Geography and Israel’s Independence
Today is Independence Day in Israel. Across the nation, Jews are remembering David Ben Gurion’s speech 69 years ago, on May 14, 1948, officially declaring the establishment of the State of Israel. Israel’s birth was not without complication and drama. For months, the life of the newborn state hung in the balance, under constant threat from the Arab armies that surrounded it on three sides. Miraculously, Israel survived.
For 19 years, Israel’s independence remained precarious and uncertain—that is, until June 1967.
It’s hard to exaggerate the extent to which the Six-Day War assured Israel’s future existence as an independent state. The war only lasted 130 hours and 50 minutes—during which Israel beat back the advancing armies of Arab states, decimated the air forces of Egypt and Syria, wrested the Golan Heights from Syria, and gained control over the entire Sinai Peninsula. But it had a defining impact on Israel’s sovereignty.
How? On June 5, not long after Israel had begun its preemptive defensive strike on Egypt, it was forced into confrontation with Jordan. Seeing opportunity, the Jordanian military started firing on Jerusalem, moved forces into Jerusalem (where it overran the United Nations headquarters), and begun firing on Jewish cities on the coastal plain from its position in the hills of what it termed the West Bank. Finally, after Jordan rejected a UN ceasefire agreement, Israel pursued its only remaining option. On June 5, the Israeli military annihilated the Jordanian Air Force. By the 8th, Israel’s military had pushed the Jordanian military out of the West Bank and back over the Jordan River.
Israel’s only option had been to retake Judea and Samaria.
The ramifications of this event were far-reaching. Speaking before students at Herbert W. Armstrong College in 2009, former Israeli Ambassador Yoram Ettinger explained the significance of Judea and Samaria to Israel’s independence and national security. Judea and Samaria are the “crux of the cradle of Jewish history,” Ettinger explained (emphasis added throughout). Israel does not exist on the eastern flank of the Mediterranean because of Tel Aviv or any of the coastal cities. Instead, Ettinger explained, the essential reason Israel exists today is because of the “territorial stretch between Hebron in the south, the first Jewish capital before Jerusalem, and Nabulus in the north, the first stop of the Israelites when they reentered the Promised Land.”
Judea and Samaria form the heartland of the Jewish people, Ettinger said, and are a strategic necessity for preserving the independence of a Jewish state.
Without Judea and Samaria, there is no Jewish state.
The Jewish people have been tethered to Judea and Samaria for more than 3,000 years. The book of Genesis shows that Abraham entered Israel through Shechem, and that the hills of Judea and Samaria were the stomping grounds for his descendants through Isaac and Jacob. The Bible records that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried in Hebron, a bustling city in the Judean hills. Even Joseph, although he lived and died in Egypt, was buried in Shechem, in the hills of Samaria (Joshua 24:32). Scripture says Bethel, known today as Beit El, was where Jacob slept on the pillar stone and had his famous dream. The book of Exodus shows that the ark of the covenant, before being placed in the temple in Jerusalem, rested in the Samarian city of Shiloh.
The Jews’ fingerprints are literally all over the hills of Judea and Samaria. “Ninety-two percent of the Bible place names are in the mountains of Israel in what the Bible calls Judea and Samaria and the world calls the West Bank,” says Billye Brim, a Bible scholar at Elon Moreh. In the book of Joshua, God maps out the borders of the Promised Land as a whole, as well as the internal borders separating the 12 tribes of Israel. In Joshua 15, God specifically outlines the territory assigned to the tribe of Judah, of which the Jews today are descendants. (You can easily prove this by reading The United States and Britain in Prophecy.)
Notice, God placed the tribe of Judah at the heart of the Promised Land, on the northwest side of the Dead Sea, and primarily in the hills of what even today is still called Judea.
As the biblical heartland of the ancient Israelites (of whom the Jews are descendants today), the territory of Judea and Samaria—not the Golan, not the coastal plain—is the pulse of Jewish sovereignty. This history definitely complicates land-for-peace deals and the two-state “solution.” But as Ettinger asked: “Can any nation survive whilst negotiating away the cradle of its history? … If you don’t have your roots, how can you have peace?” Trees will not blossom without strong roots, and will more than likely be uprooted by the lightest wind.
The same applies to Jewish national sovereignty, which is rooted in Judea and Samaria.
There’s another reason Judea and Samaria are critical to Israel’s independence. Geographically, this territory is largely comprised of a mountainous ridge, known as the spine of Israel, that stretches from below Hebron in the south to the valley of Jezreel in the north. These hills, ranging from 2,000 to 3,000 feet high—the “mountains of Israel” as they are referred to in the Bible—provide an ideal strategic vantage point for either engaging with enemies or simply standing guard over the towns and cities peppered across the lower plains. The scraggy hills, marked by steep inclines, gaping gorges and deep valleys, are also an ideal natural barrier for slowing invading armies and provide a measure of protection for civilians and homeland armies as well as military hardware and facilities.
Many are aware that the Golan Heights provide Israel with a great strategic advantage in the north, helping Israel control the Sea of Galilee and the towns and cities on the northern plains of Israel. But as Ettinger explained, few recognize that the mountainous ridge on which Judea and Samaria sit is infinitely more important to Israel than the Golan. It is so important, in fact, that it took less than a month for the Israeli government, after gaining Judea and Samaria in June 1967, to start rebuilding its national security platform around Israel’s control of Judea and Samaria.
Today, the hill country of Judea and Samaria are to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and the coastal plain, what the Golan is to the Sea of Galilee and Israel’s northern plains. Strategically, the territory of Judea and Samaria is the pivot on which the national security of the Jewish state depends. It is critical not only to the security and stability of Jerusalem and the other towns and cities in the Judean and Samarian hills, but also essential to the security of towns and cities on the coastal plain, on which 80 percent of Israel’s population lives and the bulk of Israel’s finance, economy and transportation arteries and industry exist.
To those who understand the centrality of Judea and Samaria to Israel’s existence as an independent and secure state, the notion of ceding this territory to the Palestinians—a people incapable of forging peace among themselves, let alone with their sworn enemy—in return for peace, is illogical and immoral. Yet that is the basic premise of the two-state solution, a peace plan outlined in the Oslo Accords in 1993, which has been embraced by most of the international community, including Britain, the European Union, the Palestinian Authority and even the Arab League (with preconditions).
To this day, the rest of the world overwhelmingly backs the two-state solution. Support for the two-state solution remains the policy of the United Nations, the European Union, the Catholic Church and many others.
For Israel, the creation of what would assuredly be a Hamas-controlled, Iranian-influenced Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria—the heartland of the Jewish people and key to Jewish national security—would amount to national suicide. This is why we do not expect Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to give in to demands for a two-state solution.
To learn more about the future of the Jewish state, particularly in light of its weakening relationship with America, read Jerusalem in Prophecy.