The Israeli Timebomb

Once again Israel and it’s stance against the Palestinians have hit the headlines. This week settlers have been accused of damaging a mosque in the village of Yasuf, and leaving behind graffiti. It would seem there is little doubt about their guilt. The crux of the whole problem in this Middle-East conflict seems to be three sided; the extremists who consider the whole of the West Bank theirs by right; the Government which is trying to satisfy the international community by curbing settlements in the area, and the Palestinians who have lived there for over a century.

Under International Law, all settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal because it is Palestinian land under the United Nations charter of 1947 that first formed the country of Israel in modern times. The Palestinians had the land for thirteen hundred years before that, and claim it as their own. So who is right?

The Israeli’s lay claim over the land in accordance with the Bible which states that Israel, including the West Bank, is ‘The Promised Land’. However, the land has changed hands many times since Moses led his people there. It was conquered  by the Romans, Byzantines, Islam, the Crusaders, the Mamluk Dynasty and the Ottomans to name but a few.

Following the First World War, Britain administered Palestine on behalf of the League of Nations until 1948 when Israel proclaimed independence. It was only the horror of the Holocaust in World War 2, and the need to find somewhere for all the Jewish refugees to call home, that prompted the fledgling United Nations to proclaim the existence of Israel as the Jewish homeland in 1947. The boundaries were laid  by UN Charter and Jews from all over war torn Europe flocked there in their tens of thousands.

The main point of all this is, the land has been one of the most contested in history, and say what you will, but lands taken so often by war preclude any biblical claim by the Jewish settlers. A look at a map of the region shows that half of Palestine has been taken over by Jewish settlements, many of which are on land stolen from the Palestinians.

The Israeli government removed all settlements in Gaza in 2005 which caused an uproar within the country, but to try this with the West Bank could probably result in civil war within the country. The settlements on the West Bank have become so numerous, and spread so wide, that the situation will never be resolved to the satisfaction of the International Community and the Palestinians. Despite attempts by the government to halt building on Arab land the settlers refuse to listen and continue to take land for themselves.

The red areas on the map indicate the huge swathes of Palestine where the local people have severely restricted or no access due to restrictions placed upon them by these communities in the name of security. Roads are controlled by the settlers, and access to areas near settlements is forbidden to most Palestinians. I have to ask; Is this is what God intended when he told Moses to lead his people to the ‘Promised Land’?

It makes you wonder what the reaction would be if e.g. Mexicans started building homes and settlements in Texas and then closed off the roads and areas around them to all Americans? I think we would see war between Mexico and America in a very short time if these moves were supported by the Mexican government. Just as the Jews lay biblical claim to the land of Palestine, the Mexicans have an historical claim to parts of the southern United States. So what is the difference?

To say that one party is right over the other is difficult in the charged atmosphere that has surrounded this issue for decades. President Obama is the latest in a long line of U.S Presidents who have tried to resolve the conflict, and he does not seem to be making any headway either. The main reason is clearly the settlers refusal to accept restrictions on building on Arab land. This mosque attack is only the latest indication of that.

The Israeli government is also guilty insofar as they have sanctioned, and in some cases actively encouraged  the building of Jewish homes on Arab land for several decades. To now do an about face in the light of international pressure is paramount to suicide for the government. Another factor is the Jewish population living on Arab land is now in excess of 300,000. To forcibly remove such a number of militant settlers would require the Israeli Army as it did in Gaza.

Jewish males and females are required to do their national service, and the number of serving recruits who have grown up in the settlements is growing. As a consequence, one of the additional problems facing the government is they can no longer guarantee the co-operation of the army for fear of a mutiny. Soldiers have already refused to fight in Gaza, and remove settlers from small outposts ordered closed down by the government. So in reality there is little chance the army could be persuaded to remove 300,000 settlers and tear down their houses. And so it goes on.

The Israeli government is caught between the proverbial ‘rock and a hard place’, because it must be seen to satisfy the demands of the Arab World and the International Community, but at the same time cannot go against the strength of feeling within its borders on the settlement question.

The possibility of a lasting solution to the Jewish/Palestinian problem is yet a long way ahead, and I doubt if President Obama will have any more success than his predecessors. I commend him for trying, but so long as the settlement question remains unsolved I see no end to the dispute. With Iran obviously attempting to become a nuclear power perhaps they are the ones who will finally solve the crisis. I hope not for all our sakes.

Some problems can only be solved by time, lots of it!

Roy.

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