The year 2017 looks set to be a particularly stormy year for the ever-raging clash of narratives between Israelis and Palestinians, as several anniversaries of seminal events in the conflict’s history coincide.
Back in September, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas urged the United Nations General Assembly to “declare 2017 as the international year to end the Israeli occupation of our land and our people, as we approach in June 2017 a half century of this abhorrent Israeli occupation.” In his Christmas message, issued last month, he repeated that the world is “about to mark 50 years of Israeli occupation, the longest military occupation in modern history.”
Pro-Palestinian activists worldwide can be expected to use this year’s big anniversary to draw international attention to what they will doubtlessly describe as an illegal, brutal occupation of an indigenous people by foreign invaders with no legitimate claim to the territory.
In Israel, many will pay tribute to what they’ll call the liberation of Judea and Samaria — the biblical terms for the West Bank — and the reunification of Jerusalem. Others will bemoan the fact that 50 years after the Six Day War, Israel is still perpetuating what they deem an unfair occupation of Palestinians lands.
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely is clearly in the former camp.
Israel should mark 2017 as a year of celebrations, using the coinciding anniversaries to highlight the Jewish people’s legal and moral rights to the Land of Israel and combat the notion it is illegally occupying the West Bank, she said in a recent interview.
“I want this year to be, first and foremost, a year of celebration. I want us to celebrate. I want the State of Israel to be proud of the fact that 50 years after the Six Day War, we achieved such amazing milestones in so many areas,” she told The Times of Israel. “This should be a year not only of showcasing the beauty of our history and our past, but also a year of looking toward the future.”
In 2017, Israel is in fact marking several milestones. It was exactly a century ago that the Balfour Declaration enshrined the United Kingdom’s support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. In 1947, the UN General Assembly passed Resolution 181, known as the partition plan, which for the first time called for the creation of two states in British Mandate Palestine: one for Jews, one for Arabs.
Twenty years later, in 1967, Israel won the Six Day War and in the process captured the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel has since withdrawn from the Sinai and Gaza and annexed the Golan and East Jerusalem.
Celebrations of these events will be followed next year by festivities to celebrate the State of Israel’s 70th birthday in May 2018.
Hotovely said she has been working for months on a plan to mark this year’s anniversaries, including by creating a “gigantic exhibition” about the Jewish people’s historic ties to Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. In her vision, virtual reality technologies would be used to portray the past, present and future of Israel’s presence in these areas. Located in the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, the exhibition would be open to foreign diplomats as well as the general public.
In her discussions with professional ministry staff, Hotovely, a member of Netanyahu’s Likud party, envisioned a large permanent exhibition that would stress Israel’s connection to the West Bank, under the headline of “Coming home,” or “Returning to the Jewish homeland.”
Countering Israel’s detractors who consider the settlements an illegal land grab — and can thus be expected to mark 50 years since the beginning of “the occupation” — Hotovely wants to celebrate the settlements as the Jewish people’s legitimate return to its indigenous land.
“We’re often seen as a country without roots, a new country that represents an ancient people but whose roots in this land are very short. The idea is to bring us back to the bigger picture,” Hotovely said. “There is a terribly beautiful story of a nation that all these years remained connected to this land and we want to tell it with innovative visual means and open it for the greater public.”
As for whether diplomats in the Foreign Ministry, many of whom are more dovish than the deputy minister, will be happy with the plan, Hotovely doesn’t really care — she’s their boss.
“The question is not whether the officials agree with me. Their job is to carry out the policies that I determine,” she said. “I don’t need to convince them. I was elected to represent a policy that views the settlement enterprise a moral, just and legitimate project, and I was elected to protect it.”
An ardent opponent of Palestinian statehood who favors an Israeli annexation of the West Bank, Hotovely said that in the new year, the Foreign Ministry should combat the internationally accepted notion that Israel is occupying Palestinian territories.
The term “occupation” is legally incorrect, she argued. “What is occupation? Who did we occupy [the West Bank] from? It was not under Palestinian sovereignty. It is in no way possible to say it is a occupation in the regular sense of one country occupying another country.”
Last month’s UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which declared Israeli settlement outside the pre-1967 lines as having “no legal validity” and constituting “a flagrant violation under international law,” did nothing to change her mind.
“The more the world says the settlements aren’t legal, the more we say them to that, yes, they’re indeed legal,” she said Wednesday.
Since the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, Israeli diplomats have made no efforts to talk about Israel’s historic, legal and moral rights to the West Bank, she lamented.
“For many years, instead of arguing that the term is erroneous, we said that the two sides will resolve the issue in negotiations. This is not something that helps you declare that this [land] is mine, I belong here, that this is a place that I have rights to,” she said.
But in the current climate, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations are not likely to be renewed, let alone produce a lasting peace agreement, Hotovely added. The Palestinians are not interested in bilateral talks because they can reach their objectives by appealing to the international community to force Israel into concessions, she posited.
Therefore, she said, the only response to this Palestinian tactic is to create “a new paradigm” — innovative ideas that, according to her, no longer include a Palestinian state in the West Bank.
Given the regional turmoil, “more and more people in the world” understand that no Palestinian state will come into being anytime soon, she said. “This includes people who were involved in the Oslo Accords. What happened in the Middle East over the last five years challenges their basic understanding of the peace process.”
Foreign dignitaries she meets in her capacity as deputy foreign minister are “embarrassed” when she asks them what would replace Israeli settlements — Islamic State or Hamas? — Hotovely said. “They don’t have a good answer to give me.”
But in order to change their position, prevalent in the international community, that the settlements are illegal, Israeli diplomats have to be ready to defend their legitimacy and not merely say they are an issue to be dealt with in future negotiations, she said.
“Just because it’s a difficult mission doesn’t mean we shouldn’t tackle it.”
Sooner or later, the world will start believing in the settlements’ legitimacy, Hotovely vowed. Europe saw decades of bloody conflicts before peace was achieved, and so Europeans should not seek a “Band-aid solution” for the Middle East, where Jews are indigenous, she argued.
“European colonial powers went abroad to expand their territory and to rule over other nations. We didn’t come here as colonialists; this is the Jews’ only country. I don’t think they have the moral right to come and complain to us. All we do is settle our land.”
Apologizing for the comparison, she said that during World War II the free world also needed “time to understand” what the Nazis were up to and to starting fighting them. “Europe’s enlightened countries were conquered one after the other by the Nazis. They raised a white flag and didn’t even try to fight for their rights,” she said.
“With all due respect, the fact that the world collectively thinks a certain way doesn’t make it right, or smart. History shows us time and again that it’s OK to have independent views.”
Never in my own memory has a new year appeared at its beginning to be more prophetically interesting. Never–in my thinking, at least–has one portended more perilous times, as the apostle Paul would have it. Yet I wouldn’t trade my time on this darkening planet with anyone of any other generation.
The fact that the Lord of Heaven has put me here at this strange, ominous, yet immensely fascinating time in history makes it all the more intriguing–even riveting, in terms of wanting to know what happens next. He has put you here, too, at this time when the final curtain is about to fall. He has trusted you to be an actor in at least part of the final scenes of this great, cosmic play called human history. No illustrious personages of the past–not Julius Caesar, not Napoleon Bonaparte, not Alexander the Great, not even Winston Churchill, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, or Ronald Reagan were so privileged. We are about to serve as active members of a most especially commissioned cast who populates the end-times stage.
There is about to occur a schism–a separation–of cataclysmic proportion. It will rend one part of humanity from the other. It will not be a natural catastrophe that will inflict the humanity-dividing rift. It won’t be great political upheaval in America and around the world that will cause the tearing apart of life upon the troubled planet. Those things will certainly happen. But it won’t be acts of nature or of man that will bring about the very last scene of the age. That last act will be orchestrated by the Master Director of all Creation–by the Lord God of Heaven who is the final judge of good and evil.
The excitement presaging that grand climax of the age is building. Momentous events, written on the pages of Holy Scripture, are about to come alive. The final curtain will rise when Jesus steps out on the clouds of glory and calls all believers–His Bride, the Church, to Himself. If you are a believer in Christ alone for salvation, you will catch the grand finale as you watch from the luxuriant balconies of Heaven.
We see the drama building all around us for the tumultuous scenes set to play out during the times just ahead. The year 2016 is cloaked in the fog of malevolence this world continues to wrap itself in–an increasingly anti-God, anti-Christ vesture that embraces humanism forewarned about by the psalmist.
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. (Psalms 2: 1-3)
A quick scan of the news just the past week exposes, I believe, the arrogance of those the Scriptures call “earth-dwellers” who incessantly strive to break asunder the governance God rightfully placed upon His creation called man. The reports are laden with prophetic indicators.
One such report is seen in the prideful claims by a U.S. State Department spokesman, as the boast involves the increasing call for “peace and safety,” While the situation in Syria grows intensely worse by the hour, with the Syrian people torn violently between the forces of Syrian dictator Basher Al-Assad and the hordes of ISIS murderers, Secretary of State John Kerry is lauded as bringing about a peace that just isn’t happening and will never come to pass.
State Department spokesman John Kirby wrote under the headline, “Bringing peace and security to Syria”: “Under Secretary of State John Kerry’s stewardship the United Nations passed a U.S. sponsored resolution to create a road map for Syria.” Again, the problem is that like in all of the humanistic efforts at bringing true peace, the only “peacemaker” is kept out of the peacemaking. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, is denied at every turn by the president of the very country that speciously purports to be making the peace. (President Obama, remember, upon his very first week in office, proclaimed that the United States is not a Christian nation.)
The president of the United States of America, in effect, proclaimed regarding the governance of the God of Heaven: “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”
We can believe what that omniscient, omnipotent, governing authority has to say about such arrogance and willfulness. The message is chilling for the planet’s inhabitants who will be left behind when the great schism aforementioned takes place.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. (Psalms 2: 4-6)
Details of what is about to take place in 2016, of course, lurks in the murkiness of an ever-increasing pall of trepidation. But, for those who are secure within the unshakable, impenetrable shelter of their Lord and Savior, there is no reason to fear. Piercing that black uncertainty is an effulgence that lights the path to the brightest of all possible futures. It is that Blessed Hope of Titus 2: 13!
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