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Is Israel the Obstacle to Middle East Peace?

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Is Israel the Obstacle to Middle East Peace?

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The bells would ring out, songs of joy would break forth, the pipes of peace would be merrily played in the Middle East—if only the Jewish state of Israel did not exist as a source of contention and conflict with its Arab Muslim neighbors. Islamic State beheadings and other jihadist terrorist movements would soon die away. Or so many would have us believe.

We see widespread belief that if Israel would just make huge concessions, then all would be well. And then there are those who think it would be even better if Israel didn't exist at all. This isn't limited to those who decry Israel as a Zionist racist evil regime—of which there are plenty. Rather it's also part of the utopian calculus that seeks the "greater good"—the simplistic notion that the higher aim of regional and world peace would be met by removing the supposed source of friction.

But is Israel even the actual source of the problem? Is it to blame for the conflict in the Middle East? Would there be peace if Israel made massive concessions—or if it ceased to exist altogether?

Blaming Israel for ISIS

In recent months U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made trips to the Middle East to, in part, discuss the rise and expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. While there, he called for a resumption of Israeli–Palestinian Authority peace negotiations. After his return, he spoke at a State Department ceremony to mark the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which celebrates the end of the Hajj pilgrimage (yes, really!).

He stated: "There wasn't a leader I met with in the region who didn't raise with me spontaneously the need to try to get peace between Israel and the Palestinians, because it was a cause of recruitment and of street anger and agitation . . . People need to understand the connection of that . . . It has something to do with humiliation and denial and absence of dignity, and Eid celebrates the opposite of that" (quoted by Barak Ravid, "Israeli Ministers Slam Kerry for Tying Rise of Islamic State to Israeli-Palestinian Conflict," Haaretz, Oct. 17).

Translation? Israel's supposed unwillingness to make concessions fuels jihad—as does Israel's so-called oppression of Arabs and disproportionate military response to terrorism.

It's not surprising that Arab Muslim leaders would make such a case, but it is deeply troubling that the American secretary would fall in line with such rhetoric—especially while promoting an Islamic holiday in the same breath! He was essentially claiming, as one Israeli news source put it, that "Israel's failures to forge a peace deal with the intransigent Palestinian Authority (PA)—not the US's failures in the Middle East—are to blame for the rise of Islamic State (ISIS)" (Tova Dvorin, "Bennet Blasts Kerry's Comments Blaming Israel for Rise of ISIS," Arutz Sheva Israel National News, Oct. 17, 2014).

Israel's Economy Minister Naftali Bennett shot back at Kerry's insinuation in these poignant terms regarding brutality carried out by an ISIS member from the United Kingdom: "Even when a British Muslim beheads a British Christian, there will always be those who blame the Jews" (ibid.).

Communications Minister Gilad Erdan added: "Kerry is breaking records for a lack of understanding of what is going on in our region and the essence of the conflicts therein . . . Does anybody really believe that Islamic State's war criminals will stop their atrocities and abandon the vision of an Islamic state because negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians were renewed?" (quoted by Ravid). That's a good question.

Land for peace?

There are increasing calls for Israel to cede control of territory for the creation of a Palestinian state. Nearly a decade ago, however, American Thinker co-founder and chief political correspondent Richard Behr noted that people "seem to forget that Israel offered to give up 97% of the land in the territories in the year 2000, and provide Palestinians land within Israel in exchange for the remaining 3%. It was an offer designed to end the conflict. Instead, the Palestinians chose war" ("Israel as a Stabilizing Force in the Middle East," July 25, 2005).

He further commented that it would be telling to see what would happen following Israel's 2005 pullout from Gaza. He predicted that terror would increase. Was he ever right!

As radio host and columnist Bob Siegel recently pointed out: "Rockets have been firing into Israel since 2005, as a gesture of thanks when Israel abandoned the Gaza strip turning it entirely over to the Palestinians. Those who feel that all hostilities will cease if Israel simply gives back 'all occupied territory' should keep the example of Gaza in mind. Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. Neither does the Palestinian charter. The return of land makes no difference whatsoever. Very few people today seem to understand this" ("The Historical Truths Behind the Israel-Palestinian Conflict," Communities Digital News, Aug. 28, 2014).

Siegel went on to say: "When two nations make a peace treaty, there is supposed to be give and take on both sides. Israel's deal (brokered by the U.S) always goes like this. 'You give the Palestinians back some land and here is what they will do: They'll promise to stop killing you.' That's the deal. Then, shortly after the deal, the promise is broken and missiles are fired into Israel from Gaza (where the Palestinians were finally offered their own autonomous rule) or a suicide bomber kills women and children on a bus.

"Nothing Israel does, no gesture, no concession, no discussion, will make a hill of beans of difference. They can sign a peace treaty. They can jump on board for a two state solution. It doesn't matter. Hezbollah wants Israel dead. Al-Qaeda wants Israel dead. Hamas wants Israel dead. Muslim Brotherhood wants Israel dead. But it isn't limited to the terrorist groups. Palestine itself wants Israel dead. The surrounding Arab nations want Israel dead. The Persian nation of Iran wants Israel dead."

It's often said of the Arab-Israeli conflict that if the Arabs and other Muslims laid down their arms there would be peace, whereas if the Israelis laid down their arms there would be no Israel.

Ultimately, this is where Israeli inaction or massive compromise would lead—and frankly, that is what those pushing for Israel to go this route seem to be aiming for (see "Two-State Plan Is a Means to Israel's Destruction").

A more obvious basis of conflict—Muslim fundamentalism

As for the contention of John Kerry and others that terrorism in the wider region and further abroad is fueled by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, there is some truth to the idea in that those who wish to see Israel eliminated constantly cite this as a grievance. But is that really the heart of the matter? Richard Baehr points out some cold, hard truths in his American Thinker piece:

"Certainly bin Laden never used the conflict as a primary justification for any of his actions leading up to and including the 9/11 attacks. His chief political objective has always been to rid Muslim soil of US and other Western forces, particularly in Saudi Arabia, where his ultimate objective has been to replace the royal family. Muslims in Chechnya, Kashmir, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand, and Bali who have been relentlessly murdering non-Muslims for the last decade [as of 2005] have all had local or regional political issues on their agenda as well."

Baehr countered other suggested sources like impoverished citizenry and repressive regimes by pointing out that other peoples in like conditions have not systematically resorted to international terror campaigns as those of Muslim lands have.

He then stated: "One issue that is rarely mentioned by the apologists and explainers is the most critical factor in explaining the growth of Muslim anger against the West: indoctrination. Muslims are indoctrinated into fundamentalist Islam, making it a growing force in many countries, through a steady stream of messages in the media, schools, prisons and mosques. This relentless propaganda campaign is funded primarily by Saudi Arabia . . . And where fundamentalism grows, anger and hatred of the West grows with it."

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict does play into this, but it's for the same reason. "Think about this a different way," Baehr suggests. "Are the world's Jews so unsettled by the lack of resolution of the Israeli Palestinian conflict, that they too are resorting to a terror campaign against the West or Arab states to demand its resolution?

"Israelis who send their children off to school, who board a bus, who eat at a restaurant, are aware that life could suddenly end for them or their family members at any moment. Israelis might have a right to be angry about the dangers and the state of siege they have endured for more than half a century. But [the need for] assuaging Israeli anger does not enter into the picture . . . Israelis, after all, are civil, and Western. They don't deliberately kill innocents."

He explains that the idea that Muslim anger would be assuaged by a two-state solution is naïve: "The resolution of the conflict that radical Islamists seek is not a two state solution in any case, but the elimination of Israel, which they see as a foreign Western outpost on what should be Islamic controlled land.

"There is no potential compromise between the views of Hizbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Iranian mullahs, bin Laden and al Qaeda and the continued existence of a majority Jewish state of Israel. No border arrangement, and no two state solution could satisfy these zealots. These groups or leaders repeatedly emphasize that withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank and Gaza is insufficient, merely a first step to elimination of Israel and the Zionist entity" (ibid.).

Islam's history of conquest and reconquest

A key fact to be aware of in this conflict is that Islam was spread by the sword from its earliest decades. Indeed, the history of the religion is one of conquest and reconquest. The objective in authentic Islam, as spelled out in its holy book the Quran and the traditions of Muhammad, is to subjugate the world to Allah.

And once a land was conquered by Muslims, it was considered forever to be Islamic territory. Thus, to Islamic fundamentalists, the fact that the whole land of Israel was conquered in the 600s by Muslims means that it must forever remain under Muslim control. No political treaty can negotiate away this fundamental religious tenet.

As Baehr noted: "The darker side of this malignant stream that Israel has no right to exist, is really a broader argument, made by radical Muslims in this case, that non-Muslims can have no meaningful role in any Muslim-dominated land, and may live there only at the will of the Muslims who are there. The concept of a majority Jewish state, or even a Christian majority state within the Muslim world, is anathema in this mindset. And any country, once Muslim dominated, is part of the Caliphate to be restored. So Spain is in the target sights too."

What this means is that even if there were no Israel or if Muslims now fully reacquired it, there still would be no peace in the Middle East. Even if Israelis made the ultimate sacrifice of giving complete control over to Muslims or, unthinkably, converting to Islam en masse, the march of militant Islam would continue still. As Baehr put it, "Sacrificing Israel will provide one good meal for them, only encouraging their appetite for more" (ibid.).

The march and accompanying conflict would continue even in completely Muslim lands that are not completely sharia-compliant, as is the case in Iraq and Syria, which have now seen the rise of the Islamic State as a new caliphate or Islamic empire.

So even with Israel gone, Muslim fundamentalists would still be fighting non-Muslims on their borders as well as non-Muslims and Muslims of different sects within their borders. They would still be fighting back against the West, whose people they view as the Christian Crusaders who invaded the Muslim-controlled Middle East in the Middle Ages. And not only must that still be avenged, but they see the Westerners as invading even now—not just through their proxy Israel but through their global influence.

War until all the world is under Islam

It's vital to understand that Islamic fundamentalists feel compelled to wage jihad against not just the Jews, but Christians and those of other religions as well. Regarding non-Muslims, the Quran tells them, "Fight against them until idolatry is no more and [Allah's] religion reigns supreme" (Surah 2:193). "Idolatry" in this context refers to any religion other than Islam.

Author Lela Gilbert has written about a Muslim catchphrase: "First the Saturday People, then the Sunday People. Such graffiti can sometimes be found in Muslim neighborhoods in the Middle East. The 'Saturday People' are, of course, Jews [who rest and worship on Saturday, the seventh-day Sabbath], today nearly gone from Muslim lands. Now the 'Sunday People'—Christians [as most professing Christians observe that day]—are in the crosshairs, and they, too, are fleeing at an alarming rate. Both religions are unwelcome in many Muslim-majority lands for reasons of Islamist ideology—the declaration of jihad, or holy war, against infidels" ("Saturday People, Sunday People," The Weekly Standard, Nov. 17, 2010).

In response to ISIS killing and enslaving Christians in Iraq, syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer said July 22, 2014, on Fox News' Special Report With Bret Baier: "This is the pure essence of the intolerance and the barbarism of this kind of Islamic radicalism . . . You see it with Hamas. It wants to wipe out the Jews. You see it in Egypt with the Copts. You see it in Boko Haram with the attack on the churches in Nigeria. It's all over. This is not about what the West has done, this is not about imperialism. This is not a payback. This is the expression of jihadism, and we see it tonight in the most horrible form."

And the aim goes beyond Muslim borders. In fact, the Islamic State has declared its intention to conquer Rome, the very heart of the mainstream Christian world.

Moreover, it ultimately doesn't matter if the West ever acted against the Muslim world or not. The real issue is that Islamists, in obedience to the commands of the Quran, consider it their duty to spread Islam to other countries regardless—until the whole world is Muslim.

In this ideology, "peace" is found only within those areas controlled by pure Islam, called dar al-Islam, the domain of Islam (that is, of submission). And lands outside of Islam's control are regarded as dar al-harb, the domain of war—that is, the lands on which Muslims are to make war until they submit. Only when the whole world is brought under Islam will it all be the domain of peace with no more cause for war.

Again, this isn't something new. In 1786, American Founding Fathers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met with diplomats from Tunisia about the Barbary Pirates there (and in nearby Morocco and Algiers) attacking American ships and wrote the following to then-Secretary of Foreign Affairs John Jay: "We took the liberty to make some inquiries concerning the Grounds of their pretentions to make war upon Nations who had done them no Injury, & observed that we considered all mankind as our friends who had done us no wrong, nor had given us any provocation—

"The [Tunisian] Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their Authority were sinners, that it was their right & duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, & to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise" (American Peace Commissioners to John Jay, March 28, 1786, Library of Congress, hdl.loc.gov/loc.mss/mtj.mtjbib001849, Images 430-432).

The real obstacle to peace to be removed

Thus it should be quite clear that Israel is not the obstacle to peace in the Middle East. And Israeli concessions or even getting rid of the Jewish state would not bring peace to the Middle East or the wider world.

Israel is not even the big enemy in the eyes of Muslim fundamentalists. It is but a "little Satan"—an outpost in the region for "the Great Satan," the United States of America as the preeminent Western Christian power in the world. Israel effectively serves at present as a buffer of sorts—a nearby focus for Islamist hostility. But if Israel were gone, Islamic terrorists would be pushing against and attacking Europe and the United States all the more. And these terrorists would take control of Israel's nuclear arsenal, if you can imagine such a nightmare scenario.

Moreover, dictatorial regimes in the Middle East that have used Israel as a means to shift the focus of their populations away from dissatisfaction with their own leadership would step up efforts to blame the regions' problems on Western powers—as they do to some extent already.

Now with the rise of the caliphate, Islamists are further encouraged and emboldened to commit terrorism in the West. And the situation is sure to worsen. (See "Warnings to the West").

So what, then, is the real obstacle to peace? Islamic fundamentalism is certainly a critical factor. But its roots go deeper than being simply a made-up religious system. There is also a serious family divide between Jews and Arabs going all the way back to the time of Abraham (see "Middle East Chaos: What's Happening and Why").

Yet even this is not the ultimate heart of the problem. As we consider all of the frenzied hatred stirred up against Israel, the Jewish people and other nations of Israelite descent—not just among Muslims but among people the world over—we should gain a sense that this is not merely a matter of socioeconomic and political factors. The utter irrationality and unrestrained barbarism of it all provides another clue. There is something deeper at work—something utterly dark and evil.

The Bible informs us that this world is under the deception and sway of the truly Great Satan (1 John 5:19; Revelation 12:9)—not a nation, but an immensely powerful spirit being. Satan the devil and his demons have confused the minds of people everywhere to corrupt them. They especially seek to undermine God's purpose involving the descendants of Israel.

The constant spewing of hate originates with these hate-filled beings. Satan as "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2), broadcasts wrong moods and attitudes into human minds. Indeed, Satan and his demons are more directly the architects of false religion—including Islamic fundamentalism, which even its adherents believe and claim was revealed to Muhammad by a spirit being.

Yet God says that He will use the demonically stirred-up animosity and confusion to fulfill His purposes in the last days: "Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it" (Zechariah 12:2-3).

Indeed, God further says of what He Himself will bring about, "I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem" (Zechariah 14:2, emphasis added).

We should further note that these prophecies mention the Jews being in the Holy Land up until these end-time events that will usher in Jesus Christ's return—so the anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic dream of the Jewish state being completely eradicated will not come true. However, the prophecies do reveal that the Jewish nation will suffer greatly, as will the other Israelite nations (see our free study aid The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy to learn more).

So how will peace come at last? Not through the eradication of the Jews, but through the removal of Satan and his demons at the coming of the Jewish Messiah —the true Christian Messiah, Jesus Christ, who will establish His reign over all nations. It will be an imposed true peace for the benefit and blessing of the whole world. People's minds will be healed to think soundly and rationally—and with love and kindness toward all.

Of that time we are told, "Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you"'" (Zechariah 8:23). What a vastly different world that will be!