The Israel-Palestinian Problem: A Biblical Solution
Teddy L. Desta
The problem in the Middle East, particularly the relationship between Jews and Palestinians, can find a solution only when any human-made peace plan follows God's peace plan outlines presented in the Bible. The following is what we see in the Bible about the Israel-Palestinian problem and its solution. Since the Bible speaks about the broader Israel-Arab relationship as well, what is here can be called the Bible's Middle East peace plan (BMEPP).
Unlike any other geopolitical region, God has made clear His mind about the future security and destiny of the Holy Land. Only if God has not shared His plan about the future of the Holy Land, then that we would have been free to let the best of our political thoughts and diplomatic practices to guide us in our search to write a Middle East plan. But since God has shared His mind about the Holy Land's future, then we must read His policy from the Bible and follow His precepts and blueprint. In a sense, we will succeed in our search for peace for a problem only when we make the Bible our starting place. To do otherwise is to set up ourselves for failure.
Today, to a considerable extent, the world community believes that political, economic, and social justice for Palestinians can come only through a two-state solution. Most Palestinians buy the idea of TSS believing that their problems will get resolved when they get their national state. Other Palestinians such as the extremist nationalist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad want a one-state solution, wherein they can altogether displace Israel and set up an Islamic Palestinian state. However, both solutions (i.e., a two-state solution in which each side enjoys its sovereign state or a one-state solution where Hamas dominates), have one major problem: Both plans fly against the will of God.
Currently, peace plans proposed by secular Zionists, the USA, regional countries, international organizations, the Palestinian Authority, or Hamas will all fail because none of them take the Word of God into consideration. Ideally, in all instances where God has made His will known, mankind must find out God's will and follow it. But what has God said about the Israel-Palestine problem? What are His peace parameters to solve the Israel-Palestinian intractable problem? This paper is dedicated to identify the biblical premises of the Middle East peace plan and to make a few recommendations.
First, the Bible allocates property rights to the Jews in today's highly contested areas, commonly called "the Occupied Territories" (see, Gen. 15:15-23; Josh. 13-19). The Bible states that today's the West Bank and East Jerusalem (i.e., the so-called Occupied Territories) lie within Israel's ancient heritage. Therefore, those lands by default will revert to Israel in her restoration (See, for example, Jeremiah 31; Ezekiel 34: 13-16; Micah 7: 14-16; Obadiah 17 – 21; Zephaniah 2: 4-9).
Hence, any human-made peace plan that ignores or contradicts the declared will of God about the territorial extent of restored Israel is doomed to fail. Surrounding nations are advised by God to respect Israel's land, and place in the region or otherwise face the consequences. Israel itself is required to abide by God's Word regarding any peace deals it makes with Palestinians, surrounding Arab nations, or the international community.
"This is what the LORD says: "As for all my wicked neighbors who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands, and I will uproot the people of Judah from among them. But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country. And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, 'As surely as the LORD lives'--even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal--then they will be established among my people. But if any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it," declares the LORD." (Jer. 12: 14-17)
Second, the Bible promises an elevated position to Palestinians in a one-state solution. However, the OSS is preconditioned on the purging of Palestinians from hating the Jew.
"Ashkelon will see it and fear; Gaza will writhe in agony, and Ekron too, for her hope will wither. Gaza will lose her king and Ashkelon will be deserted. a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of Philistia. And I will remove their blood from their mouth, and their detestable things from between their teeth. Then they also will be a remnant for our God, and be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron like a Jebusite." (Zechariah 9: 5-8)
Hence, for Palestinians, some cleansing precedes their elevation in the OSS, which Israel leads. Potentially, there can follow an "assimilation" of the Palestinians into the Jewish social and political fabric.
However, many Israelis and Palestinians, significant western countries, and international organizations reject the idea of a one-state solution for different reasons. First, by international law, Israel is obliged to leave any territory it has acquired by war. Second, for historical reasons, Jews deserve their state in which they make a clear majority. Third, the two sides have wounded each other so profoundly that to make them live in one-state is unwise and impractical. However, Israel's extent of territory is determined by the Bible, and not by international law. Second, the Jewishness of the state cannot be premised solely on a numerical majority. Third, there is scriptural precedence where Jews and Palestinians coexisted and cooperated. For example, King David, who built the first unified Jewish state, had had cordial relations with Palestinians. King David was so successful in his relationships with them so much that he gave a contingent of Palestinians an honored and trusted position in his army. King David's chosen bodyguard or elite force the Cherethites and Pelethites were Philistines (a.k.a, modern-day Palestinians). It was this Palestinian contingent that was loyal to David at the moment of the coup d'etat carried against David by his son, Absalom.
"All his servants marched past him—all the Cherethites and Pelethites, and six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath. The king said to Ittai the Gittite, "Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your people with you. May the LORD show you kindness and faithfulness." But Ittai replied to the king, "As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be." (2 Sam 15: 18-21)
Moreover, some of the most respected warriors in King David's army were other types of -- in modern parlance -- Palestinians (see, for example, 1 Sam. 26:6; 2 Sam. 23: 24-39). For instance, Uriah (the husband of Bathsheba) was a Hittite. Uriah's devotion to the God of Israel and the nation was peerless. It is this kind of relationship between Jews and Palestinians that God envisions to bring back again.
The East Bank, too
All attempted Israel-Palestinian peace plans overlook what God has said about restored Israel and the East Bank. The original Promised Land includes lands on the east bank of the Jordan River, given to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh as their inheritance (Numbers 32, Joshua 13:15-23; Jeremiah 30:3). Gilead, and Bashan (which are famous pasture lands on the east side of the Jordan River) are part of Israel's original as well as restored inheritance (Jeremiah 50:19; Micah 7:14).
"But I will bring Israel back to their own pasture, and they will graze on Carmel and Bashan; their appetite will be satisfied on the hills of Ephraim and Gilead." (Jeremiah 50:19)
"O LORD, protect your people with your shepherd's staff; lead your flock, your special possession. Though they live alone in a thicket on the heights of Mount Carmel, let them graze in the fertile pastures of Bashan and Gilead as they did long ago." (Micah 7:14)
Today, the lands of Ruben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh are part of the Kingdom of Jordan and mainly inhabited by Palestinians. Hence, God's prophetic statements about the East Bank (i.e., Bashan and Gilead) carry several implications.
First, God's plan to restore Jews to Gilead and Bashan could imply a confederation or federation arrangement between the state of Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. Such a provision will open the door for Jewish settlements in their ancient lands.
Second, it implies that God's plan will bring all Palestinians — those in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Bank — under one polity umbrella. Once Palestinians in the Diaspora get the right-of-return, there will be ample room for their settlement. Israelis settling on the East Bank will smooth relationships between Jews and Arabs a lot.
Third, even though it will be a Jew-Palestinian inclusive one-state polity, because of God's promises to Jews, the state will remain Jewish in its legal profile. However, in the commonwealth, Palestinians will enjoy full citizenship recognition and rights. They will exercise extensive political and social influence. But their elevation is as conditioned by the prophets Jeremiah and Zechariah; they must accept Jews and the state of Israel as legitimate entities in the Holy Land.
Fourth, some right-wing Israelis who say Palestinians must transfer from the West Bank to the East Bank must reverse their position. Instead, they have to prepare themselves to re-settle in Gilead and Bashan.
God's Peace Plan for the Broader Middle East
God also has a peace plan for the broader Middle East region. Such a more comprehensive peace plan is significant because the Israel-Palestinian conflict has a regional component to it. God promises the unthinkable -- to bring peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. These two sides have been at war several times, and many Arab countries still consider Israel as an enemy nation. But God promises peace between Arab nations with Israel. The Prophet Isaiah writes:
"In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will be the third, along with with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing on the earth. The LORD Almighty will bless them, saying, "Blessed be Egypt my people, Assyria my handiwork, and Israel my inheritance." (Isaiah 19: 23-25)
According to God's plan, a moderate Arab state (for example, Egypt) and a radical Arab state (for example, Syria), will have a positive relationship with Israel. The trio will form an axis of blessing for the world. God will make the Middle East a peaceful place as He brings together these irreconcilable forces which have been behind the turmoil in the region for so long.
Iran, a non-Arab Middle East power, is a significant part of the region's security. Iran, since 1979, has played a critical anti-Israel role, calling for Israel's destruction as a state. God's Word speaks about the future of Iran using its ancient names such as Elam, Medes, and Persia. God promises to place His throne in Elam. Iranians will embrace the God of Israel.
"I will establish my sovereignty over Elam. I will destroy their king and their leaders," says the LORD. "Yet in days to come I will reverse Elam's ill fortune." says the LORD" (Jeremiah 49: 37-38).
Here God promises to remove the government in Iran and substitute it with a government based on God's will. Since one of the major obstacles to peace between Israel and Palestinians has been the clerical regime in Iran, its removal augurs well for the orderliness of the region.
Advice to Israel
Hence, given God’s promises to restore to Israel all her Promised Land, what should Israel need to do to win hearts and minds among Palestinians who, according to God’s Israel-Palestinian peace plan, will constitute a significant portion of its population?
Israel should be careful not to dispossess Palestinians or to marginalize them. Current Israel must emulate its forefathers, such as Abraham, Joshua, and King David, in treating Palestinians with fairness and justice. For example, Abraham, though Promised the Land, when offered a cave to bury his wife for free, he insisted on paying for it (see Genesis 23). Abraham did not feel entitled to get the Land for free. He did not take advantage of God’s promise in engaging in an unfair deal with the indigenous people. He respected their property rights.
God ordered King David to build a sacrifice altar at Mount Moriah. But the place where God wanted David set up the altar belonged to a Jebusite farmer, a non-Jew indigenous person. Although King David was the most influential person in the nation, he did not confiscate the farmer and used his Land to build an altar to God. Even if the farmer wanted to give the Land for free to his king, David insisted on paying for the Land (2 Sam 24:24). David never abused his kingly power (Cf. Jeremiah 22:15-16). He never used religion as a cover to take away property from his people, Jew, or non-Jew, without due compensation.
God’s orders to His people is that they stay a just and a fair-minded people. He orders them to show mercy and justice without discriminating against the poor and the stranger (Deuteronomy 24: 14, 16; 25: 13-16; Isaiah 10: 1-2).
God expects His covenant people to have the same law for natives and immigrants. Jews must apply the same scale of justice to all, regardless of citizenship status. They must be impartial in administering justice (see Proverbs 20:10, 20:23, 21:22).
The following are a few suggestions for I-P peace-makers to consider.
i). Civic engagement
Both sides need to take a few crucial steps to start and foster people to people contact to develop a positive rapport between the two communities. As much as hate and conflict are man made, equally, understanding and peace are man-made. Peace-building needs courage and effort.
Ideally, the Israel Government must facilitate how civic societies and goodwill persons start the first step in building bridges across the two communities. The process can start small but can grow into a snowball social movement. Such group-to-group meetings may involve sharing stories and perspectives, asking for forgiveness, weeping together, and discussing visions for a better future.
The stronger the bonds of friendship grow between the two peoples, the less the opportunity arises for hardliners spew hate and incite violence.
ii). Goodwill outreach
Israel, for all understandable reasons, has now won the armed part of the struggle for the Land. However, it has yet to win the battle for the hearts-and-minds of Arab-Palestinians. Israel-Jews now must do their utmost to stretch their humanitarian and goodwill hand to Arabs-Palestinians, particularly to the most vulnerable parts of those communities.
Israelis/Jews have the resources (funds, human resources, and technology) to do goodwill outreaches in many areas of life in helping Arab/Palestinians. The program can include several types of opportunities. Some of these opportunities could provide rare medical services, giving scholarships to bright Palestinian students in Israeli elite universities, creating job opportunities to outstanding Palestinian graduates, and providing funding Arab/Palestinian entrepreneurs. 
Israel must be open to discuss possibilities for members of the Palestinian Diaspora (who are no threat to its national security) to visit home and even return for good to their homeland.
The rule of law and a fair system of justice should prevail. The country’s court systems, both Israeli and Arab courts, must work impartially for both peoples. The life, liberty, and property of Arabs-Palestinians must be of equal standing to Israeli-Jews.
"Do not have two differing weights in your bag--one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house--one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly." (Deuteronomy 25:13-16)
"Differing weights and unequal measures—both are detestable to the LORD." (Proverbs 20:10)
See also Proverbs 20:23 and 11:1 to know how God detests unequal scales. All these scriptures require that Israel follow a system of fairness, a system of laws and rules that applies equally to all kinds of people. Because property rights, particularly land ownership, has been one of the major issues of justice in Israel, what the prophet, Ezekiel, says about land issue in the restored state of Israel is worth listening to:
"You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners who dwell among you and who have children. You are to treat them as native-born Israelites; along with you, they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. In whatever tribe the foreigner dwells, you are to assign his inheritance there, declares the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 47:21-23)
If we recognize that the epithet "foreigner/ stranger/ alien" applies to non-Jewish residents of the land, then in present day Israel political context this term primarily applies to Palestinians. So, what God is calling Israel to do is to give the Palestinians the same kind of land rights as it gives to Jews. But why? Because a just system that works equitably for all kinds of people fosters a sense of nationhood among all. It is only people who feel that all their rights are respected and their dignity recognized who can become peaceful and productive citizens. But wherever rights are violated and a person's identity is demeaned, there will be rancor, hate, and violence. Therefore, God's words of the necessity of exercising a uniform system of justice for all imply one thing: fairness is a critical component of righteousness, from which flow domestic peace and a durable future. (Micah 6:8)
The future of the Land belongs to the young.
We must start now to educate both Jewish and Arab children to learn to accept each other citizens of the Holy Land. Policymakers and civic leaders from both communities must sit down and write a school curriculum that fosters mutual understanding, empathy, and shared purpose among the young. Weekend and summer camps where Jewish and Arab-Palestinian children interact closer can foster long-term relationships between the two communities, which can last generations.
Israel-Jews must start taking tentative steps allowing Arab-Palestinians to rise in the ranks in the civil service, academia, mass media, and civil society. The state must enable public exposure and recognition for Arabs/Palestinians who excel in their field. This move is vital to ally the fear of Arabs/Palestinians that their fate is always to be downtrodden, ever passing as second-class citizens.
vi). Diplomatic initiative
Because Hamas’s and Islamic Jihad’s anti-Israel stands, the people of Gaza, so far, have paid a heavy price. But now Israel must think creatively to address the Gaza problem. Israel must take its good relationship with Egypt and powerful Gulf states to make a bold diplomatic move. Israel must promise to lift its blockade against Gaza, provided that an international consortium of four countries (under the aegis of the UN, EU) agrees to take total responsibility in Gaza to administer the area at least for ten years. The consortium running the mandate will ensure that Gaza disarms, fosters civic societies, develops a healthy economy, and engages with Israel, the WB, and the rest of the world.
Israel, by starting these bold steps, it can show the world its readiness and willingness to end the suffering in Gaza.
vii). Democratic and Jewish
Creative thinking is necessary to represent Arab-Palestinians in government and society and to integrate them eventually into the social-economic fabric. If this vision followed through properly, then Israel can establish a political system that is both democratic and Jewish. But how can the Jewishness of the state of Israel guarantee in the presence of a near-majority Arab-Palestinians? The state can be Jewish in orientation and symbols on the likely assumption that once Arab-Palestinians receive due political recognition, economic opportunities, and social respect, they will accept the idea the state remains Jewish/Israel in name, orientation, and character. The Palestinians would do this out of historical understanding and goodwill. They will reciprocate in kind.
The peace plan that God has in mind for Israel-Palestine and the broader Middle East region deserve recognition. It is this plan that we must learn, embrace, and apply. No one can make God a liar.
"Let God be true, and every human being a liar. As it is written: "So that you may be proved right when you speak and prevail when you judge."" (Rom. 3:4)
 Israeli billionaire hopes to bring water to parched Gaza (see: https://apnews.com/5f91122b9b0a71e36a5876b5f13dde4a)
Glory be to God
© TLD, 2017 - 2030. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Teddy L. Desta and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.