In 2005, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon implemented a radical plan in an effort to bring peace—a complete and total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. Israel had numerous towns and villages that were home to thousands of Jewish people in the area. All of them were forced to leave—some of them forcefully. Their homes and lands into which they had invested so much were turned over to the Palestinians.
The theory was based on hope…that the withdrawal would convince the Palestinians of Israel’s desire for peace. The reality was anything but hopeful. Rather than becoming a peaceful center of Palestinian life and self-government, Gaza was quickly taken over by Hamas terrorists who turned it into a missile base on Israel’s border.
Thousands of rockets and missiles have been fired into Israel in the past twelve and half years from Gaza. Terrorists have dug dozens of tunnels under the border for use in raids against civilian targets. Israeli soldiers stationed near the border have been kidnapped and either murdered or held for ransom. Twice Israel has been forced into full-scale conflicts to try to lessen the incidence of terror attacks.
Land for peace has proven to be an empty promise. Yet despite the evidence of recent history, the pressure remains for Israel to give up more and more territory. We often hear talk about a “two-state” solution to the problem in the Middle East. Somehow if enough concessions are made, the Palestinians will become a national partner for peace that Israel can trust. This ignores the lessons of history both ancient and modern. It ignores God’s designation of the land as the eternal possession of the Jewish people. And it ignores the fact that generations of Palestinians have been raised with a burning hatred toward Israel.
A few years ago someone proposed this simple thought experiment. Imagine that tomorrow, through some means beyond normal human ability, every weapon that the Palestinians possess—every gun, every missile, every knife, every rock and every bomb were to vanish. What would happen to the Palestinians? Would the newly-defenseless people be massacred by their Israeli neighbors? Of course not. They would live in complete safety.
But turn the experiment around and the result is very different. If Israel were suddenly disarmed what would happen? Would the Jewish people live in safety and peace as a defenseless nation? Of course not. Blood would be flowing in the streets before the end of the day. Sometimes people say that it takes two to fight. That is simply untrue. It only takes one to fight—it takes two to make peace.
Many years ago my friend Prime Minister Menachem Begin said, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” There could be peace tomorrow if they were willing for there to be peace. But as long as the enemies of Israel cling to the fantasy of seeing the Jewish state destroyed and a one-state solution—no Jewish people at all and no Israel—there will not be peace.
It is folly to believe that Israel can achieve peace by giving up the Bible lands of Judea and Samaria that are home to so many thousands of Jewish people today…and so tightly linked to the history found in the pages of Scripture. That is why we are launching our “Save the Bible Lands” campaign. Modeled on the very powerful and successful “Save Jerusalem” campaign effort that has produced so much change that many thought was impossible, we are speaking out and saying, “No more.”
No more concessions of land, with Israeli families being forced to leave their homes, farms, businesses, synagogues, and lives behind. No more ancient Jewish cities handed over to the those who will desecrate historical treasures and archaeological finds. No more pretending that there is a desire for peace that can be wrought by making a few more concessions.
No more surrender. No more fear. It is time to stand and say, “These are the Bible lands. They are the heritage of the Jewish people. And it is right and proper for Jewish families to live in these ancient places, regardless of what the enemies of Israel may say.” The notion that the world has the right to declare Israeli cities built on land promised to the Jewish people forever to be illegal is folly. We are not the authority—God is! And we need to encourage Israel to retain possession of what is rightfully theirs.
Highlighting Israel’s Ties to the Land
To understand the issue of “settlements” and how it impacts the real world, consider the case of Beit-El, the ancient city of Bethel. The “house of God” was one of the most important centers of early life and worship for Abraham, Jacob and the Children of Israel. Though the modern day community was not established until 1977, it has much older roots.
In 1927 a Jewish community called Kfar Etzion was built on the site. In the next twenty years, while the land was under the British mandate, it was attacked and destroyed three separate times. In bitter fighting during the war the Arabs launched after Israel declared independence in 1948, the women and children were evacuated. After a siege, all the surviving Jewish men defending their homes were slaughtered. Following the victory in the Six Day War in 1967 Jewish people were finally able to return, and ten years later, the new community was formed.
Jerry Katz was a boy when he was forced to flee his home. He still remembers the pain of being forced to flee…and his determination to return. “As little children, we said that we gonna return,” Katz recalled. “Like little children repeat stories all the time to make it (so). Maybe they think it’s gonna become true and they repeat it, but this time it really did become true.”
Places like Beit-El are vital to Israel’s security. If the 1967 borders were used as the line for a future Palestinian state, it would lie outside Israel. And what was left of Israel would be just barely nine miles wide in the middle—a completely untenable position when facing a well-armed and hostile neighbor. These “settlements” are nothing more or less than Jewish towns and villages. They deserve to be recognized as rightfully part of the Jewish state, and they should immediately and irrevocably be taken off the table as bargaining chips for future negotiations. No matter how much the world pushes, Israel must not give up its ancient heritage in the Bible lands.