Change Region:Fiji

Israel Answers

What Is the IHRA Definition of Anti-Semitism?

The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), an intergovernmental organization mandated to focus on Holocaust-related issues, determined that, to address the problem of rising anti-Semitism, there must be clarity about what it is. Some 30 governments have now adopted their non-legally binding working definition of anti-Semitism, and efforts are underway to expand that to include international organizations such as the United Nations and their related agencies.

The Working Definition

The definition drawn up by IHRA experts is: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Examples Given

One unique and extremely helpful aspect of the IHRA definition is the list of examples of anti-Semitism it includes. These examples make it clear that anti-Semitism does not just target Jewish individuals but the Jewish State—Israel. Criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitism. But applying double-standards to Israel does, as well as using images and symbols from classic anti-Semitism and the Nazi regime when speaking of Israel.

The Correct Spelling

IHRA has also addressed their spelling of the term “antisemitism,” often written with a hyphen (as in this article: “anti-Semitism”). The unhyphenated spelling is favored by many scholars and institutions to dispel the idea that there is an entity “Semitism,” which “anti-Semitism” opposes. The conjunction of the prefix “anti” with “Semitism” indicates anti-Semitism as referring to all people who speak Semitic languages or to all those classified as “Semites.”

However, since its inception, this term referred to prejudice against Jews alone. IHRA feels anti-Semitism should be read as a unified term (“antisemitism”) so that the meaning of the word for modern Jew-hatred is clear. Both spellings are correct and definitions are the same.*

Why This Definition Is Needed

The IHRA Definition is an important tool for education and guidance on anti-Semitism. As anti-Semitic incidents have increased worldwide, governments and civil society can use the definition to identify modern expressions of anti-Semitism better. Many seek ways to speak out against anti-Semitism, but the first step is to define and identify it and understand its impact.

What It Is Not Intended to Do

The definition should not be viewed as legal code. Some countries already have laws against anti-Semitic acts such as Holocaust denial, discrimination of Jews, or the distribution of anti-Semitic materials that should remain. In other countries, some aspects of the IHRA definition, if put into law, might infringe upon freedom of speech. Each country needs to assess how best to adopt and use the IHRA definition.

Some liberal groups are pushing back against the IHRA definition because they feel it is too restrictive on criticism of Israel that, in their eyes, is warranted. The definition makes clear that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” However, the definition has become divisive; some activists have sought to give it the force of law, and others are claiming it infringes upon their right to free speech.

Mainstream Support

Today, governments, campus administrators, law enforcement bodies, and civil society organizations around the world are using the IHRA Definition. It has proved to be an important tool to help educate on anti-Jewish bias, assess claims of anti-Semitism, assist in identifying whether a crime might also be categorized as a hate crime targeting Jews, and aid in determining the impact of certain behaviors.

In a December 2019 executive order, the Trump administration instructed the Executive Branch to consider the IHRA definition, including its 11 examples, when investigating civil rights complaints—including those filed to the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights regarding alleged discrimination on campus. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, a coalition of establishment Jewish groups, sent a letter to Biden asking him to adopt the IHRA definition. The ICEJ organized a similar letter signed by 140 Christian leaders under the American Christian Leaders for Israel network.

The US government needs to join the growing list of countries that have adopted the IHRA definition, which would give all agencies the necessary tool to identify anti-Semitism and stop its growth.

* Recognizing both spellings as correct, the Word From Jerusalem continues to hyphenate “anti-Semitism.”  

—by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director

How Do Israeli Elections Work?

 

On December 22, 2020, Israel’s coalition government with two prime ministers dissolved after the Knesset failed to pass a state budget. The coalition had survived for eight months after a series of postponed deadlines for agreeing on an Israeli budget. However, the final legal deadline to pass a budget expired, and now Israel is headed for its fourth election in two years on March 23, 2021.

From an American perspective, the countless elections, political rivals sharing the office of prime minister, and elected officials surviving their elected term based on the state budget is nothing less than bizarre. This begs the question for many of us on the peripheral: How exactly do Israeli elections work?

Parliamentary Democracy

The state of Israel is a parliamentary democracy, a form of government in which the executive power receives its legitimacy from a democratically elected legislature. Within Israel’s executive branch are a prime minister (the head of government) and a president (the head of state). In addition to a legislative and executive branch, there is a judicial branch, whose powers and responsibilities are conducted independently of the other two branches. 

The citizens of Israel make up the electorate, who vote in members of the legislative branch, formally known as the Knesset (Hebrew for “gathering”), every four years. Instead of voting for candidates, the people vote for a party. The resulting 120 seats of the Knesset are assigned by party and proportionate to the number of votes each received.

Forming a Government

Once the parties are elected, the 120 elected officials recommend to Israel’s president the person they desire to be the prime minister to form the Israeli government. It is not the number of votes a party receives that determines which candidate for prime minister gets the first chance at forming a government. Rather, the person with the most recommendations from the 120 elected legislators receives the opportunity. Once the communal recommendation is made, the president asks the choice candidate for prime minister to form the government. 

The chosen candidate then has 42 days to form a majority government (which requires a minimum of 61 of the 120 elected candidates). Interestingly, no party has ever received a majority of votes (excluding the Labor Party merger in 1969). Therefore, a coalition of parties has been operating in every Israeli government formed to date.

It is not until the chosen candidate for prime minister accomplishes this task that they are officially prime minister and a government is fully functional. Elected candidates who do not make up the majority government remain in the Knesset and are known as the “Opposition.” Their role is to supervise the majority government. If a candidate for prime minister fails to form a majority, the president hands the mandate to form a government to another candidate. If no candidate can successfully form a government, an additional election ensues.

Maintaining a Government

Coalition governments are fragile and hard to maintain. Before Israel’s last coalition agreement collapsed, the majority government had 73 legislators made up of two-party blocs: the Likud bloc (54 seats split between 5 parties) and the Blue and White bloc (19 seats split between 3 parties). The remaining 47 seats were the Opposition, split between 6 parties. 

Under the agreement, the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was intended to serve for 18 months until September 2021. At that time, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz was intended to serve as prime minister for 18 months thereafter.

Now that the government has failed to create a state budget, an integral part of sustaining a coalition agreement, the government has collapsed, and new elections are needed to begin the process all over again. The challenge to find a productive, unified leadership will be arduous, and there is no guarantee Netanyahu will remain prime minister. New challengers have emerged that will make this historic fourth election within two years especially interesting.

—by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director

What Is Causing the Sudden Worldwide Shift in Support for Israel?

On September 15, 2020, the ministers of foreign affairs for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain joined Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the White House for an event that would bring about a profound change to the Middle East. The ceremony, formally known as the Abraham Accord, normalized relations between the two Arab countries and Israel. The occasion was nothing less than historic, as the UAE and Bahrain became the third and fourth Arab countries to have normalized relations with Israel.

These two nations are not the only ones to stand on the frontline of the new paradigm shift. At the press conference immediately before the Abraham Accord, President Trump said he expected five or six other countries to normalize relations with Israel. Within weeks of the peace accord, Kosovo’s Muslim-majority Balkan nation moved to recognize Israel’s statehood and normalize ties. On the same day, Serbia announced plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Sudan announced plans to normalize relations with Israel, a country that had sworn never to make peace with Israel 53 years ago. Malawi, Honduras, Guatemala, and Serbia have all broadcasted intentions to move their embassies to Jerusalem. So the real question is, what events transpired that are leading to a changing worldview of Israel?

Mutual Regional Threats

For decades, Israel has waged a tiresome battle to preserve its existence in light of Iran’s global and regional aggression. Hezbollah militants in Lebanon, Iranian drones flying into the country from Syria, and an emboldened Hamas presence in the Gaza strip are a few examples of Iran’s persistent attempt to destroy Israel. But Israel is not the only country with its Iranian woes. 

Israel and the Arab world are threatened by an advancing Iranian nuclear program that has forced the region into a cold war. States adjacent to the Persian Gulf, such as Bahrain and the UAE, face threats to their national security and private sector from an aggressive Iranian navy. Saudi Arabia wages war against Iranian backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. This goes without mentioning other shared threats such as ISIS, al-Qaida, and other Islamic extremist groups in the region. In all, Israel and the Arab nations have developed a shared view of regional threats that have pushed the countries to cooperate in the security and intelligence sectors, which developed the foundation for the diplomatic bridge between both worlds.

An Opportunity for American Embrace

As a result of the Abraham Accord, the United States announced plans to sell F-35 fighter jets to the UAE, a move that would strengthen the Emirati military in light of Iranian aggression. The move would be somewhat controversial, as some Israelis fear their qualitative military edge (QME) over other Middle Eastern countries would be adversely affected. In the meantime, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz has continued discussions with US leadership to ensure this doesn’t become a major issue. From a bigger perspective, this potential move has sent a message to other countries around the world: those who embrace peace with Israel will invite possibilities of further military cooperation from the United States. 

Alternatively, from a diplomatic perspective, countries that have moved to normalize ties with Israel or simply recognize Jerusalem as her capital have found themselves in the American spotlight. Guatemala, Honduras, Serbia, and Kosovo—countries with seemingly insignificant world influence—have enjoyed being hailed as advocates for peace as they have taken major steps to warm relations with Israel. Sudan, which has been on America’s list of state sponsors of terrorism for 27 years, was finally removed from the list, largely a result of normalizing ties with Israel. Like Israel’s steps to create peace, these smaller countries have been able to act boldly out of an understanding that the United States will be there to support them despite potential opposition from the world.

Coronavirus

Israel is accepted by many as a world leader in the world of medical technology and coronavirus research. That is why the foreign affairs ministers of both the UAE and Bahrain spoke about coronavirus research and partnerships as one of the first priorities of the new alliances. Additionally, the UAE’s tourism and oil exports have slowed down as demand for both has dipped due to the pandemic. Opening these countries’ economies to Israel will expand economic growth despite the coronavirus recession. 

Major Diplomatic and Economic Benefits Are the Adornment

At the ceremony for the Abraham Accord, Foreign Affairs Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed of the UAE asserted, “The aim of all of these treaties . . . is to work toward sustainable development.” Within hours, these words came to fruition. Bank Hapoalim, the largest bank in Israel, signed a major cooperation agreement with the National Bank of Dubai to allow more opportunities for business and trade between both countries. A day after the Accord, Emirati logistics company DP World partnered with Israeli Shipyards to open a direct shipping line between the two countries, with DP World CEO bin Sulayem stating the deal will “help our customers to do business in the (Middle Eastern) region more easily and efficiently.” Direct flights, telephone communications, and an eventually post-coronavirus tourism boom are also expected to bring economic growth to Israel and the Persian Gulf region.

To refocus on Europe, Serbia and Kosovo found opportunities to warm up to one another and toward Israel at the White House in early September. Although both states—part of ex-Yugoslavia—have been at odds with one another for decades, the two reached a basic agreement to recognize one another’s sovereignty (the main issue dividing them). They have also committed to economic normalization, which has reopened the dialogue between the two Eastern European countries. Simultaneously, the countries agreed to move their embassies to Jerusalem, not to mention the beginning of normalized ties between Kosovo and Israel in the first place. President Trump stated, “By focusing on job creation and economic growth, the two countries were able to reach a major breakthrough.” Similarly, strengthening ties between the East European countries and Israel will create more investment opportunities, diplomacy, and tourism.

Peace Comes from Strength

Thanks to her ingenuity and a robust alliance with the United States, Israel has maintained a qualitative military edge (QME) that gives its military a winning advantage against threats from Palestinian aggression and throughout the Middle East. Because of Israel’s strength, they are in a position where they may take risks for peace. On the day of the Abraham Accord, Hamas operatives retaliated by firing 15 rockets at southern Israel. Thanks to missile defense technology, such as the Iron Dome, Arrow, and David’s Sling, Israel can continue seeking peace with Arab countries without paralyzing fear or desperation caused by terrorism. The same sense of strength is what gave Israel confidence when they first normalized ties with Egypt in 1979.

A Generational Shift in the Arab World

At the advent of the digital age, much of the developed Arab world has been exposed to Western ideas for peace and prosperity, particularly younger generations. Thanks to various social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, many throughout the Arab world have access to the same information available throughout the West. Furthermore, much of the developed world was enabled to follow President Trump’s recent deal for peace between Israelis and Palestinians and see how the Palestinian Authority responded in a typical fashion of rejectionism and violence. Witnessing these events live and unfiltered has motivated many to move forward with peace despite the Palestinians’ refusal to come to the negotiating table.

Global Fatigue from Palestinian Refusal

Since the first day of Israel’s statehood, the Palestinians have continually refused every peace offering from Israel that could have resulted in a two-state solution between the nations. In fact, the Palestinians have traditionally responded with violence against Israelis when peace deals were offered, with minimal or no negotiating in many cases. As discussed, the growth opportunity for many countries to normalize relations with Israel is great. To continually delay building these ties comes at an expense, especially for the Arab people, and the pain from doing so is exacerbated in times of war and disease. The idea that a two-state solution must be achieved for further peace throughout the Middle East has been proven incorrect by the Abraham Accord. If anything, the recent events have put more pressure on the Palestinians to return to the table, as the Arab voice of sympathy has been hushed by active, innovative forces for peace. This new understanding has partially opened the floodgates of prosperity between Israel and countries throughout the world.

Concluding Thoughts

There is much to accredit for the substantial progress made for peace between Israel and the rest of the world. Positive forces such as the United States’ strength and Israel’s innovative spirit, have enabled Israel to reach a position of strength to take risks for peace. A pro-Israel Trump administration has served a vital role in brokering peace between Israel and the Arab world, as well as leading the way with the Jerusalem Embassy move, inspiring countries from Central America and Eastern Europe to follow suit.

On a darker note, the world has experienced much hardship amid a global pandemic and recession, and an aggressive Iranian terror threat has threatened stability throughout the Middle East. All this and other unmentioned global issues have catalyzed extraordinary progress for Israeli peace, incentivizing countries such as Bahrain and the UAE to accept Israel’s help in the cold war against Iran and bring life back to their respective economies.

In the new digital age, the advantages of forging relationships with Israel outweigh the costs of siding with a Palestinian Authority that continually refuses to negotiate peace. Although recent peace initiatives are far from ending the Israeli-Arab conflict, the shift has certainly begun an era of growing peace between Israel and the world.

 —by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network

What the Abraham Accord Means for Israel

 The presence of United Arab Emirates officials earlier this year at the announcement of President Trump’s plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians hinted at a growing collaboration between Israel and the Emirates. The two have now struck a historic deal, dubbed the Abraham Accord, which is perhaps the most significant step ever towards regional peace for the Jewish State. The United Arab Emirates joins the short list of Middle Eastern countries with normalized diplomatic relations with Israel—alongside Jordan and Egypt. However, this agreement also signals a new alliance in the Middle East in response to heightened tensions with Iran.

The peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates will reap significant diplomatic and economic benefits for the two parties as they sign several agreements regarding investment, direct flights, technology, agriculture, security, tourism, the exchange of embassies, and robust people-to-people relations. Considering the advancement of both countries within a war-torn, undeveloped Middle East, the deal is expected to bring region-wide economic growth, technological innovation, increased stability, and respect for human rights. 

Moreover, normalized relations between the two countries are expected to encourage other Gulf countries to follow suit, notably Bahrain and Oman, which could happen as soon as in a few weeks. Even Saudi Arabia is quiet and may be awaiting their turn at the table.

What about the expansion of sovereignty in Judea and Samaria?

President Trump’s peace deal for Israel and the Palestinians allowed for the expansion of Israeli sovereignty over the Jordan Valley and Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Although the  United Arab Emirates approved of the deal, there was widespread opposition to the expansion of sovereignty. Consequently, as a part of the peace agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Israel will suspend expansion efforts, at least for the near future. 

When questioned by reporters about reneging on his promise to expand sovereignty, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel promised that expansion is still very much “on the table.”  US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman emphasized all parties understand it to be a temporary “suspension” of sovereignty and not a cancellation. He could not say how long this suspension would last but explained it was to allow time to negotiate other peace agreements.

How might this compare to previous international agreements for Israel?

Although this agreement is the third of its kind between Israel and an Arab country, it is an occasion of its own in different respects. Foremost, the deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates did not involve surrendering any land between the two countries—only the “suspension” of Israel’s planned extension of sovereignty. Israel gave up the entire Sinai Peninsula in 1979 to Egypt in exchange for peace and had to negotiate territorial disputes with Jordan in 1994 to normalize relations. 

Furthermore, unlike with Egypt and Jordan, Israel has never been at war with the United Arab Emirates. This history void of direct conflict opens up the possibility of warmer people-to-people relations. 

Strategically, the deal is larger than itself and is the beginning of an expansion of alliances to the Persian Gulf in order to face a regional foe—Iran.

How do the Palestinians feel about the deal?

Not unexpectedly, the Palestinian leaders are virtually unanimous in their opposition to the peace agreement, or put in the words of PA President Mahmoud Abbas, an act of “treason.” Nonetheless, the United Arab Emirates still possesses a robust relationship with the Palestinian Authority and can thus speak to the Palestinians in ways the United States or Israel cannot. 

Undoubtedly, the deal will hinder the Palestinians’ ability to leverage the Arab League against Israel in times of conflict or negotiations. Amos Yadlin, former general for the Israeli Air Force, recently asserted on television, “America is sending a clear signal to the Palestinians: ‘You have no veto power, you have no Arab support; don’t miss another opportunity, don’t ignore Trump’s peace plan.’” 

What does this mean for President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu?

Without a shadow of doubt, the success achieved between the countries would not have occurred without the bravery and boldness of US President Trump, Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates. This is a major foreign policy success for President Trump, who was responsible for brokering the deal between the two countries. 

On the other hand, Prime Minister Netanyahu enjoys the accolade of being the first leader of Israel to normalize diplomatic relations with a Gulf country successfully. As this regional alliance takes shape, and should Saudi Arabia come to the table, it will not just be another accomplishment for Netanyahu but another miracle in Israel’s story.

—by Susan Michael, ICEJ USA Director, creator of Israel Answers, and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network


Listen to the podcast hosted by Charisma about the Abraham Accord with special guest Susan Michael.

Why Christians Care about Annexation

I have engaged with a number of reporters lately, both on and off the record, concerning the Trump peace plan. And one question keeps coming up: Why should Christians care about whether or not Israel annexes more territory in the West Bank? So for the record, here are some valid, sincere reasons why Christians should—and—do care about Israel and its current debate over whether to annex parts of Judea/Samaria in the context of the Trump plan. 

 

Standing for Fairness 

Because so many Christians were hostile to the Jewish people down through history, we view it as our moral duty as Christians today to stand with Israel and against those who are hostile to the modern Jewish state and its people. There are simply too many nations and peoples who treat Israel unfairly and even loathe its existence without just reason or cause. So we are determined to stand against the rising tide of anti-Semitism, the rampant anti-Israel media bias, the stone-hearted threats of sanctions and violence, and the outright bullying of Israel in international forums. 

 

We are simply standing for fair treatment of the Jewish nation and people in hopes it will create a more level playing field for Israel. The UN Security Council’s adoption of resolution 2334 in December 2016 is a prime example of the lopsided and prejudicial decisions routinely made against Israel. By declaring that the entire West Bank and eastern Jerusalem are “occupied Palestinian territory,” the international community ran roughshod over four millennia of Jewish claim and connection to the Land of Israel. 

 

So when Israel is debating whether to assert its rightful historic claim and title to the biblical heartland of ancient Israel, Christians are interested—and we have every right to be. 

 

Standing for Right 

Israel is a democratic state whose legitimate historic right and claim to the Jewish homeland was duly recognized by the international community not so long ago. Thus, “annexation” is not really the proper word for what Israel is considering, as it normally connotes the hostile taking of another’s property. Rather, Israel would simply be asserting sovereignty on lands it currently possesses and over which it already has a valid historic claim. Yet the world blithely treats it as an attempt to steal someone else’s lands. 

 

Admittedly, there is a rival Palestinian claim to these same areas but of such recent origin that it pales in comparison to the longstanding Jewish title over eretz Israel. The people of Israel must decide whether to compromise on their superior land claim for the sake of peace. And as Christians, we respect Israeli democracy and the right of its people to make this decision free of outside interference or threats. Thus, with great empathy and care we will be watching the annexation debate and will stand with Israel as it wrestles with this complex and consequential decision. 

 

Standing for Truth 

To build their rival nationalist claim to the historic Land of Israel, the Palestinians have found it necessary to deny any Jewish connection to the Land, and particularly, to Jerusalem. In doing so, they have decreed our Bible—both Old and New Testaments—to be full of falsehoods concerning the ancient Jewish presence in this land. This would mean King David did not rule over a large Israelite kingdom from his palace in Jerusalem, as recorded in the Hebrew Bible, and that Jesus did not enter and teach in the courts of the Second Temple as the Gospels all say.  

 

That should capture Christians’ attention, and rightly so! The Palestinians also have routinely damaged and destroyed important biblical sites that bear the archaeological proof that ancient Israel once inhabited the land. So Christians are standing for truth and the preservation of history when we partake in the debate over the fate of the disputed territories. 

 

Standing for Justice 

Christians believe God made a covenant promise to Abraham to deliver the entire Land of Israel as an “everlasting possession” to his descendants. How and when God ultimately fulfills that promise is up to Him. But we do believe the modern-day return of the Jews to the Land of Israel, including the mountains of Judea and Samaria, is part of God keeping His covenant promises to the Jewish people concerning their land inheritance.  

 

Our Bible also says that God scattered them from the Land for corrective and redemptive purposes, while at the same time vowing that He would always regather them to the Land of Israel one day. Thus, we consider it a matter of historic justice that the Jews have returned to their homeland in modern times. And since Christians also serve the same God as the Jewish people, our own faith is strengthened when we see Him being faithful to His promises to Israel concerning the Land. 

 

So to answer the question, Christians have plenty of reasons for why we care so deeply about the annexation debate and how the Jewish people hope to maintain their enduring connection to their biblical homeland.   

The Strategic Importance of the Jordan Valley

President Trump’s proposed peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians allows for Israel’s annexation (extension of sovereignty) of the major settlement blocks in the “West Bank” as well as the Jordan Valley. While the overall plan has been touted as the best plan presented thus far, it does allow for an eventual Palestinian State should the Palestinians come to the table. In the meantime, indications are that Israel can go ahead and begin extending sovereignty over those areas she requires in any future agreement.

 

 

The Trump administration previously recognized Jerusalem as the eternal capital of Israel as well as Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, both recognitions that Israel had long-awaited. This peace plan seems to be opening another historic door for Israel to solidify the defensible borders she needs. 

 

Is Annexation the Right Word?

Some analysts argue it is incorrect to use the term “annex” for territory to which Israel already has a legitimate claim. It is even dangerous because the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court defines “annexation by the use of force of the territory of another State of part thereof” as “constituting the grave Crime of Aggression.” To describe Israel’s extension of sovereignty as “annexation” implies the territory belonged to another State and Israel is committing an illegal act, making her vulnerable to claims and legal rulings by the ICC. 

 

 

Neither the settlement blocks nor the Jordan Valley were territories of another State. They were Ottoman Empire territories that the British mandate, ratified by the San Remo conference in 1920, designated for a Jewish state. Jordan illegally occupied them from 1948–1967 when Israel took control of them. It is therefore disputed territory belonging to Israel that the Trump plan allows Israel to “extend sovereignty” over.

 

 

Last month’s Israel Answers article discussed this issue as it relates to the settlement blocs, and in this article, we will discuss the importance of the Jordan Valley specifically.

 

Jordan Valley

The “Jordan Valley” is used here to include the lower course of the Jordan River, from the spot where it exits the Sea of Galilee in the north, to the end of its course, where it flows into the Dead Sea in the south. The valley is a long and narrow trough roughly 65 miles long. This valley includes the lowest elevation in the world, and on both sides—to the east and west—it is bordered by steep cliffs rising as high as 3,900–5,600 feet high. 

 

 

The majority of the Jordan Valley is already administered by Israel, as it forms part of the West Bank’s “Area C” as outlined in the Oslo peace accords of the 1990s. Eighty-six percent of the land is Israeli farmland due to its year-round agricultural climate, fertile soils, and water supply. It is strategic militarily because it forms the border between Jordan to the east and Israel (and the West Bank) to the west and is regulated by the Israel-Jordan peace treaty of 1994. 

 

Israeli Security

The Jordan Valley has long been considered Israel’s preferred eastern border, and sovereign control over it will ensure Israel’s ability to respond to security threats from both Jordan to its east and the Palestinians to its west. Strategic positioning of this kind will prove far more effective and peaceful in the long run than the intervention of foreign military assistance or military technology used in conflicts in the past.

 

Keeping the Palestinians Demilitarized

Israel’s requirement that a prospective Palestinian state be demilitarized has been known since the 1993 Oslo process and the establishment of the Palestinian Authority (PA). The requirement is a means of safeguarding Israel’s security by preventing the development of military threats against Israel—including conventional warfare, terrorism and guerilla warfare—from and via the Palestinian territories. The only way to keep illegal weapons from entering the demilitarized Palestinian zone is for Israel to maintain control of its borders. 

 

Jordan’s Security

Jordan gave lip service to cutting ties with Israel in response to the “annexation” but has no interest in conflict with Israel. It is Israel and the United States, not the Palestinian Authority, that bring peace and stability to Jordan. One senior Jordanian official reporting to Israel Hayom newspaper asserted:

 

 

We prefer an IDF presence west of the kingdom in the Jordan Valley over any other alternative. Contrary to the poor diplomatic relations with Israel, the security relationship is excellent. We have no interest or intention of damaging our security relations with Israel on behalf of the Palestinians.

 

 

As expected, Jordan will beat its chest loudly in support of the Palestinian people while treasuring its strategic ties with Israel in a quiet manner. 

 

 

In conclusion, the chance to extend sovereignty to the Jordan Valley and major settlements is a unique opportunity. Everything, at least momentarily, is in place for such a move: the strong support of the White House; developing security and economic ties with Sunni Arab countries that will prevent legitimate pushback; and a strong Israeli security presence that is capable of deterring Palestinian unrest. This stated, Israel’s local friendships are not guaranteed tomorrow, and American support for such action rests on a shaky reelection bid for President Trump. If Israel desires to obtain defensible borders for the future, now is the time to act swiftly.

Does Israel Have the Right to Annex Settlements?

The Trump administration unveiled the long-awaited peace plan between Israel and the Palestinian people in January 2020. Perhaps the most realistic and balanced of any peace plan to date, it was rejected by the Palestinian Authority in less than two hours. 

One of the most controversial pieces of the so-called “Deal of the Century” included the annexation of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, recognizing the land as part of the State of Israel. Thus the quagmire brings old questions to light regarding the legality of the settlements and Israel’s right to annex them.

Biblical Foundation

The book of Genesis records God’s promise of the land of Canaan as an “everlasting possession” to Abraham and his descendants through Isaac and Jacob. Several hundred years later, the law was given at Sinai, and one of the conditions of disobedience would be exile from that land—however, exile with the hope of return. After centuries of exile, the Jewish people saw that hope realized and returned to reestablish sovereignty in their God-given land in 1948.

International Legal Foundation

The ancient land of Canaan, referred to as Judea under Roman occupation, had been renamed Palestine in AD 135 and then occupied by one foreign entity after another until the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in WWI. Leaders of the Allied nations and their German counterparts divided up the Empire, not for occupation but to set up self-rule. 

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 supporting the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine was endorsed by the leading world powers at the San Remo Conference in 1920 and affirmed by the League of Nations in 1922. Israel had a right to the land just as Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq—all created out of the same legal agreements—had rights to theirs. This legal foundation has not been annulled and is still in place today. 

The Defunct UN Partition Plan

After 25 years of conflict between the Jews and Arabs living in the land, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 181 in 1947, calling for the partition of the land and the establishment of both a Jewish State and an Arab State. The Jews immediately accepted the plan and established their state, but the Arab world rejected it and instead attacked the newborn Jewish State in an attempt to take all of the land. The UN Partition Plan was never implemented because the Arabs had rejected it just as they have rejected numerous other offers of statehood. 

The Failed Peace Process

Since the Madrid Peace Conference of 1991, various initiatives and peace plans have offered more and more to the Palestinians and seemed to validate the claims by Israel’s antagonists that the Jews were giving back illegally occupied land owned by the Palestinians. But Israel’s willingness to negotiate and possibly even give away land did not mean the international legal claims to the land were now not applicable. Instead, Israel was negotiating with the land that rightfully belonged to her to obtain a peace agreement.

Palestinian Obstinance  

The increasingly generous offers of various peace initiatives under four US Presidents since 1991 were all rejected by the Palestinian leaders who seemed to be holding out for a better deal. What Western negotiators failed to recognize was Palestinian rejection is not about the details of any one offer but a refusal to sign an agreement with the Jewish State. 

Signing an agreement with Israel means recognizing Israel exists, and that would be a betrayal of the Palestinian dream of return to all the land from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. It would also be a betrayal of the Islamic world that refuses to accept Jewish sovereignty on land that was once Islamic. Thirty years of Palestinian obstinance has created facts on the ground that need resolving, such as that of the Jewish communities in the West Bank.

Time to Annex the Settlements

Israel’s annexation of the settlements as allowed by the Trump peace plan is entirely legal. It recognizes the rulings of the San Remo Conference and League of Nations some 100 years ago. It should also be a wake-up call to Palestinian leaders that their continued rejection of peace agreements with Israel will mean less for them in the end—not more. 

WHY DOES THE UNITED NATIONS SINGLE OUT ISRAEL

The United Nations charter of June 26, 1945, reflected lofty goals to help nations recover after WWII and set a course of peace for the future. The U.N. Security Council was specifically created to negotiate and maintain peace around the world. However, the UN currently seems to be preoccupied with the Palestinian issue, while ignoring genocide and gross human rights violations by a number of countries.

Increase in Number of Member States

In the ensuing years after WWII, the United States exercised considerable influence over the 50 odd member states. But, new nations came into being across the Middle East and in Africa. The United Nations member states grew from 51 to the current 193. While the US still holds significant weight, there are many other alliances among members that are also highly influential.

Alliances and Demographics of Member States

The sheer growth in numbers is not the major problem though. The alliances and demographics of those member states is. For example, the Non Aligned Movement (NAM), whose original purpose was within the context of the Cold War, now has 120 member nations who control every corner of the UN except for the UN Security Council. NAM is an umbrella for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Fifty-Seven member states are affiliated with the OIC and twenty-two of those states are members of the Arab League. This is a significant voting bloc in the UN.

For this reason, the historic UN General Assembly resolution on November 29, 1947–the United Nations Partition Plan–which paved the way for the creation of the modern State of Israel, would not pass in today’s UN due to the OIC voting bloc. In 1947, thirty-three nations voted YES, thirteen NO, and ten nations abstained. The next year on May 14, 1948 when Israel declared its independence, the new Jewish State was accepted into the UN with a majority vote of 33 nations voting YES. The OIC voting block today is significantly larger.

Conclusion

The scales have tipped towards a demonstrable coalition in the UN that defames Israel at every opportunity. The only democracy in the Middle East, with enshrined principles protecting and promoting religious freedom, humanitarian outreach, freedom, innovation, and pluralism, is routinely singled out by the UN Human Rights Council at the expense of other crises around the globe.

David Keyes, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's spokesman, said, "Imagine that. A country with free speech, free elections and minority rights is condemned more than mass murdering dictatorships like North Korea, Iran and Syria."

— by Susan Michael, US Director


Do you have a question about Israel? Visit us at IsraelAnswers.com and get it answered!


For more than thirty years, Susan Michael has pioneered the development of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem in the United States and around the world. She currently serves as the ministry’s USA Director and is a member of the ICEJ’s international Board of Directors.

HOW HAVE THE JEWISH PEOPLE SURVIVED AGAINST ALL ODDS?

One cannot help but notice when reading the Bible that most of the people groups mentioned no longer exist. Even the major empires such as the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, and Roman Empires have passed from history. But, this tiny little people group—the Jewish people, numbering no more than 17 million at any time in history—still exists.

They somehow survived two exiles (one of which was almost 2,000 years long) and centuries of persecution and expulsions, as well as multiple attempts at annihilation. Certainly, the odds were against their continued existence, not to mention the reestablishment of national sovereignty in their ancient homeland.

Their Guaranteed Survival

To describe their survival as a miracle is justified and correctly assigns responsibility for it to God, who affirmed several times in the Hebrew Scriptures that the people of Israel would never cease to be a nation before Him (Jeremiah 31:36; Isaiah 66:22). Even if all the other nations are brought to an end, they would remain (Jeremiah 30:11).

The calling on the Jewish people was to bless the world with God’s redemptive plan—and they would suffer greatly for it. The powers of evil would forever fight against God’s plan because it would bring an end to their power on earth. They would attempt to stop it by destroying the people called to bring it about. The God of Israel understood the difficult place that this put His people in, and therefore guaranteed their survival.

The Book That Preserved

As His people, they represented Him in an evil and idolatrous world. Therefore, they needed to live a righteous life that reflected the holy characteristic of their God and observe hundreds of moral and ritual laws. As dispersed Jewish communities throughout all five continents passed down these laws from generation to generation, they retained an identity that went beyond their nation of residence. Even within a wide diversity of interpretations of these laws, the book in which they were found—the Torah—kept Jewish identity alive.

Their remarkable achievement in retaining a national identity during 2,000 years of dispersion is unmatched by any other people group in history. David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister quipped, “We have preserved the Book, and the Book has preserved us.”

Longing for Zion

Because many of the laws required residency in their ancient homeland, a longing to return to Zion also bonded communities of Jews now living on different sides of the world and without a common language. “Next year in Jerusalem” became the heartfelt motto for Jews no matter their age, ethnicity, place of residency, or language.

Resiliency of Heart

Almost half of the Jews of the world live in the Land of Israel today, where they have enjoyed 70 years of statehood and endured 70 years of a constant state of war and thousands of terror attacks. The Iranian regime reminds them regularly of its intention to annihilate Israel while it develops the nuclear weapons that will allow it to do so. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) has bombarded Israel with a steady stream of hatred and demonization of her citizens.

Yet, Israel has been ranked as the eleventh happiest country in the world for five years now! This astounding statistic indicates the great resiliency of the Jewish people. Centuries of opposition have made them a strong people. They have not just survived but have thrived.

Principals found in their Book have also made them a caring people. In spite of how they have been treated by others, they are volunteering and helping the helpless around the world. The little state of Israel has provided humanitarian assistance in over 140 countries—all because of the Jewish concept of tikkun olam, to “repair the world,” and their biblical mandate to be a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 60:3).

The story of the survival of the Jewish people is a painful one, filled with much suffering and great sorrow, but it ends with the greatest event of all history. That is the day the Lord will appear in His glory in Zion and rule the nations from there (Psalm 102:15–16). Jerusalem will be a praise in all the earth (Isaiah 62:7), all wars will cease (Isaiah 2:2–4), and the nations will come up to Jerusalem to worship the King of kings and Lord of lords—the God of Israel (Zechariah 14:16).
 

- by Susan Michael, US Director, creator of IsraelAnswers.com and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network.

WHAT SETS ISRAEL APART FROM OTHER NATIONS?

Israel, a nation as small as the state of New Jersey, occupies center stage of the world’s attention. While vilified by some circles, the Jewish State is also admired by many for a story that is unique from that of all other nations. Having defied the odds against the survival of this tiny people group—no more than 14 million worldwide—the Jewish people have built a nation that is thriving and is leading the world in many ways. Here are a few of the things that make her story not only unique but remarkable.

A Biblical Mandate

The Bible tells the unusual story of the miraculous inception of the Jewish people some 4,000 years ago and their calling to be God’s instrument of blessing in the world. Their role was to “bless all the families of the earth” (Genesis 12:3) by being the vehicle of God’s redemptive plan. This calling required that they follow certain laws and practices that marked them as His and caused them to stand out as different from other peoples. This uniqueness was also dangerous and made them an easy prey of cruel leaders who sought conformity to ideologies and practices at odds with Judaism. But God promised the Jewish people would survive, and one day, would return to their God-given land. Their story is unfolding just as the Bible foretold.

An Ancient Language Revived

Israel still holds the distinction as the only success story in world history where an ancient language achieved modern usage. The Hebrew language was preserved in sacred, written form, yet as a spoken language it had become extinct in the Diaspora. That is, until 2,000 years later when lexicographer Eliezer Ben Yehuda set out to resuscitate Hebrew in the late nineteenth century. Ben Yehuda immigrated to then-called Palestine in 1881 and lived in Jerusalem where he began his arduous task. Gabriel Birnbaum, a senior researcher at the Academy of Hebrew Language, said, “By 1914, Hebrew as a spoken language in the land of Israel was a fact.” Ben Yehuda’s legacy continues every time new immigrants of any age enroll in Israel’s free intensive Hebrew classes.

An Expert in Refugee Resettlement

When Israel became a modern Jewish state in 1948, Arab nations expelled hundreds of thousands of Jews who had lived in their lands for millennia. Israel—a tiny nation of 600,000 Jewish people barely out of the horrific Holocaust with scant resources—welcomed a million Jewish refugees between 1948 and 1960. They arrived with barely anything since the Arab nations kept all the Jewish wealth, homes, and businesses.

Israel has subsequently absorbed many waves of immigrants throughout her short history. One such wave has been that of Ethiopian Jews beginning primarily with Operations Moses and Solomon in the 1970s and 1980s. Israel once again demonstrated its remarkable DNA. It holds the distinction as the nation that brought African peoples to freedom rather than slavery.

Jewish Nobels

Looking at the worldwide Jewish population outside Israel itself, here’s a remarkable statistic: According to the Jewish Virtual Library, approximately 195 of the 900 Nobel prize honorees since 1901 have been Jewish (22%). It’s especially amazing since Jewish people make up less than 0.2% of the world’s population currently estimated at 7.6 billion people. The categories include literature, chemistry, medicine, world peace, physics, and economics. These numbers reveal not just intelligence but a commitment to education and innovation that helps to explain Israel’s leadership in so many fields today.

Israel and Innovations

Following are just a few of the thousands of examples of how Israel is leading the world in innovation and problem-solving: IDE Technologies is recycling salt water into fresh, drinkable water; Netafim’s smart drip and micro-irrigation have improved crop production worldwide; Mobile Eye has helped reduce auto accidents; ReWalk is helping paraplegics walk; and WoundClot bandages are saving lives. These innovations have made possible 65 Israeli companies on the NASDAQ. Only the United States and Canada have more.

Tiny Israel has survived war, terror, and anti-Semitism for decades while blessing the world in the process. Her oversized achievements not only make her unique but also truly remarkable amongst the nations. 

- by Susan Michael, US Director, creator of IsraelAnswers.com and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network.

 

Share this: