Never Missing an Opportunity to Miss an Opportunity

Speaking of Israel’s adversaries, someone once commented that “they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity!” If anyone wants proof of that wry observation, he need only consider the events that took place during the Palestinian riots in May.

Israelis had observed their annual Independence Day celebration—fifty-two years as a sovereign nation. In response, Yasser Arafat’s Fatah organization announced a special day of its own. It was dubbed “Nakba Day” (Day of Catastrophe). The “catastrophe” referred to was the day Israel officially joined the international community as a nation on May 14, 1948.

To commemorate Nakba Day, Arafat ordered demonstrations that resulted in Palestinian rock-throwing, Molotov cocktail showers, and Palestinian police firefights with Israeli police and military. In the end, several lay dead and more than 350 were injured. Since the riots subsided, there have been other incidents where Palestinian police opened fire on Israeli authorities. One of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah leaders was quoted as saying that the demonstrations will continue until Chairman Arafat says to stop. That order, he reported, has not yet been given.

In light of these astonishing circumstances, some serious headscratching should be going on in Washington, D.C., Jerusalem, and at the UN. This man Arafat wants his own state. And, no doubt, he will expect Israel and the remainder of the world to dignify any declaration of Palestinian statehood ratified by the UN. What would he and the rest of the international community say if Israel launched a counter-celebration by unleashing a hail of bullets, stones, firebombs, and other lethal missiles?

One need not speculate about where the wrath would fall. And what of the Palestinian paramilitary police shooting at their Jewish counterparts? This is the second occasion when such action has incited civil disruption. Is this what Israelis can expect when the Palestinians finally have a fully equipped standing army at their disposal?

To assert that these demonstrations are borne from frustration with the slow pace of the negotiations will not wash. These people are getting everything they want—except, that is, the whole of Israel. And that is precisely the point. Whenever Israel delivers yet another town or slice of land, Palestinians weep rather than rejoice. It is never enough. So, in a somewhat baffling conundrum, Israeli politicians caucus with their mentors in the West and decide to offer yet more land and more towns.

The same process goes on with the Syrians. The late Syrian President Hafez al-Assad made no secret of how much he would accept before he would consider serious talks with his Jewish neighbors. While Assad claimed that everything was on the negotiating table, he quickly added, everything, that is, except every inch of land you took while my troops were trying to annihilate you. And, incidentally, throw in a piece of the Sea of Galilee too. Thus far, his successor has held firmly to Assad’s demands.

If peace depends upon maintaining an attitude of goodwill between the parties involved, there seems to be little hope of an amiable settlement between Israel, Syria, and the Palestinians.

There is a biblical basis for this frankly pessimistic appraisal. One need but turn to the opening chapters of the book of Judges to find it. Israel had a land that had been deeded to them by God in perpetuity. The same can be said of that land called Eretz Yisrael today. Israelites returning from slavery and humiliation in Egypt were instructed to move into their land and possess their possession.

That’s where the rub came. Through timidity, naiveté, indolence, or the lack of fortitude to fight for what was theirs, they refused to obey the divine mandate. Perhaps they even acquiesced to a council of friends who made the mistake of believing that the Israelites could achieve more by talk and fraternal demonstrations than by asserting their rights as a nation. Whatever the case, the Scriptures record a sad chronicle.

“And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites . . . Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean . . . Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites” (Jud. 1:21, 27, 29). And on and on that sad tale goes. The result was that the Jews became isolated from one another, their enemies often held the high ground, and Jerusalem remained entrenched in the hands of adversaries.

To see a modern corollary, look well at the map that accompanies this editorial. The courageous Israeli settlers who have risked virtually everything to “possess their possessions” also should study it well. The realities etched on the map illuminate their future and that of their children. Every leader in Israel should have this map burned into his mind. Western political “facilitators,” many of whom have never walked the Golan or visited the settlements, should hang it on the walls of their offices for their staffs and constituents to view.

Perhaps this time around, it is men of good will and good intentions who are taking the opportunity to miss an historic opportunity to bring sanity and stability to a desperately needy part of the world.

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