Is Peace Possible?
Those of us who aspire to follow Jesus know that we are blessed when we become peacemakers. Not simply people who keep the peace (that’s the United Nations’ job) but making peace. Ultimately we realize that only the King can truly make peace, and as his envoys, we work together with Him to achieve that ultimate dream.
In the meantime (as we work to reconcile hearts to God through Christ) we also seek the peace of the nations through any means available. Israelis and Palestinians are longing for that peace.
Here are the issues on the table in order for a solution to be reached:
Both sides need assurance of security. The Israelis and the Palestinians are convinced that the other side is out to annihilate them, and both seem to have ample evidence to prove that.
So basic security needs to be addressed. Stop attacks. Stop harassment. Control the radical fringe on both sides (my estimate is that only about 10% on either side does not want peace). While a majority of Israelis and Palestinians desire to live in peace with their neighbors, they must be willing to make difficult and brave decisions. Those not willing to make those steps are the real roadblocks to a lasting solution”
Israel has never defined its borders – or the borders it wants. 1967 provided a starting point – from the UN – but Israel has never agreed to that. The Palestinians and other Arab countries have agreed to that – many times, for many years.
Israel needs to decide what borders it’s asking for. Is it the defacto borders created by the wall they’ve built? If so – they need to declare it. At least that’s a starting point. The Palestinians have declared their starting point – the 1967 borders.
The 1967 borders would mean that Israel withdraws from the West Bank and the Golan Heights. And where the wall has encroached on West Bank land (according to the ’67 borders) there could be land for land swaps. It wouldn’t be hard to do.
But Israel has to decide and declare what they want.
The Israeli Settlements
The word “Settlement” always sounds simple and naive. It reminds me of our early American history – the Westward movement of the likes of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Heroes. Pioneers. Settling the untamed West (never mind the part about all the people who already lived there).
And these “settlements” are very much the same as our history of 200 years ago. Mostly Anglo-European and North American Jews moving onto land that has been lived on for thousands of years by an Arabic speaking population and building cities there.
Almost all agree that these towns will have to be removed in order for any meaningful Palestinian state to exist. This is the #1 challenge. Israel has not been willing to take this seriously.
The Right of Return and Prisoners
Palestinians will always bring up two issues: the right of all Palestinians living outside the country to return to their homeland (or the homeland of their forefathers). Some of the Palestinians have left as normal emigration, but most left under duress as the Israeli state declared itself and expanded in 1948, 1967 and 1973. Two million Palestinians live in neighboring Lebanon, Syria and Jordan – they would like the ability (right) to go home if they so chose.
Depending on who’s counting, there are between 5 and 10 thousand Palestinians currently being held in Israelis jails and prisons. The majority without any due process. There needs to be a legal process established to identify the actual criminals versus those that are simply part of the “usual suspects” that a military state tends to round up.
Israel tends to tout itself as the one and only democracy in the Middle East – other than that simply being untrue – as there are several democracies (although quite imperfect) around the Middle East – it’s also not true internally. Being a Jewish state (which is the Zionist dream) is by definition not democratic. Inside all of the land controlled by Israel, only half are Jews. The rest are Muslims and Christians from Arab descent.
There is a vigorous debate inside of Israel about its identity. What does it mean to be Israeli? There is even the question of what it means to be a Jew. It’s a country with no Constitution (the only in the world), with no defined borders and an uncertain national identity. Israel needs to first decide who she is before she can demand concessions from its neighbors.
As soon as Israel decides, peace will not be that difficult.