Pressure is building — on Israel: to negotiate a solution with the Palestinians, a two-state solution — one which provides permanent boundaries for a future Palestinian state alongside a Palestinian-recognized Jewish state; a solution that provides security for the Jewish people, free from bombs launched into their cities or from exploding humans in their midst. For Palestinians, the primary issues include freedom from Israeli “occupation” in a contiguous Israeli-recognized independent Palestinian state as well as a solution for Palestinian refugees, those living in refugee camps and those living outside of Palestine; and, for both sides, the status of the holiest city in the world, Jerusalem, particularly, East Jerusalem, the site of the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock, the Al Aqsa Mosque, and the Wailing Wall. Will Jerusalem be recognized as the capital of Israel or will it be recognized as the capital of Palestine — or both!
Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been attempting to finalize an interim peace agreement since the 1994 Oslo Peace Accords, signed in Washington DC on 9/13/1993, as an “interim peace agreement” between the PLO and Israel (summarized here). In the 1994 Oslo Accords, Israel agreed to withdraw from areas of the West Bank and to grant the PLO (now Palestinian Authority) rights to self-government as well as the sole authority Israel would recognize for all Palestinians. In return, the PLO:
… renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence and will assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators…the PLO affirms that those articles of the Palestinian Covenant which deny Israel’s right to exist, and the provisions of the Covenant which are inconsistent with the commitments of this letter are now inoperative and no longer valid. Read more here.
The above paragraph was from a letter signed by Yasser Arafat, Chairman, the Palestine Liberation Organization. A similar letter was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, Prime Minister of Israel. Needless to say, not much has changed since 1994. In spite of the agreement, the “nonviolent” portion of the 1994 Oslo Accords were only briefly fulfilled, if ever. In fact, during this period HAMAS (GAZA Strip) initiated suicide bombing in populated areas in Israel; and Israel delayed withdrawal of its troops from areas of the West Bank which did nothing to help in the finalization of the Accords. In addition, as discussed below, Israel continued the building of settlements on all areas under its occupation including both East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
For additional background read: Kerry ends Mideast trip without meaningful progress
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in America this week (3/2 – 3/4, 2014) and is scheduled to speak at the 2014 American Pro-Israel Conference (AIPAC). President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet on Monday (3/3/2014) at the White House amidst strained relationships between the two world leaders. The tensions will only be heightened by recent actions of both world leaders. On Sunday (3/2), President Obama was interviewed by Jeff Goldberg for BloombergView and made statements interpreted by many to be warnings to Netanyahu. Many news outlets carried the interview (read more; read more; read more; and blogs). One of the statements follows:
So it is not realistic nor is it my desire or expectation that the core commitments we have with Israel change during the remainder of my administration or the next administration. But what I do believe is that if you see no peace deal and continued aggressive settlement construction — and we have seen more aggressive settlement construction over the last couple years than we’ve seen in a very long time — if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited. (Read more here).
Secretary of State John Kerry made a similar statement shortly after he began his service as Secretary of State. In a special address to AJC Global (a Jewish advocacy group), June 3, 2013, Kerry stated:
Well, the difference is that what happens in the coming days will actually dictate what happens in the coming decades. We’re running out of time. We’re running out of possibilities. And let’s be clear: If we do not succeed now – and I know I’m raising those stakes – but if we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance. So we can’t let the disappointments of the past hold the future prisoner. We can’t let the absence of peace become a self-fulfilling prophesy. The absence of peace is perpetual conflict. Read more here.
Kerry’s agenda at present is to formulate a “framework” between the two sides that will allow real progress to be made on the long-running feud between the two. One significant sticking point (mentioned above by Obama in his interview with Jeff Goldberg) is Israel’s “aggressive settlement construction.” The gist of this issue goes like this. The West Bank (in green on map) is principally inhabited by Arabs, i.e., Palestinians. Israel gained control of these areas in the 1967 Six-Day War, along with the Sinai Peninsula, and promptly began building Jewish “settlements” on large land blocs in areas acquired in that war (hence referred to as “occupied” areas). Palestinians were ejected from these areas. In 1979, negotiations between Israel and Egypt resulted in the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty negotiated at Camp David and hosted by then President Carter. The terms of the treaty returned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt, and also necessitated Israel’s dismantling of almost all Israeli settlements in the Sinai Peninsula.
The building of settlements in occupied Palestinian West Bank territories and Jerusalem continues today and is the source of much criticism of Israel among the international community. The criticism became so great that late last year Israel signed an agreement with the European Union on scientific cooperation, Horizon 2020, which explicitly prohibits the funding of research projects in Israeli settlements. A similar requirement has been introduced by Germany, one of Israel’s staunchest allies. Germany is negotiating two separate agreements with Israel that would provide funding to Israeli academics and businesses; but Berlin is insisting that none of these can be located in any part of the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem.
According to a Reuters report, Israel built twice as many settler homes in the occupied West Bank last year as in 2012 ( 2,534 in 2013 from 1,133 the year before). The data was compiled by Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics and just happened to be released just hours before Prime Minister Netanyahu met with President Obama in his scheduled meeting at the White House, 3/2/2014. Why might Netanyahu release the settlement data at just this precise moment?
Think about it: Obama and Kerry both point to the issue of settlements as critical: so long as Jewish settlements keep going up more Palestinians will be displaced and more land will be settled by Jews rather than Palestinians. The possibility of a “contiguous” Palestinian state is less likely because throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jewish settlers have built their homes; and who willingly gives up their home — for whatever the reason! The Reuters report explained:
Citing security concerns and historic and Biblical links to the territory, Israel says it intends to keep large settlement blocs in any future peace deal. Palestinians say relentless settlement expansion makes a mockery of their aspirations to an independent state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
From Netanyahu’s point of view, the settlements are the only chip he has to bargain with. The longer the Palestinians refuse to negotiate, the more settlements will be built on land the Palestinians and Israelis claim as their own. What pressure will Obama bring? He will use his influence to isolate Israel. Notice Obama’s last quoted statement from the Goldberg interview referenced above:
… if Palestinians come to believe that the possibility of a contiguous sovereign Palestinian state is no longer within reach, then our ability to manage the international fallout is going to be limited. (Emphasis supplied)
It looks like Netanyahu is standing toe-to-toe with Obama. How long will the stand-off continue and will the entire world join a side?
I need only remind you of one Scripture verse:
Zechariah 14:2 (NASB) 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city will be captured, the houses plundered, the women ravished and half of the city exiled, but the rest of the people will not be cut off from the city.
And perhaps just a few more:
Zechariah 14:3-5 (NASB) 3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. 4 In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south. 5 You will flee by the valley of My mountains, for the valley of the mountains will reach to Azel [Jerusalem]; yes, you will flee just as you fled before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD, my God, will come, and all the holy ones with Him!
Jesus come quickly (notice verse 5 above).