Does Israel Have A Right To Exist?

Nov 18th, 2023 | By | Category: Featured Issues, Politics & Current Events

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

Lance Morrow, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, made this poignant observation:  “A decent conscience, uncontaminated by ideology, knows what it is looking at.  The torments that Hamas ‘militants’ inflicted on Oct. 7—mass slaughter, rape, the beheading of babies—amounted to behavior that the high court of any uncorrupted intelligence in the world would describe as evil.”  Indeed, President Biden courageously spoke of the Hamas raids as “pure, unadulterated evil.”  Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal editorially asked, after viewing the Hamas videos of the 7 October assault on Israel, “Why did the Hamas men, upon confronting the dead body of a teenage girl, start cheering? Why did they argue over who would get to decapitate a Thai guest worker they had shot, and then proclaim ‘Allahu akbar’ with every swing at his neck?  ‘Allahu akbar,’ meaning ‘God is most great,’ was on their lips over and over as they shot defenseless civilians, dragged corpses and pumped round after round into the dead. There it was again on the terrorists’ return to Gaza, ‘Allahu akbar’ coming from crowds as a Hamas man pulled by the hair a battered hostage with pants bloodied around her groin.”

  • “This isn’t Palestinian nationalism, or a proper understanding of Islam. This is nihilistic jihad. ‘Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it, just as it obliterated others before it,’ Hamas’s founding covenant declares. ‘The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’  One of the Hamas men called his parents using the phone of a murdered Israeli woman, unable to contain his pride. ‘Put Mom on the phone,’ he said. ‘Your son is a hero. . . . I killed 10 Jews with my own hands!’”
  • “Some Hamas men took their time to execute a terrified woman after cornering her and shining a flashlight on her face. One raided the fridge in front of the young children he had just wounded with a grenade that killed their father and brother. During the music-festival massacre, a terrorist paused to put a bullet through each of the porta-potties, one by one, lest a single girl escape. There were also the shell-shocked faces, heavy breathing and stopped cries of young women hiding in bunkers and dumpsters, knowing they weren’t going to survive. Then came the photos: piles of bodies, bloodied and mutilated, babies burned, families burned together, some with hands tied.”

Subsequent to this carnage, the state of Israel declared war on Hamas, seeking to destroy the Hamas grip on the Gaza Strip.  Israel’s war with Hamas has raised a series of profoundly important questions, but perhaps the most salient is:  Does Israel have a right to exist?  Consequently, the columnist Hugh Hewitt poses this question to various people in his circle of acquaintances: “Do you affirm the state of Israel’s right to exist?”  He correctly summarizes the facts: “Since Israel declared independence in 1948 and was admitted to the United Nations the following year, the world has been bound by international law to recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist. But as of 2020, 28 of the 193 U.N. member states do not recognize Israeli sovereignty. The Muslim world accounts for 25 of the 28 non-recognizing countries, with Cuba, North Korea and Venezuela representing the remainder.”

He goes on:  “In the past three weeks, it has become painfully clear that hundreds of thousands of Americans and Europeans marching in demonstrations across campuses and in the streets of major cities do not accept the state of Israel’s legitimacy.  That view is radical and dangerous. And it can no longer be considered so marginal that it need not be discussed in polite society. Instead, the view is one that must be exposed and its believers obliged to explain themselves.  Israel is a sovereign state. It will never disappear unless most of the countries of the Middle East disappear in some sort of nuclear conflagration. What is also clear: Countless left-wing radicals would not shed a tear if Israel were cleared of every Jew ‘from the river to the sea,’ the more barbarous the method, the better. . . The deep depravity of the Oct. 7 pogrom by Hamas within Israel disgusted the civilized world, but so deep is the rot in academia and among the indoctrinated children of the U.S. education system that millions of Americans would prefer averting their eyes and refusing to deal with the realities it exposed.  The worst of those realities is that Hamas demonstrated on Oct. 7 that, if it had the capability, it would kill every Israeli and probably every Jew on the planet. Iran, which materially backs Hamas in Gaza and controls Hezbollah in Lebanon, frequently declares that Israel must be destroyed. Too many in the West have for too long been unable to acknowledge that this is the Iranian regime’s ultimate goal.”

Indeed, Iran has constructed a Shiite Crescent across the Middle East that threatens to destabilize the region and annihilate the state of Israel.  The US and the West cannot afford to appease the mullahs who govern Iran for it is a mortal threat to Israel and ultimately to the US.  What are the proxy members of this Shiite Crescent?

  1. Hezbollah, Arabic for the “party of God,” emerged in the 1980s during the chaos of Lebanon’s long civil war.  Iran has supplied Hezbollah with powerful missiles (estimates as high as 150,000) that could strike most Israel cities.
  2. Syria is ruled by members of the minority Alawite sect, a splinter group of Shia Islam.  During the horrific Syrian civil war which began in 2011, Iran supplied militia troops to buttress Bashar al-Assad’s forces, while Russia provided air power.  Hezbollah also dispatched fighters to Syria.  Iran’s proxy forces in Syria are currently attacking US military targets in Syria and Iraq.
  3. Iraq came into the sphere is Iran’s influence after the 2003 US invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein.  Iran and Iraq are the two largest Middle Eastern countries with Shiite Muslim majorities.  Militias within Iraq are tightly aligned with Iran.
  4. Yemen is a recent addition to Iran’s Shiite crescent.  The militant Houthi Shiite movement armed by Iran has come to dominate the country.  The Houthis recently launched several missiles at Israel.
  5. Hamas terrorists, which now control the Gaza strip, are Sunni Muslims but have willingly accepted arms, training and logistical support from Iran.  The reason?  They both hate Israel.  In fact, there is significant evidence that Iran trained, equipped and supported the 7 October massacre in Israel.

A final historical note:  The Palestinians of both Gaza and the West Bank had an opportunity in 2000 to have their own nation recognized by Israel.  The specific date was 23 December 2000. That was the day the Palestinians were offered a path to having their own nation on roughly 95 percent of the land in the West Bank and 100 percent of the land in the Gaza Strip. Under that outline, Israel would also swap some of its own land to compensate the Palestinians in exchange for maintaining 80 percent of its settler presence in the West Bank.  In addition, the Palestinians would control, in President Bill Clinton’s formulation, “Arab areas” of East Jerusalem. And on the most sensitive religious sites, there would have been divided sovereignty or jurisdiction, with Palestinians controlling the Haram al-Sharif (including the Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques) and Israel controlling the Western Wall and the holy space of which it is a part. There would also be a return of many refugees into the new Palestinian state (without the right of return to Israel itself).  As David Brooks reports, “There were a million complexities — and many errors made by the Israeli, Palestinian and American sides along the way. But this offer pointed the way to the sort of fair solution negotiators had been struggling their way toward for years. It is hard to see this kind of option ever being on the table again. And the Palestinians let it slip away.  This memory comes hauntingly back because the misery that Palestinians and Israelis are now enduring did not have to happen. They could have reached some kind of moderately effective arrangement, which would have given the two nations a chance to pursue their own destinies.”

Brooks also adds an important perspective that comes from an understanding of history:  “Another reason I think back on this history is the way a simplistic oppressor/oppressed, colonizer/colonized, ‘apartheid Israel’ narrative has been imposed on this conflict.  The real history is much more complicated. It is the story of the Palestinians who were offered a state in 1947 that the Arab states opposed . . . The drive toward that 2000 peace offering began at the Madrid peace conference of 1991. Throughout that decade, there were a series of major peace efforts: the Oslo process, the Cairo Agreement, Oslo II, the Hebron Protocol, the Wye River Plantation meeting.  Along the way, the momentum was nearly derailed. An Israeli settler assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin as he strode toward peace. There were cascades of bombings authored by Hamas and other terrorist groups.  But Israelis continued to support a two-state solution. On May 17, 1999, the Labor Party leader, Ehud Barak, running on an aggressive peace platform, defeated Benjamin Netanyahu in the race for prime minister.  Bill Clinton hosted an Israeli-Palestinian summit at Camp David in July 2000. In many ways that summit was premature. But as the chief U.S. negotiator at the time, Dennis Ross, told me this week, Barak led ‘the most forthcoming government in Israel’s history,’ and Clinton seized the opportunity.”

  • “The summit failed to yield an agreement, and the enemies of peace struck back. Ariel Sharon took a stroll on the Temple Mount — where Haram al-Sharif stands and non-Muslim entry is restricted — that provoked Palestinian rage. The Palestinian leadership launched the second intifada, bringing a reign of terror to Israeli streets.  Still, Clinton and negotiators persisted with meetings at Sharm al-Sheik. By the end of the year, Clinton brought the two sides to the White House. At the pivotal meeting in December, he slowly read aloud the peace plan that would come to be known as the Clinton Parameters. It called for uncomfortable sacrifices from both parties but gave each side what the U.S. negotiators believed they needed.”
  • “A few days later, the Israeli cabinet voted to accept the plan. Yasir Arafat did what he generally did. He never said no, but he never said yes. The Saudi and Egyptian ambassadors in Washington strongly pressured him to agree to a deal, but perhaps feeling pressure from back home or sensing where Palestinian public opinion was or feeling that the provisions for the refugees were insufficient, Arafat dallied. Momentum was frittered away . . . Arafat’s nondecision further discredited the peace camp in Israel, suggesting that if he wouldn’t go for this, he would never go for any negotiated settlement. Sharon soared to victory in the next election. In The Missing Peace, Ross’s definitive 872-page history of this period, Ross concluded that Arafat never transformed himself from a guerrilla outsider to the kind of leader capable of forming and governing a nation. The Palestinians ‘surely were betrayed in the past, and they surely have suffered,’ Ross wrote. ‘But they have also helped to ensure their status as victims. Never seizing opportunities when they presented themselves. Blaming others for their predicament. Declaring unmistakable defeats as victories.’  In the ensuing decades, Israel and its settlers have expanded their occupation of the Palestinian territories, Israeli politics have shifted sharply rightward, and the Hamas fundamentalist death cult has grown stronger and more satanically daring.”

Does Israel have a right to exist?  Yes!  Jews once again in their Promised Land? Yes, that is the reality of the 21st century.  That was certainly the vision of Theodore Herzl and the Zionist movement to transfer people from one continent where they were being persecuted, almost extinguished, to their ancient homeland.  And it was their goal to reestablish the state of Israel with its revived language of Hebrew—all in the land of their forefathers.  Yet, I would argue that there is a supernatural explanation for this miracle called Israel:  It is God fulfilling His promises first detailed in the Abrahamic covenant and reiterated continuously throughout both the major and minor prophets of the Old Testament.  The birth of the modern nation-state of Israel is not only an event of history; it is the fulfillment of prophecy.

Ezekiel 36:16-38 is one the most important passages in Scripture envisaging the restoration of the Jewish people to their land.  As this event is accomplished, Ezekiel exclaimed, the nations will be silent in their amazement of what God has done (vv. 33-36).  I believe quite strongly that in the 21st century we are witnessing that restoration.  But the other dimension of Ezekiel’s prophetic claim is the spiritual restoration of the Jews.  That is detailed in Ezekiel 36:22-32 and 37:15-28.   God will put His Spirit in them; they will obey Him; and they will walk with Him forever.  The fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises to Abraham (land, seed and blessing in Genesis 12), to David (an eternal throne, kingdom and dynasty in 2 Samuel 7:16) and the New Covenant of spiritual renewal are foretold in 37:24-28.  The Jewish people will be united as one people, secure in the land God promised them, renewed spiritually and with their Davidic King ruling in their midst.  We await that fulfillment.

See Lance Morrow in the Wall Street Journal (25 October 2023); editorial in the Wall Street Journal (28-29 October 2023); Hugh Hewitt in the Washington Post (31 October 2023); Neil MacFarquhar in the New York Times (29 October 2023); and David Brooks in the New York Times (14 October 2023).

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