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A two-state solution in the Middle East sounds reasonable, right: So why hasn’t it happened?
Let’s look at this question first, from a legal perspective.
Israel’s existence as a nation has more legal justification and recognition than any other nation that exists, or has ever existed.
Israel was a sovereign nation, first under the rule of the judges in 1250 BC, and under its first 3 kings: King Saul, King David and King Solomon, in about 1000 BC. This kingdom of Israel lasted until 586 BC. Then it existed as a nation subjected to various authorities -- Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman until 70 AD.
From 70 to 1916 the land was ruled by the Byzantine empire (Eastern Roman Empire headquartered in modern day Turkey) the Persians (619) the Byzantines again ( 629) various Muslim rulers (638-1099) Europe’s crusaders (1098-1187) Egypt (1187-1260) Turkey (1250-1517) the Ottoman empire (1517-1918), and then the British.
In 1917 the British government issued the Balfour Declaration, stating its intent to support a national homeland for the Jewish people. After its victory in World War I, the British government was in a legal position to promote Balfour Declaration.
The San Remo agreement of 1920 designated the west bank of the Jordan River as for a national home for the Jewish people.
The League of Nations in 1922 passed a resolution affirming the San Remo agreement.
In the Anglo-American Convention on Palestine in 1924, western powers, including the U.S. affirmed the terms of the British mandate.
And In 1947 the United Nations partitioned land in Palestine for a Jewish State. Israel accepted the terms of that partition of land.
So Israel is there legally. The legal justification for Israel’s existence is unquestioned, and unparalleled.
The west bank -- land Israel acquired in 1948 and 1967, it acquired in defensive efforts, protecting itself against hostile neighbors. And under international law, until a peace treaty is signed, and hostilities cease, military occupations are permitted in defense against an aggressive attack from hostile neighbors. And since no treaty from the 67 war has been signed, and hostilities have certainly not ceased, Israel is under no legal obligation to leave the West Bank.
Israel is in the land legally. In fact, no other nation has been founded on such extensive legal grounds. It has been said, and it is true, lawyers, not generals, are the midwives of the Jewish state.
What is the legal basis of a Palestinian state?
The land of Israel was under Muslim rule from 638-1099, and off and on from about 1200 to 1918.
The United Nations Partition of land in 1947 and 48 granted certain areas of land, including the West Bank of the Jordan River, to the Palestinians. They were offered a Palestinian state by the United Nations. Israel accepted the notion of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel. Problem solved right?
Wrong. The UN partition of 1947 was refused by the Palestinians and by other Arab leaders. They refused to accept the existence of a Jewish state and so they declared war, rallying every neighboring nation to attack Israel. The Palestinians lost that war, and Israel prevailed. Again, in 1967, and again in 1973, surrounding nations declared war, and attacked Israel, promising to drive the Jews into the sea.
So Israel’s borders were set from 1948 until 1967. Israel acquired the West Bank in the 1967 war -- a defensive effort to protect against annihilation. Twice Israel has tried to give back the West Bank -- in 2000 and in 2008, but the Palestinian leadership rejected, and continues to reject-- this offer because accepting the West Bank requires them to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
So until the Palestinian leadership accepts the most basic tenants of the United Nations’ offer, chief among them recognition of Israel’s right to exist, the Palestinian leadership has little legal claim to statehood on the land of the West Bank.
Until there is a legitimate peace partner, a Palestinian leader, who enjoys the support of his people, who is willing to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, and live side by side peacefully with Israel, the West Bank and the Palestinian people will live in this status of legal uncertainty. Fifteen years ago, there were Palestinian leaders who at least said they were willing to consider living in peace with Israel – even if their actions showed otherwise. But today, that isn’t the case. The West Bank of 20 years ago is not the same as today. Hamas and Isis have infiltrated the Palestinian communities. The PLO charter, to this day, still calls for the elimination of Israel, and the Hamas charter calls for the extermination of the Jewish state, and the liquidation of every Jew on the planet. And of course, we all know of Isis’ goals.
And so now, no Israeli politician, Jewish or Arab, is promoting a 2-state solution. The very notion has lost credibility. Such a proposal would require a legitimate peace partner. And there is not one on the horizon.
So legally, it is impossible, under the current environment, to push for a 2-state solution.
What about practical considerations? Is a 2 state solution practical?
If it were legal to do so, should Israel accept a Palestinian state, along the lines of the 1947 UN partition?
Judea and Samaria are the heart of Israel. This land was allocated to 7 of the ancient tribes of Israel -- Manasseh and Ephram – the two sons of Joseph, Issachar, Benjamin, Dan, Judah and Simeon. So much of Israel’s history and identity is linked to this region. It was here that Abraham is buried, David hid from King Saul, and of course, its where Jesus was born. Israel giving up this region is like the US giving up Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, like Brazil giving up Brasilia and Sao Paulo, or France giving up Lyon and Bordeaux.
It is hard to see functionally, how it could happen, because not only is Israel surrounded by hostile nations, Israel also faces hostilities within its borders.
In 2005 Israel, because of international pressure -- and to show goodwill -- pulled out of Gaza. Every Israeli military outpost, business, home and farm pulled out of Gaza. What happened? Leaders there built an elaborate series of tunnels from Egypt, smuggled illegal arms into Gaza and launched thousands of rockets and missiles upon the civilian population of Israel. Many Israeli’s were killed. Had it not been for very sophisticated Iron Dome technology, tens of thousands more Israel civilians would have been killed.
So to withdraw from the West Bank, allow complete Palestinian sovereignty over all of the West Bank would subject Israel to hostilities on two fronts. Remember that at its key population centers, between Tel Aviv and Haifa, Israel is only 9 miles wide. Defending this area is not practical. It would endanger Israel’s very existence.
So legally and practically, a 2-state solution is problematic.
But what about theologically? What does the Bible say?
The Biblical directive regarding Israel is very clear.
The Old Testament scriptures explain that the nation of Israel is the only nation created by God Himself for a specific purpose. God promised and then fulfilled the miracle birth of Isaac and his son Jacob, whose name was changed to Israel. God nurtured this family, grew them into 12 tribes, and delivered them from slavery in Egypt and through the wilderness wanderings to the Promised Land for a very specific purpose. They are His chosen people. But chosen for what?
They are chosen to be His instrument of world redemption. God created Israel to birth redemptive products into the world-- His word, the Law of God, the tabernacle, His prophets, and His Messiah, or deliverer. This nation alone has this call – to communicate God’s love, and His desire to redeem – to ransom the human race back into a reconciled relationship with Him. No other nation on the planet was created for this purpose. Inherent, and specific within that call, is his bequeathing of the title of the land to Abraham’s descendants. Land gives a nation its security, its continuity. In order to fulfill their calling to be His instrument of world redemption they were given title to the land. Gen 12:7 … “to your descendants, I will give this land.” [Gen. 15:18…”to your descendants, I have given this land”] Gen. 17:8, Gen 28:13, and again in 35:12 God confirms that the land has been given to Abraham’s grandson Jacob/Israel and his descendants.
God granted or bequeathed the land’s title to Israel. However, their right to live there, or domicile in it, is dependent upon their obedience to God. The Bible says that the entire region will someday be under Israel’s control, but theologians differ on when that will occur. It is God’s timing on when that should happen. In the past God has used specific nations as an instrument of discipline to temporarily take Israel’s land as means of divine course correction.
Theologically, it belongs to Israel. The title deed has been given to her. And it is not the place of the any government to compel Israel to give away or trade what God has decreed to her.
In fact, scripture gives a warning in this regard.
Genesis 12: 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse… is THE foundational principle of dealing with Israel. But scripture is much more specific, in Joel 3, saying that how nations treat Israel will be a determining criteria in how God deals with the nations of the world.
Joel 3:2 I will gather all nations… I will enter into judgment with them there on behalf of my people, and my inheritance, Israel.
And Zechariah 3 is even more specific, explaining that God will deal harshly with those nations that attempt to confront, attack or lay siege to Jerusalem. The Bible says that God will make Jerusalem into an immovable stone, and those nations that try to move it will suffer God’s judgment.
Zechariah 12:1-3 “…I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone…all who lift it will be severely injured…”
Many Bible scholars believe these passages refer to those nations that attempt to manipulate or pressure Israel to divide Jerusalem, or move the ancient boundaries of the city, or give away the city that God has decreed belongs to her. This is a very sobering thought…. That a nation would place itself into the divine crosshairs of judgment.
So to review, there are substantial legal, practical, and theological problems with a 2-state solution.
So what is a Christian response? What is the right answer to the question of a 2 state solution?
New Testament believers in Jesus are directed by scripture to honor Israel and bless her, not engage in actions that are threatening, confrontational, coercive, or manipulative.
So first, we should honor Israel’s sovereignty. Respect her right of self-determination to do what is in her best interest. No nation should attempt to force Israel to the negotiating table against her will. Let Israel’s people and her leaders decide what is best for her.
As to her borders, let God decide what those boundaries will be. Scripture is clear that God raises up leaders and governments, and brings down others for His divine purposes.
Second, believers should pray for Israel. Scripture commands repeatedly that those who seek to follow God should pray for Israel, for her security, for her prosperity, and for her to be blessed.
We should pray for Israel’s leaders, and for all world leaders who seek a solution to this challenging issue. We should pray that they would seek God’s will, not man’s will, for peace in the Middle East.
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