World News and Trends: Why is Middle East peace so elusive?

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Why is Middle East peace so elusive?

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Much of the world press tends to blame the problems on Israeli intransigence. In the news media's view, Israel, backed by the United States, has the weaponry while the Palestinians are a suffering people that simply wants to return to its ancestral homeland. Yet it's not so simple.

A recent article by American columnist Michael Barone sums up the situation: ". . . Israel is ready to accept a Palestinian state. The problem is that the Palestinians refuse to accept the Israeli state."

Former Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu has repeatedly made the same points in interviews on American and British television programs. The former head of the Jewish state has explained the difference between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), led by Yasir Arafat, and Hamas, the Palestinian terrorist organization that is generally considered more extreme than the PLO.

Mr. Netanyahu states that Hamas is consistent in calling for the destruction of the Jewish state: It says the same in Arabic to Palestinians as it says in English to the rest of the world. In contrast, Mr. Netanyahu notes, Mr. Arafat says one thing in Arabic and another in English. While appearing to show a willingness to compromise when speaking to the rest of the world, he sends a completely different message when speaking in Arabic to Arabs.

In recent months, for example, he has repeatedly called for "martyrs" (suicide bombers) to march on and liberate Jerusalem. As Israeli troops surrounded his compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, in a series of interviews on March 29 he told Arab television reporters:

"Let those far and near understand: None, among the Palestinian people or the Arab nation, will be willing to bow and surrender. But we ask Allah to grant us martyrdom, to grant us martyrdom. To Jerusalem we march—martyrs by the millions . . ."

"We are seekers of martyrdom. We are all seekers of martyrdom. The entire Palestinian people is a seeker of martyrdom . . ."

"I may be martyred, but certainly one of our boys or one of our girls will wave the flag of Palestine over the walls of Jerusalem, over the minarets of Jerusalem, and over the churches of Jerusalem."

The destruction of Israel appears to remain the ultimate Palestinian goal. Schoolchildren in Palestinian Authority—controlled areas learn from textbooks that show "Palestine" where Israel now exists, with "Israel" nonexistent on the maps.

For many Palestinians the return of refugees goes hand in hand with the elimination of the Jewish state. If enough refugees returned to Israel, the Jewish population would be swamped. Israel's democratic system would result in a Palestinian majority that would put an end to the 53-year-old Jewish nation. Even if the numbers returning were smaller, a higher birth rate could eventually have the same result. In the interim, more Palestinians living in Israel would probably mean more violence.

Pressure from the liberal Western democracies and the world's press may endanger Israel's very existence. As Israelis themselves are quick to point out, they have fought four wars for their survival since the nation's founding in 1948. They cannot afford to lose a single one, for if they do their nation ceases to exist.

Israelis remain reluctant to surrender the West Bank for a proposed Palestinian state for two major reasons. First, many Israelis consider it part of the land God promised them in perpetuity through Abraham. Indeed, some of the very places in which the Bible records God making these promises (Genesis 12:6-7 Genesis 12:6-7 [6] And Abram passed through the land to the place of Sichem, to the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. [7] And the LORD appeared to Abram, and said, To your seed will I give this land: and there built he an altar to the LORD, who appeared to him.
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; 13:3, 14-18) are today in the Palestinian-controlled West Bank.

Second, a return to pre-1967 borders would leave Israel barely a dozen miles wide along much of its length and thus vulnerable to a potentially fatal military assault from hostile neighbors.

As long as Israel's existence is threatened and the Palestinians' hopes are thwarted, any peace agreement is not likely to last. Bible prophecies such as Luke 21:20 Luke 21:20And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is near.
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and Zechariah 14:1-4 Zechariah 14:1-4 [1] Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you. [2] For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. [3] Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. [4] And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
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show that Jerusalem and its environs will lie at the center of global strife immediately before Christ's return. Keep your eyes on Jerusalem. The "City of Peace" will continue to be a focus of world news. (Sources: U.S. News & World Report, BBC, Middle East Media Research Institute Web site.)

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