Seven Minutes with The International Director Jun/Jul 1979
Two days after President Carter’s dramatic trip to Israel in March and the announcement of a peace breakthrough between Israel and Egypt, I had dinner and an extended conversation with Mr. Harry Hurwitz. Mr. Hurwitz has been a close personal friend of Prime Minister Begin for more than thirty years and has written an authorized biography on his life. Presently he serves as the Prime Minister’s advisor for external affairs. In this latter capacity he was intimately involved in the peace negotiating process and was present at the “exhilarating” moment when President Carter phoned from Egypt to say that President Sadat had accepted Israel’s compromise proposal for peace.
At such a momentous time in history our conversation quite naturally revolved around the events which led to the promise of imminent peace, the risks involved and its chances for longevity. My frame of reference was biblical and prophetic; his political and “religious”.
It is not generally understood in America that Prime Minister Begin (unlike recent Israeli leaders) is a deeply religious orthodox Jew. He takes literally the promise of God to Abraham of a royal land grant which is to form the boundaries of Israel (Gen. 15:18-19) and that that grant was given to the sons of Abraham through Jacob in perpetuity (Gen. 28:13-14). For that reason, in his mind the Sinai could be returned to Egypt because it was not part of the original title deed. In contrast, the area popularly known as the West Bank is clearly part of the title deed given to Israel. Therefore, the Prime Minister views the West Bank not as occupied but as liberated territory and calls it by its biblical name, Judea-Samaria. Israel is willing to grant a great deal of autonomy to the Palestinians living in Judea-Samaria — and possibly full citizenship if they so choose — but that autonomy will be granted within the state of Israel Both biblical and security considerations are at the core of the Prime Minister’s firm position.
It should be understood that Israel has not yielded what she believes is a legal and historical right to Judea-Samaria in the peace treaty.
How about pressure? Did President Carter exert pressure on Israel to make concessions, as earlier administrations had done? According to Mr. Hurwitz, Mr. Carter did not apply pressure — nor could he.
First, Begin is a firm, astute, strong-willed leader who cannot be pressured. Secondly, in Israel’s view, with the collapse of iran, America more than ever needs a strong, free, democratic Israel in the Middle East. This is necessary to maintain stability and hinder foreign intrusion into oil rich, potentially explosive areas.
When I asked if Israel had made too many concessions to reach a peace agreement and whether in fact the treaty did not have within it the seeds of greater danger, Mr. Hurwitz responded with one word —yes. “Yes, Israel has made concessions; yes there are dangers. But after thirty-one years of war and killing we must risk the danger to achieve the peace. We must try.” The most obvious danger to Israel revolves around President Sadat of Egypt. If extremists should assassinate him or if he should fall from power, since Egypt is a dictatorship, the peace treaty could become meaningless, and Israel could find herself in a more vulnerable position than before the treaty. A lesser but real concern is that the economic, military and defense commitment made by America could disintegrate if America herself has economic problems or if a tendency toward isolationism becomes a reality.
Perhaps the greatest danger to a Jewish state is long range. Israel now has a Jewish population of just over three million and an Arab population of over one million. Jewish families are very small. Conversely, the Arab families are very large. Statisticians suggest that within twenty-five to thirty-five years the Arab population could become a majority. And since the Arabs in Judea-Samaria and the Gaza strip may be permitted citizenship, the Jewish state, which could not be overpowered from without, could become outnumbered from within. Mr. Hurwitz suggests that an improved economy will . mean less emigration, more immigration and larger Jewish families. This may well be wishful thinking.
To my question, “Is there any possible scenario you can paint in which Israel might be willing to negotiate away Jerusalem and turn it into an international city?”, Mr. Hurwitz, who is extremely articulate, informed me that there were no circumstances under which Israel would concede her right to Jerusalem. Rather forcefully he made the point that in the Prime Minister’s mind there is no Israel without her capital city — Jerusalem. They do not view Jerusalem as occupied but as liberated and above all else nonnegotiable.
To the Bible-believing Christian this becomes very significant because in Luke 21:24 the Lord said that “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”’ The times of the Gentiles is that period of time when Jerusalem would be under the control of Gentile nations. This period began in 606 B.C. when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon went up to Jerusalem and took away the first contingent of Jewish captives.
The period is described in the second chapter of Daniel through the image that prefigured four Gentile powers that would rule over Israel: Babylon, Medio-Persia, Greece and Rome and the revival of the Roman Empire in the latter days. Some have erroneously suggested that the times of the Gentiles is now over because Jerusalem is now in Israel’s control. This, however, is not the case. Our prayerful wishes and Israel’s intent notwithstanding, Jerusalem will one day revert back to Gentiie domination. It is not until the “stone made without hands” smites the image on its heel (Dan. 2:34) that Gentile domination over Jerusalem will end. The “stone made without hands” (probably a reference to the virgin birth) is Christ, who will return as the Son of David and throw off the oppressive heel of foreign control of the holy city. That Jerusalem will again be under foreign control is, borne out by a still future event to occur in the middle of the tribulation period. An angel is commanded to measure the Temple and altar but not the city, for it is under foreign domination (Rev. 11:1-2), The text suggests that Israel will control the Temple area but not the city.
Prime Minister Begin is a student of the Old Testament. I have been assured that he is familiar with Ezekiel 38 and 39 and the prophecy that an invading army led by a nation from the far north is going to attack Israel in the latter days. The Prime Minister comes from Russia. Because of political activities as a young man he spent torturous years in prison in Siberia. He knows and understands Russia. His immediate attention may be riveted to the surrounding Arab nations, but he realizes that to the far north of Israel, watching not too patiently, is the Russian bear looking for the first opportunity to rumble into the oil-rich Persian Gulf.
Make no mistake about it. The peace treaty between Israel and Egypt notwithstanding, the Middle East remains a cauldron which could erupt at any moment. And as we watch the political developments to better understand prophetic truth, we must never lose sight of the singularly important fact that the divine command to His own continues to be that we evangelize and make disciples. If a partial Mid-East peace — no matter how fragile — buys some time, we must use it while the fields are white unto harvest.