I think there are some problems that just aren't going to be solved before Jesus returns. Think of the problem of sinful lust. I'm like Jimmy Carter. I have looked at women who aren't my wife with lust in my heart. That's a sin Jesus says. Maybe if I stopped wearing my glasses when I go out I wouldn't see them and wouldn't lust. Of course then, given the extent of my vision problem, I would probably get run down crossing the street!
The problems in Israel and Palestine look like problems that won't be solved until Jesus returns. All of us know what has to be done. Or we think we do. Some radicals disagree but most people think that Israel should get out of the West Bank, including all the settlements, that both the Palestinians and the Israelis should have capitols in Jerusalem, that people who lost land, home and possessions should be compensated, (a complicated problem, more on this later), and that all should stop shooting guns, missiles, and shells at each other and that people should stop blowing themselves and others up. Sounds like a good deal, doesn't it?
Ah, but Israel offered most of this deal, (92% of the West Bank instead of all but with a good bit of money to compensate those who lost land), and Yasser Arafat turned it down in 2000. Why is a very curious question which I will not answer here because it would make the blog too long
But the problem looks very different on the ground. My child got killed by an Israeli missile. My child got killed by a Palestinian missile. Rockets land in Southern Israel towns on a daily basis (with a brief reprieve right now, thank God!). Israel responds with rockets. And it goes on.
The General Assembly passed some, I don't know, advice? about the situation in Israel and Palestine. Some of it was OK. Some if it looks good on the surface but the devil is in the details and commissioners don't get much time to consider the details.
But first a little history of Israel in the Middle East. I'm not going to go back to the Kingdom of David or the time of Jesus or even the 1920's. Let's start in 1948. In 1948 the United Nations proposed a partition of the land then called Palestine into two sections: an Israeli section and a Palestinian section. Jerusalem was to be a free city not part of either nation. Israel accepted the terms.
Unfortunately the nations around Palestine didn't accept the terms. (There wasn't any Palestinian government to accept the terms except for the Waqf, the ruler of the Muslim holy places.) Armies from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq attacked Israel. They told the Palestinians to join them in the fight or get out of the way because they would push the Israelis into the sea or kill them off quickly and then the Palestinians could return to their land. Of course it wasn't that simple. Some Palestinians fought against Israel and the Israeli army (the Palmach) attacked the villages those fighters came from. Some Palestinian villages were attacked by Jewish groups not aligned with the Palmach like the Irgun who attacked some Palestinian villages indicriminately. It should not surprise anyone that the people from those villages ran away. Palestinian groups attacked defensless Israeli villages. Some Palestinians moved out of the way so that the five armies could take out the Israelis. And some Palestinians were moved off their land by the Palmach.
At the end of the war Israel had more land than it would have had under the UN proposed partition. It also had part of Jerusalem. Some Palestinians lived within what now became Israel. A few were allowed back into Israel. The others who, for all the reasons listed above, had to stay in what became the West Bank and Gaza and ended up in UN run refugee camps. Jordan annexed the part of Palestine that became known as the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Egypt annexed Gaza. At the end of the 1948 war there was no Palestine.
A little known fact: soon after, in the 1950's Arab countries across the Middle East kicked out most of their Jewish populations. Jews whose families had lived in Babylon or Alexandria from before the time of Christ were kicked out of their homes, were not allowed to take their possessions with them and were summarily told to get out. They went to Israel. They have never received any compensation from anyone for their loss. And on a curious statistical note, there were more Jews kicked out of Arab nations across the Middle East than there were Palestinians who ended up in refugee camps because of the 1948 war. There are almost no Jews in the Middle East today except in Israel.
The quick version of the time between 1948 and 1967 is that the Palestinians who had to move out of their homes in what became Israel were kept in refugee camps. They were not allowed to integrate into the rest of the West Bank or Gaza. The Jewish refugees were integrated into Israeli society. Oh and the Syrians had fun shooting shells from the Golan Heights into Israel.
In 1967 there was a war between Israel on the one side and Syria, Egypt and later Jordan on the other. Egypt made all kinds of threatening statements and finally asked the UN troops to get out of the way. Egypt moved a large army into the Sinai desert near Israel. Israel struck first and in 7 days took Gaza, the West Bank, Jerusalem, the whole Sinai peninsula and the Golan Heights. Everyone was shocked, including the Israelis.
Now there was a bigger problem. Israel proper already had Palestinian citizens. They were allowed to vote but weren't really integrated into Israeli society. But now Israel had all this land with Palestinians all over the place. And yes there were still all of those Palestinians in refugee camps. It was a mess.
I'm going to skip the other wars. There are whole books on just little parts of the whole history. To put it simply Israel became a country that had occupied territories. Ultimately after another war and much negotiation Israel gave the Sinai back to Egypt and they established diplomatic relations. Jordan and Israel found a way to get along, established diplomatic relations and Jordan said it didn't want the West Bank back. (Jordan didn't want the Palestinians either!)
Some Israelis believed that God gave them the whole of Israel, Galilee, Judea and Samaria as they called it, and started setting up settlements across the West Bank and Gaza. This really ticked off the Palestinians, particularly when their land was taken and they didn't get paid for it, (and besides they didn't want to sell their land anyway). With the settlements came guns and the Israeli army to protect the settlements. Some of the settlers were downright nasty to their Palestinian neighbors, including shooting at them. The Palestinians felt helpless.
So some Palestinians started what they thought was the only solution. They began to terrorize people. Often it was Israelis, like at the 1972 Olympics, but for a while it was airplanes around the world.
In the early 1990's Israel and Yasser Arafat came to an agreement called the Oslo Accords. This gave the Palestinians, (actually the PLO) limited sovereignty over parts of the West Bank and Gaza with the promise of more to come if things stayed peaceful. For a while it actually worked, in part. Light industry began on both sides of the border between Israel and Gaza. Life started to get better for some Palestinians.
But then Yasser Arafat turned down Israel's offer in 2000. And the second intifada began. There are a variety of opinions as to why this happened. Maybe the reason doesn't really matter. But rocks were thrown at Israeli soldiers and the soldiers shot back, most of the time with rubber bullets and sometimes with live rounds. Palestinians strapped explosives to themselves and blew themselves up in crowds of Israelis, killing the Israelis as well. One favorite place to blow oneself up was on a morning bus, which meant that Israeli school children died on their way to school. Those Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza who had jobs in Israel lost their jobs. Checkpoints became popular as Israel tried to stop the violence. Palestinians were humiliated at checkpoints and complained that amublances with people who were critically ill were stopped at checkpoints and the patients died. The Israelis complained that sometimes the ambulances had explosives in them.
Israel responded with guns, tanks and missles. And finally Israel decided that the logical way to get rid of suicide bombers was to not let them into the country. So Israel build the security barrier. Most of it is a fence. Some of it is a wall. Suicide bombing dropped off dramatically. Life in Palestinian areas became unbearable. The unemployment rate went through the roof. I was in Bethlehem in February. There is a wall all the way around Bethlehem. The shop keepers begged us to come back to Bethlehem and bring our friends and stay in town. Children and adults try to sell beads and postcards to tourists. And the Christian population in Bethlehem and throughout the Palestinian territories, (or the occupied territories, call it what you want), is dropping off dramatically, in part because of persecution from their Muslim neighbors. Besides the Christian population tends to be wealthier than their Muslim neighbors and can afford to move to Europe or the USA.
Israel moved out of Gaza, forcing the Israeli settlers to leave. The Palestinians saw this as a victory. For a variety of reasons, mainly corruption in Fatah, the Palestinians elected Hamas as the ruling party in the last election. Both the US and Israel refuse to talk with Hamas. And someone, probably with the permission of Hamas, has been shooting missiles into Israel from Gaza. Of course the Israeli army responds. And it goes on.
This is more than long enough. I'll tell about what the General Assembly did in my next post.