BRIDGES FOR PEACE
Clarence H. Wagner, Jr.
International Dir. - Jerusalem
May 9, 1997
CITY OF PEACE, CITY OF WAR
"We shall not, at any cost, accept the Jewish
plan to continue their occupation of Jerusalem," said
Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, in an interview with Saudi
Arabia's daily newspaper "Okaz" last October.
Jerusalem is, and will forever be, the national capital of the
Palestinian state," he said, emphasizing that Jerusalem
should be surrendered to the Palestinians in accordance with U.N.
Resolutions 242 and 338.
How can one city be the capital of two peoples?
Obviously, Jerusalem can't stand as capital of two states, and if the
Palestinians persist in their drive to declare a sovereign Palestinian
state with Jerusalem as its capital, they are headed on a collision
course that will embroil Israel and the Moslem world in a future war.
Har Homa Has Become A Symbol
The conflict over Israel's building the new Har Homa neighborhood in
southern Jerusalem has once again raised the issue of Jerusalem to the
forefront of world affairs. It has now become a symbol of the struggle
for the city of Jerusalem. Palestinian statements, which are issued
almost daily, never fail to describe this site as "a new Jewish
settlement" in "Arab East Jerusalem."
For those of us who live here, this is obviously a propaganda ploy to
create an image in the minds of the world that somehow "poor defenseless
Palestinians" who have been living peacefully on their property for
thousands of years have been wrestled off their land by the "mean 'ol
Zionist Jews." Nothing could be further from the truth. This is an
uninhabited hillock adjacent to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo being
developed for housing units for Jews and Arabs in a growing city. But
how would the world know when they constantly hear the erroneous
Palestinian description of the project.
Let's examine both of these statements:
- The Palestinians say, "Har Homa is a new Jewish settlement."
No, it is not a settlement. It is a new
neighborhood within the city limits of Jerusalem, built in the same
manner as other new neighborhoods in Jerusalem, such as Gilo, East
Talpiot, French Hill, Ramot, Neve Yaacov, etc. It is being built on
an uninhabited hillock of 465 acres which is 75% Jewish-owned and,
located adjacent to the Gilo neighborhood of Jerusalem.
Additionally, the government did not just take the land, but paid
handsomely for the land from the Jewish and Arab landowners. The
project is not a new town or settlement in the West Bank, as the
Palestinians claim, but a neighborhood housing development in the
existing capital city of Israel: Jerusalem. 20,000 new housing units
are being planned for the Jewish sector and 8,500 for the Arab
sector - a ratio comparable to that of the Jewish and Arab
populations in the city, e.g. 350,000 Jews and 150,000 Arabs,
respectively. Furthermore, it is legal and permissible within the
framework of the Oslo Accords, signed by the Palestinians.
- The Palestinians say, "Har Homa is in Arab East Jerusalem, the
part of Jerusalem that historically has had a majority Arab
No, this is not true either. Eastern
Jerusalem comprises the Old City and the early neighborhoods built
just outside the walls. This area was the ONLY Jerusalem until this
century; there was no east or west. As far back as 1820, the Jewish
community was the largest group in the city. Since 1875, there has
been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem overall. The development of the
city, due to the Zionist venture to restore the land of Israel,
attracted large numbers of Arabs to Jerusalem as well. For example,
the Arab neighborhood of Beit Hanina in the northern part of
Jerusalem was a village under the British mandate, containing some
hundreds of inhabitants. Today, it is a modern urban center of over
Jews and Arabs have always lived together in Jerusalem. The only time
that Jews were not living in the Old City and areas in the eastern part
of Jerusalem, was between 1948-1967, when the Jordanian army killed or
evicted the Jews and destroyed over 53 synagogues and Jewish religious
institutions. Jewish property was then confiscated by the Arabs, Jewish
tombstones were used as paving stones and lining stones for Jordanian
army latrines, and Islam overshadowed and marginalized the Christian
institutions that remained.
Certainly, there is genuine frustration on the side of the
Palestinians who have been indoctrinated by their leaders to strive for
a dream that can never be realized, i.e., a Palestinian State with
Jerusalem as its capital. Jerusalem has never been the capital of any
other country except Israel and the Jewish people. Even when the Moslems
ruled in this region, their capital city was Ramle on the coastal plain
near Israel's Ben Gurion airport.
Yet, Palestinian leaders still tout this impossible dream of
Jerusalem as their capital, which can never be if they want to co-exist
with Israel. Even the Palestinian Authority's concept of their state is
much more than just Gaza and part of the West Bank. They see it, and
official PA maps show it, as extending all the way from the
Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. Even the most moderate among the
Palestinians, who might be happy with a limited state in the West Bank
and Gaza, see this as being "Judenrein" (without Jews). This is
certainly unrealistic, considering that one million Arabs live in Israel
who aren't being asked to move. Why should Jews who live in the West
Bank and Gaza move from their homes?
As long as the Arab leadership continues to sell their expansionist
Islamic vision, the Arab masses will riot and work violently to stop any
activity that will create co-existence and genuine peace between Jews
If anything, Har Homa could be a symbol of peace, with Jews and Arabs
living in close proximity, working together for a better future.
However, what this controversy has shown is the Arab desire to keep
the Jews out of Jerusalem. A PA spokesman made it clear in an interview
on CNN, when he said they did not want the Har Homa neighborhood because
Jerusalem is an Arab capital, and they did not want to deal with more
An inevitable war with the Islamic world over
Jerusalem is coming into view over the horizon.
In fact, according to a poll published on April 3rd, most Israelis
believe another war with Arab states is on its way if the crisis in the
peace process is not defused. The poll shows that 59% percent of people
questioned believe there is a "strong possibility of conflict" between
Israel and the Arabs; and that faith in the peace process is on the wane
in Israel, following violent Palestinian protests against the
construction of the Har Homa neighborhood.
The Arab/Moslem reaction is far out of proportion to the scope of the
project. It has become another symbol to provide the Arab/Moslem world
with opportunity to squeeze more concessions out of Israel.
One of Islam's main goals is the acquisition of "Islamic territory."
Regarding Israel, they believe all the land
comprising the State of Israel, from the Jordan River to the shores of
the Mediterranean Sea, is Islamic territory. Therefore, for them,
the "Peace Process" is a process of claiming territory for the
Arab/Moslem world, not a real process of reconciliation and compromise
that we understand and work to achieve in the Western world. The Western
concept of "peace," as "to bury the hatchet and resolve the conflict" is
a totally foreign concept in the world view of Islam.
Islam defines the world into two parts, the "Dar
es-Salaam," the "House of Peace;" and the "Dar
el-Gharb," the "House of War." All non-Moslems,
including Israel, Jews, Christians and the Western world, are in the
House of War, and therefore outside the realm of reconciliation with the
Islamic, House of Peace.
While no one in Israel really wants a war or even this ongoing
conflict, it is thrust upon Israel and the West by the Moslem world
which sees war as a natural option to achieve their goals.
Furthermore, the Moslem world fully understands the Western concept
of compromise to achieve peace, and that peace is preferred to war. This
is not the case in the Moslem world, and they see our desire to
compromise as a weakness.
The Arab/Moslem world is using the "Peace Process," which has become
an idol to the West, as a tool to achieve their own goals. Just look at
the "Peace Process" thus far, and you will see that when the Arabs are
not getting enough concessions, they invoke the following formula:
- Take an issue and create a "mountain out of a molehill;"
- Spark terror and riots;
- Make war-like pronouncements, and then,
- Watch the Western powers and the UN run in and force Israel to
concede territory and sovereignty, "for the sake of peace."
The Moslem world has our number and they are dialing it regularly!
This Spring we have seen three more suicide bombings in Israel; petrol
bombs thrown at vehicles, one forcing a bus full of Israeli soldiers
over a ravine; mass riots in the territory under Palestinian Authority
control; the Arab League adopting a resolution calling on the Moslem
world to re-establish the boycott against Israel; denunciations by Arab
leaders against Israel; war-like pronouncements from Egypt and other
Arab leaders; a trip by King Hussein to Washington; and then the ritual
visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, to
get scolded by the U.S. government about building on Har Homa and then
coerced to give the Palestinians something else they really want.
THE INEVITABLE CONFLICT
Israel is always the one being severely criticized by the media and
by world leaders for exacerbating the situation in the Middle East and
jeopardizing the "Peace Process" -- never the Palestinians who are
attacking or their leaders who are inciting. Now, Israel is being
accused of bringing the world to the brink of war over Har Homa by
insisting on Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. However, the crux of
the conflict is the fact that a sovereign Jewish state in the middle of
the Islamic world is seen as an affront by Islam. The Islamic world can
never reconcile itself to Israel and sooner or later it will come to a
Avraham Tal, a columnist for Israel's "Ha'Aretz" newspaper, wrote on
April 2, 1997:
"It is easy to claim that the Netanyahu government is responsible
for the crisis in relations with the Palestinian Authority. If it
had refrained from sending the bulldozers up to Har Homa and had
offered a more generous phase to the Palestinians, the attacks and
the riots would not have occurred; the investors and the tourists
would continue to arrive; and life would go on -- more or less -- as
normal. It is easy to claim this, because it is true. But the
question is whether the crisis would have been avoided or just
merely postponed, only to come upon us in the not-too-distant
future, with or without Netanyahu.
The drafters of the Oslo Accord erred in assuming that
negotiations and concessions would lead to reconciliation and to
concessions on the other side. The opposite is true: they gave rise
to increased expectations and more forcefulness in the demand to
implement them. The current crisis can be eliminated at the price of
halting construction on Har Homa and promising a generous second
phase. The confrontation can be postponed in the coming months
through significant concessions in implementing the rest of the
interim agreement. However, every crisis that is prevented will only
be postponed to the next stage of negotiations; and in every crisis
the threat of terrorism will hover over us, riots will take place at
roadblocks, and the Arab states will stand united behind the
Palestinians and exert political and economic pressure, as they are
doing in the wake of the Har Homa crisis.
In retrospect, there is a link between the pace of Israel's
concessions on territories and authorities and the amount of tension
in relations with the Palestinian leadership. As long as Israel fed
the process with concessions, tension and conflicts were prevented.
This would hold true in the future as well: continued calm in the
process is conditional on Israel's readiness to continue feeding it
with withdrawals and other concessions.
The events happening now enable us to see what is anticipated,
like in a crystal ball. It is possible that the Netanyahu government
brought the confrontation closer, but if so, it only brought closer
the inevitable. From Israel's standpoint, the question is when, and
from what lines, is it preferable to arrive at the moment of truth."
Where will this all end? Surely the climax of the Arab-Israel
conflict will be over Jerusalem -- two opposing forces want the same
territory, and now, the same capital city.
THE BATTLE FOR JERUSALEM
The battle for Jerusalem is now very real. At the height of the
riots, subsequent to the start of the Har Homa building project, my
family and I were eating dinner with CNN on in the background. We saw
the scenes of rioting youths, tear gas, gun fire, Israeli troops, and
Palestinian police all caught in a web of violence. However, unlike you,
all of this was happening just over the hill from our house. It was
rather surreal as we sat eating dinner in an envelope of apparent peace
and tranquility, watching violent scenes that seemed a continent away -
yet knowing it was all happening just over a mile away.
The Bible is not silent on the subject.
Read the prophet Zechariah 12:2-9, and see the
prophecy of the future war over Jerusalem, complete with UN sanctions as
all nations work together to lay siege on Judah and Jerusalem to force
concessions from the Israeli government. However, the Messianic promise
is that God will prevail, His people Israel and Jerusalem will survive,
and God will judge those who came against His people Israel and His plan
for His nation (see Zechariah 14).
The injunction to " Pray for the peace of
Jerusalem" (Psalm 122:6) is needed now, more than ever -- not for
a man-made peace, but for God's peace to prevail.
Bridges for Peace
Clarence H. Wagner, Jr. ,
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