PROBLEMS IN THE MIDDLE EAST: ISRAEL, PART 1 by Peter Moon

Today, in our politically-charged climate, there is a wide division among pro-Israel supporters and anti-Israel detractors.In this first part of my Israel series, I’ll discuss the history of Israel (the parts we can all mostly agree on) to help give you context into this whole situation.

A HISTORY OF ISRAEL

If you believe the Bible, then the argument “Israel took land that wasn’t theirs” does work. First off, Jacob, whose name was later changed to Israel, lived in Israel. The story of his family’s migration to Egypt is told in the Bible in the book of Genesis; Jacob’s eleven other sons (most famously known by their names Reuben, Judah, Benjamin, and others) sold their brother Joseph off to slavers who then took the young man to Egypt. There, Joseph served well his masters (first, the kings’ captain of the guard Potiphar, then the Pharaoh himself) until he took the mantle as the country’s ruler under the Pharaoh. During a 7 year famine, Joseph’s brothers traveled to Egypt, where their brother eventually invited the brother’s many families to come live in Egypt.

After nearly half a century of first living in (then being slaves of) Egypt, Moses, a descent of Jacob, led the Jews out of Israel. During their trek through the Middle East, Moses died, and Aaron, his brother, took his place. If you believe that the Jews were given the land by God, then the next portion is fact to you. However, as scientists and archeologists often do not believe in the Bible, then the next portion of Israel’s history is where it actually starts.

Around 1500 to 1200 B.C. (I’m a Christian; I use B.C. and A.D.) scholars believe that ancestors related to Israelis emerged as paying states of the empire of Egypt. Despite the Bible saying contrary, these scholars also believe these people extended their empire not through conquest, but through peaceful cultural dominance.

While scholars do disagree on when and how the state came to be, they do largely agree that a kingdom of Israel existed by 900 B.C., and that a Kingdom of Judah existed possibly around 700 B.C. In 720 B.C., the Assyrian Empire conquered Israel, while Babylon conquered Judah in 586. The Babylonians took the Israelis captive, which included Daniel, one of the many authors of a book of the Old Testament. For non-believers of the Bible, the second defeat was recorded in the Babylonian Chronicles, which recorded Babylonian history.

In 538, the Israeli’s captivity under the Babylonians ended when Cyrus the Great of Persia conquered Babylon. Eighteen years later, the Temple was rebuilt, and was known as the “Second Temple”. The Israelis were allowed their own territory, known as the ‘province’ of Judah, and the territory of Persia had smaller land borders.
In 63 B.C., the Romans captured the region from the previous owners, and brought with it the Herodian Kingdom. Rome, which was based in modern day Italy, then decided to turn Israel into a vassal state, and left the country mostly alone. After the end of the Herodian reign, Rome turned Judah into a province because the area turned into a place of wars, revolts, and mass death/violence.

Finally, in the years between 634 and 641 A.D., the Arabs took the region. During this time, the Jewish people were left without a real kingdom for their own, while the Ottomans had an entire countryside to rule. After World War I, in which the Ottomans lost , the British then renamed the region ‘Palestine’. In 1948, the Jews in ‘Palestine’ declared independence, and set up their own state of Israel. Almost immediately, opposition from Arab forces met them.

Yes, Israel has attacked it’s neighbors in the past. In 1956, the nation, in a secret alliance with British and French forces, overthrew the Sinai Peninsula, but were then forced to withdraw from the region by the United Nations (who had originally given the land to the Jewish people).

In 1964, Israel had bitter relations with Syria and Lebanon because they wanted more water for their land. Then in 1967, Egypt and Israel took part in the Six Day War, a conflict which, as it’s name states, took place over the period of six days. In this war, the combatants were Israel against Egypt, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. Supporting the anti-Israeli side were the countries of Palestine (or PLO) and Lebanon. This war was so lopsided it’s not even funny. But, unlike the Gulf War’s outcome, the coalition of Arab countries against Israel did not overrun the outgunned and outmatched Israel. Instead, Israel won the day after a near week of fighting. As a result, they increased their overall borders, and took land from Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. No, they did not invade these countries. On the contrary, they fought for this land and rightfully took it.

Even after this major defeat, the countries’ inhabitants still fought Israeli forces. First was the War of Attrition, which took place between 1967 and 1970. Then, there was the horrifying massacre of Israel’s athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The country did respond to these mass attacks and raided the PLO’s headquarters in Lebanon.
Then in 1973, the Yom Kippur War lasted 19 days, and was successfully won by the first-attacked Israelis.

Thankfully, in 1978 the Camp David Accords were signed between Egypt’s Sadat and Israel’s Begin. The accords said that Israel had to abide by the UN’s Resolution 242 (see the footnote at the bottom of the article for more information), and it also had specific wording on the West Bank and Gaza Strip situation (also in the footnotes). However, part of the framework was rejected by the UN General Assembly, as it did not give more credence and respect to Palestine. Granted, the frameworks did not originally include Palestine; it was a peace meeting involving the US, Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. Then in 1979, the UN condemned all partial peace agreements that excluded Palestine’s rights, and condemned Israel’s ‘occupation’ of all territories, and later rejected more specific points in the David Accords which were ‘not in accordance with mentioned requirements’.

Another aspect of the CDA was that Israel would pull all troops from the Sinai Peninsula, give it back to Egypt, and in return would receive normal diplomacy with Egypt, guarantees of freedom of passage through the Suez Canal and other waterways near it, and a restriction on the number of troops Egypt could place on the Peninsula. In return, Israel also agreed to limit reinforcement numbers in the area, and to allow Egypt free passage through the area to Jordan.

Sadat was sadly assassinated by anti-Israeli Islamic jihadist forces in 1981, three years after he received a joint Nobel Peace Prize with Israel’s Begin. Oh, don’t worry; the three assassins who were taken into custody were eventually charged and convicted of assassination of the leader, and were then all executed by a firing squad nearly a year later. The last member of the four team assassin group had been killed during the attempt. Among the others killed in the attempt were: The Cuban ambassador, an Omani general, and a Coptic-Orthodox bishop.

In addition to the assassination, Egypt itself was suspended from the Arab League for 10 years for not being more pro-Arab, and was admitted back into the league in 1989. Also, thanks to their relatively friendly position on Israel and their final decision, which did not hurt Israel in any significant way, Egypt lost respect in the Arab world. Scholars believe that the result of the Accords left a power vacuum which was later filled by one Saddam Hussein.

Attacks by the militant PLO continued after the Egypt-Israeli peace talks. In 1978, PLO members attacked Israeli citizens in what became known as the Coastal Road Massacre. Israel responded to the event by invading southern Lebanon, and destroying the PLO base south of the Litani river. They then stayed there until a joint force of UN troops and Lebanese forces retook the area. Then in 1980, Israel claimed Jerusalem it’s capital (this included East Jerusalem as well). This move was largely condemned by the UN. Various US Presidents, including it’s last 3, all verbally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; however, it’s latest President was the only one who actually followed up the verbal recognition with a physical fulfillment of the decree.

Following yet another series of attacks by PLO members, Israel invaded Lebanon again in 1982 to destroy several bases occupied by the group. It was reported that these bases had been the source from which missiles had been fired into northern Israel, and were the location from which PLO members launched attacks against Israel. In the first 6 days of fighting, the Israeli military successfully destroyed the bases, and even decisively defeated the Syrians there, too. Israel withdrew most of it’s troops from Lebanon in 1986, but still left a force there to serve as a “borderland buffer zone”.

In 1987, the First Intifada, which was a Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule, occurred. This uprising brought with it waves of demonstrations and violence, which mainly took place in Gaza and the West Bank. As time went on, the Intifada became more powerful and organized, where it even helped pass economic and cultural measures to hinder Israeli rule.

With the passage of the Oslo Accords, Palestine was able to rule over parts of Gaza and the West Bank. This was pushed and supported by Israel’s president, and was signed by the PLO’s representative and Israel’s representative. These accords also made the PLO recognize Israel’s right to exist, as well as made them pledge to end the terrorism against the now-considered-sovereign nation. In addition, in 1994, Israel and Jordan signed the Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty. This marked Jordan as the second Arab country to start normal relations with Israel.

Under Israel’s most current leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel withdrew it’s forces from Hebron, and signed the Wye River Memorandum, which gave more power to the Palestine National Authority. In 1999, Israel withdrew it’s remaining forces from southern Lebanon, and began negotiations with Yassar Arafat, a representative for the Palestinians. Israel offered a solution: A two-state situation, in which Palestine would gain the Gaza Strip, 90% of the West Bank, and would share part of Jerusalem as a capital. Both sides were blamed for the failure of the agreement’s talks, but there is speculation that the talks weren’t going to succeed in the first place (I wonder why?). After the failed talks, the Second Intifada began. Again, most blame this on the failure of the talks (In this case, Palestine would gain the most out of it; more land, half of Jerusalem, and their own recognized state. The Palestinians, who started the Intifada, had the most to gain out of the deal, and most to lose out of it). During the 2001 reign of Sharon as Israel’s prime minister, the nation pulled out of the Gaza Strip, and ended the Intifada by constructing the Israeli West Bank Barrier. By the time this ended, over 1,000 Israelis had died. In the eight year span of George Bush’s presidency (2000-2008), 4,700 Palestinians had died from security forces of Israel (I’m going to guess out of self defense?), 44 by Israeli civilians (again, probably by self defense), and 609 by Palestinians (I’m not going to guess why).

July 2006 kicked off the Second Lebanon War, which was started by Hezbollah, who fired off artillery shots at Israel’s northern border, and then captured two Israeli soldiers. This war only lasted 1 month, and resulted in (I believe) a ceasefire. In 2008, the Gaza War started, and lasted for about three weeks, and ended with Israel declaring a unilateral ceasefire. Attacks by Palestine and multiple armed conflicts have continued overtime, but for all intents and purposes, Israel and Palestine have a diplomatic negotiation system set up.

In 2018, America, under the leadership of Donald Trump, moved the American embassy to Jerusalem, and formally recognized that city as Israel’s capital. Almost immediately, Palestine’s citizens revolted, protesting the move. They did this through a method which did involve violent threats and attacks on Israeli guards. The media, however, portrayed the throwing of rocks, burning of tires, and use of human shields by Palestinians as a ‘peaceful protest’. To further solidify it’s anti-Israeli sentiments, the UN denied the move, and condemned the US action. This doesn’t really matter, however, as the UN has ‘condemned’ hundreds of other actions by many other countries, and done nothing.
Today, Israel is the most technologically advanced nation in the Middle East. It has the one of the highest life expectancies in the region, and also has the best living conditions in the entire Middle East, boasting one of the longest life expectancies around that region. Israel is also one of the most water-conserving nations in it’s sphere; it has 5 water purification plants along it’s coast, and uses an irrigation method called ‘Drip Farming’. It still has constant terror activities in it’s nation, and is on constant alert for possible threats from almost every nation in the Middle East. In addition, the nation is constantly trading knowledge and goods with other nations around the world.

IT’S A TRAP, MR. TRUMP

I’m not a war hawk, nor am I an interventionist. However, I think our nation has made a mistake in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Our mistake? We’ve tried for peace. No, I’m not going to say there isn’t a chance for peace. But, if anyone has read the Bible, you should know that Israel is the Middle East’s ‘burdensome stone’. A ‘thorn in the side’ of the other Arab countries, if you will. Why would they be? Well, God gave them the land back in the Old Testament and allowed them to take it. That was the reason back in that day. Nowadays, the reason has shifted to: They’re a Jewish-dominated state, which promote political, economic, and religious freedom. They are not like their heavily Islamic neighbors, which are more authoritarian than they are. The first part (the Jewish domination) is the largest thorn in the side of the Islamic world, as that religion has had a beef with the Jews since day one of their creation.

One final issue is that I warn President Trump of pursuing a peace deal with Israel and Palestine. Especially avoid negotiations that include some sort of “7-10 years of peace”. In the Bible, the Anti-Christ brokered a 7-year peace deal with Israel; he then broke that deal at around 3 ½ years, and declared war on her. This deal, scholars believe, will be the deal of a lifetime. Literally. It will be the biggest deal ever made by any world leader, as it will have accomplished something no other man could do.

I think we can all admit that President Trump has a large ego. He loves popularity and ratings. What would be better than the deal of a lifetime? To be remembered in the history books as the one who brokered the deal that ended the longest war in history? That would be a deal worth any and all concessions. No, I don’t think Trump is the kind of person who would ‘make a deal with the devil’. But, I do think that no American, heck, no human should make the deal. Let’s just admit it: Peace with Israel would be a great thing. But, I don’t think it will ever happen. It’s an outright joke because the Palestinians will never accept Israel’s existence until they reform their belief system, and Israel will always be ruled by the Jewish people. Not a bad thing, but it is one of the things which has held peace back for decades.

Footnotes:
(1) Resolution 242, which was passed unanimously by the UNSC (United Nations Security Counsel) in 1967 declared:
•1) Israel had to withdraw it’s troops from recently ‘occupied’ land it had acquired during the aftermath of the Six Day War.
•2) Termination of all claims and states of belligerence and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace with secure and recognized borders free from threats of action or force.
(2) West Bank and Gaza portion:
•1): Both countries agreed that, in order to reach a peaceful and safe transfer of power, and taking into account the security concerns among all parties, there should be transitioned arrangements for the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a period of time no longer than 5 years. In order to provide full autonomy to the inhabitants of these areas, under these arrangements the Israeli military government and it’s population will be withdrawn as soon as a self-governing authority has become freely elected by the inhabitants of these areas to replace the current government.
•2): All parties agree to modalities for establishing self-elected governments in the West Bank and Gaza. In these delegations, Palestinians from both Gaza and the West Bank are allowed to be there.
•3): When these governments are established, the transitional period of five years will begin. As soon as possible, but not later than the third year of the beginning of this transition, negotiations will be held to determine the final status of the West Bank and Gaza, and it’s relationship with it’s neighbors, and to conclude a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan by the end transition time.

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