many missiles in its arsenal. It is building an army of fighters ready and willing to fight Israel, as it gains political popularity and military strength throughout the country. Despite UN Resolution 1701, international UN peace-keeping forces in Lebanon refuse to stop the infiltration of Hizbullah's terrorist army into southern Lebanon. Nor will Syria stop the continuous illegal flow of Iranian weapons to Hizbullah through its borders.
Despite Turkish third-party negotiations between Israel and Syria towards a peace treaty, Ehud Olmert does not have a public mandate from the Israeli people to give up the Golan Heights. Both Syria and Israel are using back channels to finalize an agreement on the Heights while, at the same time, preparing for war. Israel's alleged bombing in September 2007, of a North Korean nuclear plant in Syria's desert raises speculation as to whether Syria was trying to acquire or develop nuclear weapons along with its large arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. Israeli defense officials concede that Syria's current missile arsenal is capable of reaching most of the state of Israel.
Public opinion in Israel has changed dramatically as the population grapples with failures that have come in trusting false peace agreements and hallowed government policies. For example, polls published in the Jerusalem Post in April 2008 state that a majority of Israeli Jews are now wary of establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank. Seventy-three percent of Israelis polled think that a Palestinian State would not solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Sixty-three percent think of the settlements as part of the land of Israel and would rather refer to them that way, than call them part of the so-called "territories." And, a majority of Israeli Jews now want to see the settlements remain in Jewish hands.
While Olmert and his Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni have secretly negotiated with the Palestinians on the division of Jerusalem, 71% of Israelis oppose handing over Jerusalem's Old City and Temple Mount to Palestinian control. Olmert's low popularity ratings have not changed, and half of the Israeli population believes he has continued to negotiate the division of the city despite his denials. Sixty-two percent of Israelis are against the discussion of Jerusalem in peace negotiations with the Palestinians. A substantial majority of Israeli's -- 71% -- do not want Israel to give up Arab neighborhoods to Palestinians in any final status agreement. The same amount of Israelis (71%) believe that a national referendum would be needed before any agreement with the Palestinians could be finalized on the division of Jerusalem. More than half of those polled think that if the Palestinians were to control Jerusalem, it was "likely" or "very likely" that the city would serve as a basis for terrorist acts against Israel.
Changes are not only occurring on the home front. There have been substantial economic and diplomatic advances throughout the international community, with some positive developments.
Through wise financial policies implemented by former Prime Minister and former Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli economy has improved and there is economic growth in large sectors of the Israeli population. Many high tech industries are now listed on international stock exchanges. The Gulf States, especially Qatar, have shown increased interest in doing business with Israel.
Europeans have elected new leaders in France (Nicolas Sarkozy) and Italy (Silvio Berlusconi) who are more pro-Israel than their predecessors. Recently, Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel brought cabinet leaders to Israel in a first-ever joint meeting. In Great Britain, Prime Minister Gordon Brown's government has shown increased interest in furthering strategic cooperation with Israel. NATO's defense command has increased its cooperation with Israel in joint military exercises as part of its new partnership with Mediterranean countries.
However, economically, the poor are getting poorer in Israel, and food prices are soaring as international markets deal with a global recession. And, despite improved relations with European leaders, including some defense cooperation, there is still a great need for change in European public opinion, where anti-Semitism continues to increase on a wide scale. This is due to an increased presence of Moslem ideology that has infiltrated governmental arenas in European Union countries.
Meanwhile, in the West, a majority of Americans have consistently and faithfully expressed solidarity with Israel. All three presidential candidates have voiced their support for the Jewish state. American foreign policy vis-a-vis Israel will be tested in 2009 after the population goes to the polls in November 2008 to elect the next president of the United States. Time will tell if the future U.S. president will insist on a two-state solution (Palestine and Israel), and pressure Israel into painful concessions on settlements and Jerusalem, despite the change in Israeli public opinion.
As Israelis look ahead, anticipating what the future State of the Union will look like, one can only wonder how long it will take before the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Moses, and to Joshua, will become a sovereign and safe place to dwell for the people of Israel. Perhaps, this will be the greatest God-given birthday present the modern state of Israel has ever known.
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting from Israel on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues affecting the nation.
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Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.