Middle East Peace Process: R.I.P. 1978-2006

From the April 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

Looking for the “peace” in the Middle East peace process has always been like looking for gold nuggets in a garbage dump: there was never any treasure to begin with, and the search makes you sick.

Up until now, though, Israel could at least cling to the pretense—however misguided—that Palestinians as a whole wanted to live peacefully beside them.

No more. With the terrorist group Hamas elected to office by the democratic choice of the Palestinian populace, the Israelis can be assured that when Hamas officials say Israel should not exist, they speak for the people. Men who favor violent solutions are the popular choice.

A February 15 Jerusalem Newswire article, “Israel signals ‘peace’ process is dead,” said this: “[T]he government of Israel is finally starting to realize that any semblance of a ‘Palestinian’ peace partner has now disappeared.”

But what did the peace process ever really accomplish? Rather than bringing peace, it only opened up a gaping wound in the heart of Israel.

The Process

The peace process has lived a bloody, violent life that could have been predicted by the circumstances surrounding its birth.

After centuries of wandering as a people without a nation, Jews began returning to their historic homeland after World War i, which had come under British rule. In 1947, the United Nations decided to form two independent states—one Arab and one Jewish. On May 14, 1948, the British Mandate ended and the UN implemented the plan that returned the Jews to their home—the ancient nation of Israel.

Peace didn’t even last one day. Adamantly opposed to any Jewish state, the Arabs attacked on May 15.

The Jews had no army and were losing within three weeks, when the UN successfully established a truce. Although the Arabs soon broke the truce, the respite gave the Jews time to arm and train their troops. Many Jews acknowledged this opportunity as a miracle from God. By the time fighting ended in 1949, the Jews had expanded the land the UN had allotted them by nearly 50 percent. Though they still controlled only half of Jerusalem, the new nation called Israel declared Jerusalem its capital.

In 1967, the Arabs poised to attack Israel again. Egyptian troops filled the Sinai Peninsula and ordered UN forces out. Egypt, Syria and Jordan allied and prepared to start a war.

Amid terrifying odds came more miracles. Launching a preemptive strike, Israel captured East Jerusalem, the West Bank of the Jordan River, Syria’s Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula in just six days.

In 1973, the Arabs launched another surprise attack—and lost even more territory in both Syria and Egypt.

In these repeated attempts to displace the Jews from their homeland, the Arabs lost all of the land granted to them by the UN, including the city of Jerusalem.

In 1977, the peace process was conceived when U.S. President Jimmy Carter persuaded Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to give the Sinai back to Egypt based on the philosophy that gifting land to mortal enemies would produce peace.

The peace process was born on Sept. 17, 1978, when Israel and Egypt signed the Camp David accords, which outlined the “framework for peace in the Middle East”—a polite phrase that meant gradual Israeli concession of land to Arabs engaged in acts of terrorism against Israel.

Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, who signed these accords, was assassinated in 1981 by members of the Egyptian army who opposed any type of peace with Israel.

In 1987, the first Palestinian intifada—a mass uprising against Israel—began, a sure sign that the peace process was in poor health.

In 1993, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat—leader of the Palestinians and a notorious terrorist—shook hands in an agreement that the Palestinians would recognize Israel’s right to exist in exchange for more land. The agreement, called the “Declaration of Principles” or the “Oslo accords,” specified Israeli military withdrawal from most of the Gaza Strip and from the town of Jericho in the West Bank.

On September 24 of 1995, Rabin signed Oslo ii, agreeing to divide the West Bank into three zones, an act that would cost him his life. He was assassinated shortly thereafter, and replaced by Shimon Peres—one of the architects of the failing peace process.

In 1996, the terrorist group Hamas—founded on the principle that Israel should not exist—responded to the land concessions and peace agreements with devastating suicide bombings against Israel’s military and its civilians.

In 1996 elections, Peres was replaced by Benjamin Netanyahu, who campaigned against the Oslo deals with the slogan “Peace for Security.” Despite his platform, he gave up 80 percent of Hebron in January 1997 and agreed to further withdrawals from the West Bank on Oct. 23, 1998, by signing the Wye River Memorandum. He lost his party’s support as a result and was replaced by Ehud Barak, who promised to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within a year.

True to the spirit of the peace process, however, Barak agreed to further land concessions. The Palestinians declared a second intifada, which raged in the West Bank and Gaza well beyond Barak’s term in office. He resigned in December of 2000 in hopes of receiving a new mandate from his people. Instead, he was replaced by Israeli hero Ariel Sharon, the most right-wing leader yet—a sure sign that Israel would take a tougher approach. True to Sharon’s promises, Israel recaptured most of the West Bank, killed the terrorist leader of Hamas, and refused to deal with Yasser Arafat. The peace process appeared comatose.

Palestinians continued suicide bombings, and Israel continued to launch air strikes in response; the spiritual leader of Hamas—Sheik Ahmed Yassin—was killed in a targeted missile attack.

Meanwhile, Arafat died in November 2004 and was replaced by Mahmoud Abbas, who, unlike his predecessor, was not a known terrorist. In many minds, the installation of a Palestinian leader who might consider reactivating the principle of land for peace showed that the peace process, while diseased, was not yet dead. Israeli politicians indicated a willingness to make more concessions to the Palestinians, and the hope for a Palestinian state looked very much alive.

Shockingly, Sharon turned back to the principle of land for peace, deciding to unilaterally withdraw all Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers evacuated about 8,000 Jewish citizens, some of them by force, from settlements in the Gaza Strip and certain enclaves in the West Bank during August and September 2005. The Palestinians thanked Israel by launching Kassam rockets from the newly acquired land into Israeli towns—62 attacks in September alone. The attempt to buy peace with land was again proven a failure.

On Jan. 4, 2006, Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke that left him in a coma with no signs he would ever wake again.

On January 25, the Palestinian people democratically elected Hamas to parliament by an overwhelming majority. With this stunning election, the Palestinian people essentially put their stamp of endorsement on the idea that Israel should be, as Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently said, “wiped off the map.”

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal, speaking at a February conference in Sudan, expressed his commitment to peace this way: “Our mission is to liberate Jerusalem and purify the al-Aqsa mosque. … Allah is leading us to victory and liberation.”

According to recent polls, nearly half of Israelis and some Israeli politicians are willing to give up some of East Jerusalem to the Palestinians now. But East Jerusalem contains the Temple Mount—the Jews’ holiest site, where both the first and second biblical temples were located. The Arabs have two major mosques there and consider it their second or third holiest site. Neither side will willingly give it up.

The terrorist group Hamas will neither denounce terrorism nor recognize Israel’s right to exist; Israel will not recognize Hamas as a legitimate representative of government as long as it is bent on Israel’s destruction. Jerusalem is about to suffer a violent and emotional explosion.

The Middle East peace process has been a deadly delusion.

Judah’s Wound

As far back as 1996, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry identified the peace process as “Judah’s wound.” The Bible refers to the present nation of Israel as “Judah” (hence the name Jew). It is in a prophecy in Hosea 5:13 that 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!

Could a single word better describe Israel’s “peace” process? Is there any more grievous wound than the naive, strength-sapping negotiation that has Israel virtually begging the Palestinians to stop their terrorism, giving up more and more land and resources along the way? This galling “remedy” has crushed Israel’s will; the peace process itself has left Israel in mortal danger.

Hosea’s prophecy shows that, at some point, the Israelis will see their wound. They will recognize the futility of the land-for-peace formula.

We could already be witnessing the fulfillment of this aspect of the prophecy.

With Israel’s archenemy Hamas in power, the chances of Israel seeing the emptiness of the land-for-peace ideal are much greater, while the prospect of it returning to that ideal are measurably dimmer.

At some point, Israel will see the effect of its wound—but not the cause. Look at Hosea 5:13: “When Ephraim [speaking of modern Britain] saw his sickness, and Judah [today’s Israel] saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian, and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.” As you can see, the next event prophesied in this biblical pronouncement involves a desperate diplomatic frenzy, involving Britain, whereby Israel will cry out to “the Assyrian” 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.

Assyria, in Bible prophecy, refers to modern-day Germany.

Watch for signs of the fulfillment of Hosea’s prophecy—a time when Israel will consider all negotiation with the Palestinians “dead,” and look outside the region for security. Rather than trusting God, it will again trust negotiation with Gentiles to bring peace—a strategy that is destined to result in even more violence and death.

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