Fated For Failure

Why the Mideast peace process is still doomed
From the July 2003 Trumpet Print Edition

The Trumpet has said from the beginning that the Mideast peace process was fated for failure.

“This peace treaty is a ‘monumental occasion’ to most U.S. leaders. America sponsored this public treaty signing,” Editor in Chief Gerald Flurry wrote after the 1993 Oslo Accords. “Their hopes are high that peace is coming to the Middle East. Your Bible says those hopes are going to be shattered! ‘[T]he ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly’ (Isa. 33:7)” (Trumpet, Nov. 1993).

With the U.S.-sponsored “road map to peace,” hopes rose once more that a solution could be found. The toppling of Saddam Hussein, the growing intolerance of terrorism, the appointment of a Palestinian leader besides Yasser Arafat—these were taken as signs that, perhaps, this time would be be different.

But as events quickly showed, this time is no different. As with previous peace initiatives, violence in Israel actually surged. In just a week, 60 Israelis and Palestinians were killed in suicide bombings, shootings and missile attacks. The Islamic terrorist group Hamas refused to call a ceasefire. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised to continue attacks on Hamas. The violence and stonewalling that some are calling mere “bumps in the road” on the road map are in fact indicative of insurmountable obstacles.

Why? Because the essential reality is unchanged: Israel still has not won its war for acceptance. Sizeable numbers of Palestinians simply will not tolerate any bargain that recognizes the State of Israel. Until they do, Israel’s security is in jeopardy, and sizeable numbers of Israelis simply will not tolerate any bargain that recognizes a Palestinian state.

Thinktank Stratfor described the hopelessness of the situation in its “Geopolitical Diary” of April 30. A Palestinian had blown himself up near the U.S. Embassy in Israel just hours after the Palestinian Parliament installed the cabinet of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. “The suicide bombing sums up perfectly the fundamental dilemma in any Israeli-Palestinian peace process,” Stratfor wrote. “Regardless of what institutional arrangements are in place, the Palestinian National Authority does not control all Palestinians. A large segment of the community intensely opposes any agreement that recognizes the State of Israel and commits itself to paramilitary operations against it. Regardless of how small the number might be that takes this position, the fact is that some Palestinians will. So long as this group is prepared to carry out suicide and other forms of attacks, they have control of the peace process.” In the boiler room of this tiny country, it doesn’t take but a small minority of such individuals to tip the scales away from resolution and toward violence.

“To make peace, the Palestinians must give the Israelis what they want the most: guaranteed physical security. That means that the Palestinian state must be strong enough to shut down active opposition—without Israeli intervention. This has never existed, nor is it possible to imagine how it will exist in the future. There will always be a faction prepared to attack Israel and trigger an Israeli counterattack against the Palestinians. No Israeli government will ever be able to say that a peace agreement should be signed if physical security can’t be guaranteed by the Palestinians” (ibid.). It is an obvious gamble: If you give the Palestinians statehood, will it give them enough power to crack down on their own extremists, or will it, in fact, give them greater power to push Israel?

Again the issue comes down to fundamental acceptance of Israel’s right to exist—something too many Palestinians have not done.

Here is Stratfor’s bitter conclusion: “The situation is back where it was after Camp David, when great hopes encountered hard reality. The greater the hope, the harsher the response. It is for this reason that we always have been and continue to be extremely pessimistic about any comprehensive settlement between Israelis and Palestinians, and why we are always dubious about peace initiatives. Some people say it’s worth a try. Our view is that it really isn’t, because every time someone tries, the situation gets worse.”

Red-Line Issues

Even beyond the basic security concerns, there are at least two red-line issues that kill any hope of agreement: 1) right of return for Palestinian refugees; and 2) Jerusalem.

The refugees question is a deal-breaker: There are millions of Palestinian refugees, mostly the families of Arabs pushed out of Israel in the 1948 war, dispossessed and living in neighboring countries. They haven’t been integrated into these countries—for example, in many places they are barred from certain professions; they are not able to own land. To the second and now third generations, they are kept in refugee status. The Palestinians want them to have the right to return to their homes within Israel. But over the past half-century, Jews have settled in many of those areas. And, even more worrisome for the Jews, the right of return would mean demographic suicide for the State of Israel: With at least 3.7 million Palestinian refugees living today (and growing by 100,000 each year), the sheer number of Arabs that would come into the territory would quickly overwhelm the Jewish population.

Implicit within this key Palestinian demand is their notion that the Jews really don’t belong in Israel—that it belongs to the Arabs. As Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser told an interviewer in 1961, “If the refugees return to Israel, Israel will cease to exist.” On the other hand, some Jews claim Israel as their God-given homeland. This is an issue that neither side is willing to compromise on.

Even more fundamental is both sides’ absolute non-negotiability over Jerusalem. In May this year, on “Jerusalem Day,” which commemorates Israel’s capture of East Jerusalem in the 1967 war, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in a televised statement, “We will never let go of Jerusalem! Never!” In response, Nabil Abu Rudeina, a senior Palestinian official, said, “Holy Jerusalem, which was occupied in 1967, is the key to peace in this area. Without holy Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state, there will be no peace” (Agence France Presse, May 29).

Trumpet Editor in Chief Gerald Flurry has consistently pointed to this problem as being the one that will derail the whole process. “Jerusalem is a powder keg, loaded with nuclear potential! … Today the Israelis and Palestinians are in a bloody deadlock over who will control Jerusalem. They have tried for years now to resolve their many differences through negotiation and compromise. But their talks always break down over Jerusalem!” (Jerusalem in Prophecy). You need to understand why Jerusalem is such a conundrum. Mr. Flurry’s booklet is a must-read to understanding the nature of the conflict—as well as its future—from a biblical perspective.

In the Middle East, pessimism is absolutely justified! Those analysts of the situation with a shred of realism all understand the same thing: In the words of Joe de Courcy, “Our conclusion, then, is an unhappy one. We can see no prospect that the current post-Saddam push towards a Middle East peace settlement will produce a mutually satisfactory outcome. … In essence, this is a problem that can only be managed, not solved” (Courcy’s Intelligence Review, May 14).

Stratfor went one step further: “Apart from an occupation of the region by foreign troops—which would have to be crazy to take on the task—there is no way to solve the problems. Some problems are insoluble, and this seems to be one of them” (June 12; emphasis mine). Read the article on page 4 to understand the chilling truth behind that statement—because the Bible shows that foreign troops—and crazed ones at that—will occupy Israel in the near future.

Fundamental Flaw

Why can’t the Jews and Arabs just get along?

The real issue isn’t land, or settlements, or statehood. The fundamental disagreements are not caused by material matters—but spiritual!

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?” (James 4:1). Neither the Jews nor the Arabs know the way of peace!—though they both presume to know. But there is something vital missing from their understanding.

It is simply impossible to resolve this conflict by addressing material concerns. No agreement, no contract, no peace plan will prove acceptable to all factions within both sides and bring peaceful agreement and security for all. The only solution to this nightmare is to turn to God in heartfelt national repentance—looking for His solution. And, the Bible shows, if they do not do so quickly, God will have to intervene personally to impose His solution!