Thursday, 14 January 2010
Is Israel expansionist?
Andrew Sibley has graciously responded to my review of his book Zion's New Name (see Comment on 'Replacement Theology's New Name') and raises a number of issues that deserve a response. Over the next few days I will deal with Andrew's points. Today, I examine his charge, set out in his book, that Israel is an expansionist state. Andrew Sibley is not the first to level this accusation at Israel. This is his comment on my review:
Is Israel expansionist? In making this claim I am simply looking at how the State of Israel has expanded its borders since 1948 with Palestinian areas reducing in size as Jewish settlements are established and expanded. That I think is factually correct.
In response to Andrew, let’s examine the background to the founding of Israel in 1948. The Balfour Declaration and the Palestine Mandate had in mind that what is now Israel and Jordan should be a 'Jewish National Home'. In 1920, the San Remo Conference assigned to Britain a mandate to establish a 'Jewish national home' in what is now Israel, Jordan and the Golan Heights.
Article 6 of the Preamble to the Mandate specified that Britain was 'to facilitate Jewish immigration to Palestine and encourage close settlement of the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes'.
The Mandate made no mention of Arab national or political rights in the land. It stated only that civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion, must be safeguarded. Arab riots in Palestine resulted in Winston Churchill issuing a White Paper in 1922, which handed almost 80% of the land promised to the Jews to the Hashemi family. What should have been the Jewish homeland east of the Jordan, by a stroke of the pen became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The UN Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947 (General Assembly Resolution 181 (II)) attempted to diminish still further the Jewish homeland by proposing a partition of Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state. The Jews agreed to the proposal but the Arabs rejected it and immediately proceeded to attack Jewish settlements.
When Israel declared its independence in May 1948, the fledgling state was immediately attacked by the surrounding Arab countries with the express intention of driving the Jews into the sea. The Palestinians had rejected the opportunity to have their own homeland and opted instead to destroy the newly-founded Jewish state. It was the Arabs who were expansionist, not the Jews.
Israel 'expanded' its borders in June 1967, by fighting a defensive war against Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, armed by Russia and assisted by Saudi Arabia and Iraq. Egyptian President Nasser declared that his objective was the 'destruction of Israel', and other Arab leaders expressed similar sentiments. Israel pleaded with Jordan not to enter the conflict but Jordan ignored Israel’s pleas and entered the conflict along with Syria and Iraq. The war ended with Israel’s victory; the Sinai, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria (AKA 'the West Bank'), and the Old City of Jerusalem came under Israeli control.
When Egypt made peace with Israel, Israel handed back the Sinai peninsula. When Jordan made peace with Israel, Israel relinquished control of territories claimed by Jordan. Israel returned to parts of the West Bank in 2001 only in response to Arab terror. Syria has never made peace with Israel, therefore Israel retains the Golan Heights.
In 2000, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak met Yasser Arafat at the Camp David summit. At that summit Barak offered to withdraw from 97 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip. He agreed to dismantle 63 isolated settlements. Barak also agreed that Arab neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem would become the capital of the new Palestinian state and that the Palestinians would maintain control over their holy places and have 'religious sovereignty' over Israel's most holy site, the Temple Mount.
Barak's proposal addressed the refugee issue, guaranteeing them the right of return to the Palestinian state and reparations from a $30 billion international fund. He also agreed to give the Palestinians access to water desalinated in its territory.
Israel offered generous concessions but Arafat rejected them and walked away from the table. Instead of putting forward a counter proposal, he rewarded Israel's generosity with the second Intafada.
Four years ago, Israel pulled all its people out of Gaza and Hamas expressed its gratitude by launching a lethal rain of missiles on southern Israel.
How, in the light of these facts, can anyone accuse Israel of being an expansionist power?
I am old enough to remember that within days of the end of the Six Day War, Israel made overtures to its enemies regarding a negotiated settlement and withdrawal from the captured territories, overtures that were firmly rejected by the Arab nations at the Khartoum Conference of August/September 1967. The Arab slogan coined at that conference was: 'No peace with Israel. No negotiations with Israel. No recognition of Israel'. This is still the position of Syria and various Palestinian terror groups, including Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad.
Expansionist? Israel is fighting just to retain the little territory it already possesses!