Israel’s Bleeding Wound
In early September, news coverage got swamped with a nation-shaking disaster and a harrowing evacuation in the United States. The event overshadowed another evacuation—possibly just as nation-shaking—that had occurred not two weeks before on the other side of the world.
Israeli soldiers called it the most difficult mission they have ever been asked to carry out in service to the democracy they love. With few exceptions, they dutifully obeyed orders to evict all 9,000 Jewish residents from their homes in settlements throughout the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank—even as they withered inside.
In a gut-wrenching account printed in the August 23 Wall Street Journal, Israeli reservist Michael B. Oren well expressed the maelstrom of emotion he felt while following his orders: pride in his fellow soldiers, respect for his elected government, heartache for his dispossessed countrymen, fear for the future of his homeland.
Oren described an illuminating scene that unfolded at one synagogue. Soldiers, before evacuating the people, granted them an hour of parting prayer; the settlers took two, and the soldiers entered. Encountering a grieving mob, they first tried to comfort them—and ended up breaking down themselves. “[S]oon,” Oren wrote, “soldiers and settlers were embracing in mutual sorrow and consolation.” Finally, before the sobbing people were escorted to evacuation buses, a request by the rabbi to address the soldiers was granted. “So it happened that 500 troops and 100 settlers stood at attention, with Israeli flags fluttering, while the rabbi spoke of the importance of channeling this sorrow into the creation of a more loving and ethical society. ‘We are all still one people, one state,’ he said. Together, the evicted and the evictors, then sang ‘Hatikvah,’ the national anthem—‘The Hope.’”
And so it went. Lots of ache, but no arms. It wasn’t easy: Troops had to drag men, kicking and thrashing, out of their homes, while children sat by crying; at a children’s nursery, mothers stood outside holding tightly to their babies while soldiers collected toddlers; settlers ripped their clothes in mourning. But in the end, what was scheduled to take three weeks—with the Israeli government committing some 14,000 troops to the mission, the country’s largest-ever military operation outside of war—was finished in only a few days.
“While the settlers’ overall restraint should be recognized, the bulk of the credit can only go to the [Israeli Defense Force],” Oren wrote. “Never before has an army relocated so many fellow-citizens against their will and in the face of continuing terror attacks with so extraordinary a display of courage, discipline and compassion.”
Thus, a fragile nation carved into itself.
Why? In the pursuit of peace.
This evacuation is thought to be a step toward achieving peace in the Middle East. Many view it as the first phase of Israel’s retreat from land Palestinians want in order to establish their own state—which also includes the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Sadly, however, this bitter sacrifice didn’t move the deadlock one inch closer to a solution. It achieved precisely the opposite.
In addition to rending the hearts of Israel’s citizens, the action only inflamed the fervor of Israel’s foes—and quite possibly handed the worst of those enemies a base of operations for the next phase in their war on the Jewish state.
While individual soldiers may have exhibited courage, discipline and compassion, the unilateral retreat they undertook on behalf of their government is a poignant reflection of the division, lack of national will, and depletion of faith that will soon prove to be a fatal wound for this embattled nation.
What, after all, is going to happen in the Gaza Strip now that Israel’s watchful eye is gone?
At War With Itself
The Gaza pullout polarized Israeli society. Polls showed the Israeli populace split straight down the middle on the issue, with sizeable numbers on each side absolutely staunch in their belief that the other is dead wrong.
The “ultranationalists,” as the press calls them, believe the Gaza Strip and West Bank are part of the land bequeathed to the Jews by God. Today, this is seen as the extreme view. It wasn’t always. Once, the nation was united in its determination to defend every inch of its land, firm in its belief that God was its protector.
Today, however, faith in God is seen as thin stuff on which to base foreign policy.
God specifically prophesied that because of Israel’s lack of faith and its disobedience to Him, the nation’s will would be broken (Leviticus 26:19).
That is just what has happened. Wracked by division within and hostility without, a slight majority of Israelis now see retreat as their only way forward.
This is nothing less than a mindset of resignation—a very public surrender to war-weariness. To think that it will produce peace is to ignore every lesson of history and every shred of logic.
Territorial concessions have been a hallmark of the Arab-Jew peace process, which, as editor in chief Gerald Flurry has stated for almost a decade based on biblical prophecy, will prove to be “Judah’s wound.”
The Bible refers to the present nation of Israel as “Judah” (hence the name Jew). In Hosea 5:13, the interesting word wound can be found. Gesenius’ Lexicon defines it, “the pressing together, binding up of a wound; here used figuratively of a remedy applied to the wounds of the state.” In other words, the remedy is the wound!
Look at the last 12 years of Israel’s history—since the Oslo agreement in 1993—and one can easily see what a wound it truly is to trust in your enemies to guarantee your protection—enemies who have a self-declared and oft-proclaimed mission to crush you from existence, no less.
Throughout this “peace process,” Israel made concessions based on the premise that the Palestinians would become satisfied, and hence friendly neighbors. But with each concession, terrorist attacks only increased—a trend that openly exposed the utter falseness of this reasoning.
Israel’s first territorial concession in its modern history came in 1979, when it turned over the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt. Since then, the Jews have surrendered numerous pieces of strategically important land to the control of the Palestinians in return for empty promises of peace.
This latest withdrawal, however, is the first complete territorial withdrawal since the Sinai.
And whereas withdrawal from the Sinai came with a promise of peace by Egypt (which more accurately could be described as a state of non-war), the Gaza withdrawal doesn’t even involve the pretense of a peace agreement by the Palestinians. They have made no commitment to stop their war against Israel. The Palestinian Authority refuses to disarm the terrorist group Hamas, which, along with other militant organizations, maintains its commitment to Israel’s ruin.
Appeasement and Defeat
Gaza has been a critical component in Israeli internal and foreign policy ever since the nation won it in the 1967 Middle East war. During this time, however, it has given Israel no end of trouble. For over a decade, weapons have been smuggled to Palestinians across the Egyptian border through a complex network of tunnels. The Gaza Strip has been a base of operations for some of the worst Arab-Israeli savagery.
It has come to the point where, according to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, it is “no longer realistic” for Israel to hold on to Gaza (Associated Press, August 17).
To the Palestinians, that statement reads, “Israel admits defeat in Gaza.” We are tired of fighting. We will leave our homes, our businesses, our land. We’ve had enough; we’re getting out. Please, just give us some peace.
A top Hamas figure in Gaza, Ahmed al-Bahar, was a little more pointed in his assessment of the withdrawal: “Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today following more than four years of the intifada. Hamas’s heroic attacks exposed the weakness and volatility of the impotent Zionist security establishment. The withdrawal marks the end of the Zionist dream and is a sign of the moral and psychological decline of the Jewish state. We believe that the resistance is the only way to pressure the Jews” (New York Sun, August 9).
The Arab militants first saw this approach work in southern Lebanon, when Israeli troops withdrew in 2000. After years of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah, the price in violence became too great for Israel to remain there. In fact, some say it was that withdrawal that inspired the Palestinians to begin the intifada that has yielded the same result in Gaza.
Though presented by Sharon as a strategic decision in the interests of Israel’s security, the withdrawal is seen as a momentous victory for terrorism by the Palestinians. A joint Israeli-Palestinian public opinion poll in June found that 71 percent of Palestinians believe Israel’s Gaza withdrawal is a triumph for the Palestinian armed struggle against Israel.
Gaza’s Hamas leader, Mahmoud Zahar, stated in an interview, “I stress that the resistance was what drove the occupation out of the Gaza Strip” (Jerusalem Post, August 22).
To the Palestinians, 400 attacks in Gaza over the past five years have paid great dividends. And how can they not view it this way? Does anyone believe Israel would have given up conquered territory to its enemy if 1,200 of its people hadn’t been killed in the past four years? The message from Israel to the Palestinians is, terrorism works.
“It certainly wasn’t good Palestinian democrats who believe in the rule of law that persuaded Israel to give up Gaza,” said Arnaud de Borchgrave (United Press International, August 17).
In Hamas’s words, on a banner in downtown Gaza City, “Four years of sacrifice beat 10 years of negotiations.”
The disengagement was accompanied by mass celebrations by the Palestinians; chief among them were members of Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
“You can tell a lot about a political or historical event by looking at who’s celebrating it—and in this case it should be obvious that anything which gives Hamas encouragement is most assuredly a dangerous and foolhardy mistake” (IsraelNationalNews.com, August 16).
As the withdrawal from Gaza began, various Palestinian terrorist groups held rallies and marches of celebration and victory. Masked gunmen marched in a Hamas procession; hundreds of Democratic Front supporters marched through the streets; a Fatah/al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades procession was attended by hundreds of armed men; supporters of the Popular Resistance Committees fired guns into the air and burned Israeli and American flags; Palestinian Islamic Jihad held a procession that included a military show by its terrorist-operative wing; a Fatah faction also had a parade featuring a military show and gunfire. In addition, Islamic Jihad put on an unprecedented military seaborne parade to celebrate its “victory.” About 50 boats filled with militants wielding assault rifles, rocket-launchers and Palestinian flags sat off the Gaza coast.
The weeks that followed saw repeated victory parades and shows of military force by the various terrorist groups. The day after the last of the Israeli troops vacated the Gaza Strip, Hamas held its largest rally ever. Spokesmen for the different groups made clear their commitment not to disarm but rather to continue their armed struggle against Israel.
If Israel hoped to appease the Palestinians by feeding them land, retreating from Gaza was a clear and abject failure.
Abbas’s True Colors
The Gaza pullout has reinforced the trend of Palestinian popular support swinging toward Hamas and other terrorist groups. Hamas in particular is likely to perform well in next January’s Palestinian parliamentary elections, thanks to the role it is perceived to have played in securing Israel’s retreat.
Though the hopes of many for peace are still pinned on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, he has virtually no control over Palestinian terrorist organizations, and he apparently risks losing the sympathy of his people by taking a peaceful approach.
In fact, if we take Abbas as his word, he shares the same goals as the terrorists—and even sympathizes with their methods. In the days following the Gaza pullout, he practically sounded like a Hamas spokesman. To a gathering of Palestinians who had been wounded in hostilities against Israel, he said: “The credit for the evacuation is for you and for the martyrs who sacrificed themselves and gave their lives for the homeland” (Associated Press, August 22). IsraelNationalNews.com reported September 4 that, in a recent speech to Gaza students, Abbas patently praised suicide bombers: “They receive their reward in the Garden of Eden,” he said, reminding the students that martyrs and suicide terrorists “brought about the withdrawal from Gaza.”
Thus, even this “moderate” politician, who enjoys the confidence of the United States, has openly acknowledged that terrorism works. How much of an actual difference is there between him and the terrorist groups he is meant to rein in?
Gaza’s New Tenants
With all Israeli military installations dismantled and troops gone from the Gaza Strip, terrorists are now free to build up stockpiles of weapons and launch rocket, mortar or missile attacks into Israel.
And that is just what they have done.
Immediately after the idf completed its evacuation, thousands of Palestinians flooded into the former Jewish settlements, destroying, vandalizing, burning and looting. They even destroyed greenhouses and an industrial center donated by pro-peace groups intended to help the Gazan Palestinians by providing 26,000 jobs and a dependable source of export revenue. Despite pledges to Israel guaranteeing post-evacuation security, Palestinian Authority and Egyptian police did little to stop the rampage. Not a good sign of things to come.
Terrorist groups exploited the period of disorder to transfer hundreds of terrorists, along with their weapons, from neighboring Egypt into the Gaza Strip. Just a few days of weapons smuggling included hundreds of anti-aircraft missiles, anti-tank rockets and bomb components, according to Israeli military assessments.
As the Israeli Defense Force completed its withdrawal on September 12, two Kassam rockets were fired from Gaza over the border into Israel—one landing close to a tent city of expelled Gazan Jews, the other near a city in southern Israel.
Of course, Israel reserves the right to enter at will to counter any threats. But that will come at its own increased price—possibly an unleashing of a deadly round of terrorist strikes on Israel.
In a not-very-veiled threat, the military wing of Hamas posted a statement on its website in August that included: “Any Zionist violation of the liberated territories after the withdrawal, be it a violation of the land, sea or air space, will be encountered by force. We reiterate that the presence of any Zionist soldier or settler in the liberated territories, crossings or border areas would mean fighting this presence with all available means” (Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades website, August 20).
(Thus we see what a “liberated” Palestinian-controlled area is to be: completely devoid of Jews. Meanwhile, of course, within the Jewish state Arabs are free to live, work, vote, even seek government office. Consider: How would the world respond if the Jews became adamant about eliminating Arabs from within their borders?)
Apart from home-grown Palestinian violence that the Gaza withdrawal will no doubt promote, there is also the probability of an influx of reinforcements. Surrounding Arab states see the withdrawal as an opportunity to offload some of the Palestinian refugees in their countries. Considering the lack of jobs available in Gaza and the resulting social discontent, terrorist recruitment among the local population is likely to flourish.
As for controlling the Strip’s borders, Israel, again, faces a no-win situation. If it allows the Palestinians to operate a seaport and airport, it opens the door to smuggled weapons. If it doesn’t allow open borders, the territory will stagnate economically even more, providing a breeding ground for terrorism.
Then there is the potential problem of the Egyptian/Gaza border, with the Israelis turning over border security duties to the Egyptians. Egyptians harbor a deep and age-old resentment against the Jews. Despite a certain “peace” existing between the two countries today, armaments have steadily flowed over the Egyptian border to the Palestinians for years. Though the present Egyptian government cooperates with Israel in trying to control the border, if a more radical Islamic government comes to power in that country (which we can expect to happen at some point), Israel’s security situation could suddenly become far more desperate.
Clearly, as Israel retreats, violence is bound to advance. Few dispute this reality.
One Israeli politician recently said, “A unilateral withdrawal is not a recipe for peace. It is a recipe for war.” These words weren’t uttered by a staunch opponent of the Gaza withdrawal. They are the words of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon—the one who fought half his own cabinet to make it happen.
In early 2003, in fact, it was the very issue of withdrawal from Gaza that gained Sharon the prime ministry—as an opponent of it. (Later the very same year, Sharon joined his political rivals on the issue.)
It was Sharon who actually led the campaign to persuade Israelis to settle there after the Six Day War in 1967. For the last 40 years, it was he who drove the campaign to settle Israelis on land that the Palestinians wanted to claim—working in various ministerial posts building settlements for over 20 years, and as settlements minister under Prime Minister Menachem Begin.
In one instance, in the mid-1970s when he was an adviser to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, he even joined squatters in resisting soldiers who had come to evacuate them from land in the West Bank (Advertiser, August 20).
A commentator in one Israeli paper wrote, “We will not forget, Mr. Sharon, your recurring statements year after year: ‘Go to the hilltops,’ ‘Settlement protects the State of Israel,’ ‘Settlement protects the coastline’ and so forth” (Hatzofe, August 17).
Sharon’s about-face epitomizes the desperation of Israel and the futility of its current strategy.
A measure of the truly muddled thinking behind the Gaza retreat came on June 9, in a speech by Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to the Israel Policy Forum in New York. He said that withdrawing from Gaza “will bring more security, greater safety, much more prosperity, and a lot of joy for all the people that live in the Middle East.” He then explained, “And we all desperately need it. We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies, we want that we will be able to live in an entirely different environment of relations with our enemies. We want them to be our friends, our partners, our good neighbors.”
Truly, Israel is in retreat.
In the face of enemies bent on its destruction, it hardly stands a chance of survival if it is not only tired of being a target, but also tired of winning!
Addled and weary, Sharon has trashed his reputation as a warrior, and, like his predecessors, taken a reckless route. He has pushed increasingly daring measures to try to break the deadlock with the Palestinians: building a security wall to separate the Jews from the Arabs; releasing Arab prisoners from Israeli jails—and now the evacuation of Jewish settlements.
Sharon’s reasoning, it is said, is that this withdrawal will decrease international pressure (particularly from the U.S., its primary patron) on Israel and thus make it easier to hold on to the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
This is very mistaken thinking. The U.S. itself faces a war against Islamic terrorism, and one of the stated reasons for the anti-Americanism driving the terrorism is America’s support for Israel. As America’s problems intensify, we can expect to see the U.S. question more and more whether its support of Israel—against Arabs—is really worth it.
Then there is pressure from Europe, which Bible prophecy indicates will become more involved in the Middle East peace process as time goes on. The European Union has made quite clear its position on the matter of Israel’s territorial concessions. Last October, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said that the Gaza withdrawal would be a good first step but that it must be followed by a full and complete withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Jerusalem Newswire, Oct. 24, 2004).
Will even a reinvigorated terrorist campaign stop the international community from pressuring Israel to compromise further? Not if history is our guide. As one commentator declared, “Untroubled by facts, [Israel’s critics] will demand further Israeli withdrawals” (New York Times, August 9).
As for Sharon’s own stated intentions not to give up the larger settlements in the West Bank or Jerusalem, his backflip on the Gaza settlements belies such pledges.
In fact, the history of Israeli politics since the start of the misnamed peace process is strewn with instances of Israel’s leaders going back on promises in desperate hopes of achieving a state of peace.
Ironically, the fact that the withdrawal was relatively smooth and quick—despite expectations of possible violence and a prolonged operation—could actually work against Sharon. Instead of highlighting the huge sacrifice Israel has made, thereby decreasing pressure on it to go further, it could do just the opposite. Certainly, for the Israeli settlers who wanted the withdrawal to be so painful and politically costly that no government would ever attempt such a disengagement again, the success of the withdrawal is undoubtedly a huge setback.
And of course, it has given the Palestinians the assurance that Israel is quite capable of retreating from land they claim as their own.
Though the Palestinians will certainly accept the gift of the Gaza Strip, Israel‘s concession will do nothing to slow them in their drive for the control of Jerusalem. “Our march will stop only in Jerusalem,” asserted the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, Ahmed Qureia (New York Sun, August 9).
At a mass rally in Gaza the week of the withdrawal, about 10,000 Palestinian Arabs celebrated in the streets, singing, dancing and chanting, “Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem.”
The Palestinians also make no secret of the tactics they plan to use. “Now, after the victory in the Gaza Strip, we will transfer the struggle to the West Bank and later to Jerusalem,” said Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, Mahmoud Zahar (Jerusalem Post, August 17).
Further, Zahar stated: “Neither the liberation of the Gaza Strip, nor the liberation of the West Bank or even Jerusalem will suffice us. Hamas will pursue the armed struggle until the liberation of all our lands. We don’t recognize the State of Israel or its right to hold on to one inch of Palestine. Palestine is an Islamic land belonging to all the Muslims” (ibid.).
How much clearer could he have made it?
The Israeli withdrawal from four settlements in the northern West Bank will make way for Hamas and these other militant groups. Hamas has announced its plan to move its base of operations to the West Bank. The Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of various Palestinian terror groups operating in the Gaza Strip, is transferring its rocket-making and other military technology to the West Bank.
Israeli military officers reported that, since early in the year, Palestinian terror groups have sought to deploy heavy weapons into the West Bank, with the assistance of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.
Former Labor Party Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami is worried about what the Palestinians may do next: “A unilateral retreat perpetuates Israel’s image as a country that runs away under pressure,” he stated. “In Fatah and Hamas, they will assume that they must prepare for their third intifada—this time in [the West Bank].”
What was supposed to be a step toward peace will more likely prove to be the spark igniting another intifada.
What Is to Come
Israel’s critics say that all the Palestinians want is for Israel to give them the “occupied” territories. That all their hate-mongering, suicide bombings, terrorist attacks will stop if they could just create their own state.
But the Arab-Israeli conflict can never be solved by territorial concessions. Quite simply, the Arabs have a fundamental problem with Israel’s very existence. Eighty percent of Palestinian Arabs deny the Jewish state’s right to exist. As long as Israel exists, Arabs will seek its destruction. To believe anything else is to deny history, reality and the Arabs’ own declarations.
Territorial concessions will always be seen as a sign of Israeli weakness and galvanize the Arabs in their quest for full victory. After Israel’s Gaza concession, terror and violence will only get worse in this war-ravaged nation!
As Gerald Flurry states in Jerusalem in Prophecy, “Through the peace process, Judah has become vulnerable to the enemy, with very little freedom to strike back. … Soon the whole world will see what the Arabs saw all along—that the peace process is a wound from which the Jews will never recover!”
The Palestinians have their eyes set on Jerusalem. No concessions, talks or agreements can ever stop them from seeking control over this much-coveted city.
In this, the Arabs are prophesied to succeed. Referring to Zechariah 14:2, editor in chief Gerald Flurry forewarns, “East Jerusalem—one half of the city—will be conquered by the Palestinians!” (ibid.).
Zechariah 14:1-2 state, “Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.”
Mr. Flurry explained, “This prophecy revolves around the Day of the Lord—the end time. We are living in that time right now.
“Christ prophesied that He would ‘gather all nations’ to battle Him in Jerusalem. Then He makes what might appear to be a strange statement. One half of Jerusalem is to be taken captive. That crisis triggers a series of events that leads to the return of Jesus Christ! One half of Jerusalem being taken captive is like the first domino to fall, leading to Christ’s return and battle against all nations in Jerusalem! It all begins and ends in Jerusalem. But what a glorious end!
“The nation of Israel was established in 1948. At that time the Jews only had roughly one half of Jerusalem. The Arabs had East Jerusalem. Zechariah 14 is also a prophecy that the Jews would conquer all Jerusalem, because in order for half the city to be taken just before Christ returns, the whole city has to be controlled by the Jews now. That happened in the 1967 war.
“So the prophecy in Zechariah 14:1-2, which has not yet been fulfilled, has to happen between 1967 and the Great Tribulation. Jerusalem is going to be totally captured in the Tribulation (Revelation 11:1-2). Many prophecies tell us that.
“Today the Arabs live in roughly one half of Jerusalem. They just don’t control it—yet” (Trumpet, November 1997).
The tragedy currently unfolding within the embattled State of Israel brings the day of the fulfillment of this prophecy nearer.
Israel’s deadly wound will bleed that little nation to death.
Look again at Hosea 5:13: “When Ephraim [speaking of modern Britain] saw his sickness, and Judah [today’s Israel] saw his wound, then sent Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.” Finally, in a desperate diplomatic frenzy (involving Britain), Israel will cry out to the Assyrian—the presently uniting European power with Germany at its head—for protection as its last hope for survival as a nation. It will, one last time, try to remedy its plight through a peace pact.
“The Israelis will finally see that their peace pact with the Palestinians has failed. The Jews really only see the effect of their wound. They don’t see the cause. That is why they turn to Germany for another peace pact! This time they place their trust in an even greater enemy! Once again they fail to trust God” (Jerusalem in Prophecy).
Catholic Europe has been waiting for years for just such a request. By then bristling with military might, it will respond to the call—ready to finally fulfill its ambition in the Holy Land. With anarchy reigning between Arab and Jew, Europe will intercede and impose “peace” on the region. “He [the European power] shall enter also into the glorious land [Jerusalem], and many countries shall be overthrown” (Daniel 11:41). Jesus Christ Himself prophesied that this intervention would be anything but peaceful: “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh” (Luke 21:20). What will appear to be a sincere effort to establish security in the Holy City will end up being a grisly repetition of the Crusades!
The stage is already being set. But as the outlook for Israel grows more bleak, the day nears when Jerusalem finally—rather than being a source of conflict—will become the focal point and the source of a genuine global peace.
With reporting by Donna Grieves