The Middle East is in an uproar, and President Obama is mixing in. He will bring no peace unless and until he understands the region’s history.
Last night, Hayley Peterson of The Washington Examiner reviewed Obama’s efforts to bring about lasting peace in the Middle East. No US President has ever done this. Three years ago Obama promised lasting Middle East peace before Jerusalem’s Western Wall. Today his special envoy, George Mitchell, has resigned in frustration, and the Israelis and the Palestinians aren’t talking.
Middle East unrest
The “Arab spring” only adds to Middle East tension. As Ben Stein points out, the “democratic” forces of the Middle East don’t want reform. They want Israel to disappear. In fact, they want to start a war with Israel. They think they can win that war and set up a new Middle East caliphate. (They have fought many wars with Israel already, and lost them all.) Stein accuses Iran of running a “regional coup” against regimes that, whatever their faults, have kept what peace has existed since the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel has accused Iran and Syria of the same thing.
And with good reason. Over the weekend, rag-tag battalions and rump regiments of irregulars stormed Israel’s borders at Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria. The Tzahal opened fire to repel them. The Tzahal killed some and wounded others, They then took the wounded irregulars to Israeli hospitals, had them treated, and then sent them home.
Those irregulars live in refugee camps, not regular towns. Those camps have stood since the 1947 War. They could never have gotten close to the borders unless the governments of Gaza, Lebanon and Syria had let them. Syria’s actions are especially ironic: the government crushes popular revolt in Damascus, yet waves mobs of “refugees” through key checkpoints so that they can attack the border fence.
Middle East unrest affects this country, too. Last Sunday, several pro-Arab demonstrators tried to disrupt a church service in Texas. Like the Arabs, they say that Israel has no right to exist, and no right to the lands it has “occupied” since the Second Arab-Israeli War of 1967. That war made the Middle East what it is today.
This week, Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas have attacked each other in the world’s newspapers. On Monday, Abbas published an op-ed in The New York Times (cited in Arutz-7). He said he would go to the United Nations to ask it to admit and recognize a Palestinian “state.” That state would include the Gaza Strip and ancient Judea and Samaria. Twenty years ago, Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo Accords; Abbas rejected them. Then Abbas said:
[T]he last time the question of Palestinian statehood took center stage at the General Assembly, the question posed to the international community was whether our homeland should be partitioned into two states. In November 1947, the General Assembly made its recommendation and answered in the affirmative. Shortly thereafter, Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.
Abbas is lying, or at best dissembling. Netanyahu swiftly called him on it.
Middle East history
Eli E. Hertz points out that the Arabs refused the UN partition, though the Jews accepted it. On May 14, Arab armies attacked from three directions. The kings of Egypt and Jordan encouraged Arab residents of Israel to flee their homes, and said that they would someday return. Most Arabs did flee. But the Arabs lost. Those Arabs who did not flee, have Israeli citizenship. (Israel also offered citizenship to Arab residents in the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The Palestinians won’t accept it.) But today the Arabs speak of a “right of return,” the most contentious Middle East issue aside from Israel’s existence.
This comment on another forum gives more details. The first Zionist pioneers, the founders of the first kibbutzim, reclaimed the desert and swamps. The Romans scattered most (but not all) of the Jews throughout its Empire in AD 135. The Arabs took the land and let it become desert and swamp. A long-time resident told your editor this: the Jews bought land from Turkish landlords, all of whom laughed at them behind their hands. They thought they had pulled the biggest real-estate swindle since Eric the Red. But the Jews knew what they had, and how to make it better. They planted eucalyptus to drain the swamps, and developed drip irrigation and other techniques to reclaim the desert. (By law in Israel, any invention or technique related to agriculture is in the public domain and freely available for anyone to copy.) The Arabs started to settle in the land after the Jews made it productive again.
After World War I, the new League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to create a State of Zion in the region. The British did little to stop the rise of Muslim movements in Jerusalem and elsewhere, movements that openly sympathized and even allied with Nazi Germany. Then after World War II, the British began to withdraw, often turning over their forts and some of their armaments to the Arabs, while forbidding the Jews to arm themselves and trying to limit Jewish immigration. Despite all that, Israel fought a war for its independence and won it.
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But it won the right to only half of Jerusalem, and to a narrow corridor between the Negev and the northern provinces. These are the “pre-1967 borders” that Abbas and others speak of. That Israel controls far more territory than this is because the Arabs, with the hot-headed Egyptians in the lead, prepared to go to war with Israel in 1967. Israel waited for two weeks for the UN to tell the Arabs to withdraw—and then Israel struck, and succeeded better than anyone on either side expected.
Arabs throughout the Middle East have tried ever since to rewrite history. They want others to given them the fruits of a victory they did not win.
Abbas still says that he’s willing to talk again. But he still stands by the old PLO platform. That document still says that any peace agreement is only a “prelude to war.”
Netanyahu will talk to President Obama this week, and address a joint session of Congress. Incredibly, Netanyahu’s government is still as willing to accommodate the “Palestinians” as Levi Eshkol was after the Six-Day War. David Bedein of the Israel Resource News Agency calls any plan for a Palestinian state a “Government Retreat Plan” and makes a case for retaining full control of the lands that Israel gained in that war. Bedein points out that any Palestinian state would include certain hills within “Sderot distance” of David Ben-Gurion Airport. He also referred to Palestinian Authority maps of the region that ignore Israel and key Israeli cities, like Tel Aviv, entirely. This last is especially telling: Tel Aviv annexed Jaffa after most of its residents fled in 1948.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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