JERUSALEM (BP) – Significant parts of the biblical Judea and Samaria, known today as the West Bank, may become the next focal point in Israeli-Palestinian volatility following Israel’s parliamentary elections March 28.
By Art Toalston
Baptist Press Editor
JERUSALEM (BP) – Significant parts of the biblical
Judea and Samaria, known today as the West Bank, may become the next
focal point in Israeli-Palestinian volatility following Israel’s
parliamentary elections March 28.
The Kadima party led by Ehud Olmert, Israel’s acting
prime minister, received enough votes to take the lead in forming a
The new government, according to Olmert’s statements
during the campaign, will aim to secure Israel’s borders and do so, if
necessary, by a unilateral pullback from the West Bank that could
remove 70,000 of the 250,000 Jewish settlers in the region.
“Just so much of Judea and Samaria are kind of on
the auction block,” lamented Rich Hastings, a Kansas City, Mo.,
healthcare executive and Baptist layman with strong ties to Israel.
The Kadima party, formed by then-Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon last November, garnered 28 seats in Israel’s Knesset in
the March 28 voting, fewer than had been projected. The popular Israeli
leader suffered a debilitating stroke on Jan. 4 and has since been in a
coma, leaving the government and Kadima (which means “forward”) largely
in Olmert’s hands.
Olmert, on March 29, praised Sharon for having had
“the courage, the strength, the will and the determination to see
things differently and to create change.” The new prime minister noted,
“In the coming period, we will move to set the final borders of the
state of Israel” preferably “through negotiations, in an agreement with
Olmert directed a message to the Palestinian
Authority’s president, Mahmoud Abbas, who himself is in a tenuous
position following the terror-prone Hamas movement’s claim to 76 of the
132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council in Jan. 25 elections.
Olmert said Israel is “prepared to compromise, give
up parts of our beloved land of Israel [and] remove, painfully, Jews
who live there, to allow you the conditions to achieve your hopes and
to live in a state in peace and quiet.”
Palestinians should find “the required strength for
the same compromise,” Olmert said, urging them “to accept only part of
their dream, to stop terror, to accept democracy and accept compromise
and peace with us. We are prepared for this. We want this.”
Olmert declared, “If the Palestinians agree to act
soon, we will sit at the negotiating table to create a new reality in
our region. If they do not, Israel will take its fate into its own
hands. … We will not wait forever.”
Hamas’ leader, Ismail Haniya, however, said in a
speech that the Palestinians will carry on in their armed fight for
Hastings, president of St. Luke’s Health System in
Kansas City and a member of First Baptist Church in Raytown, described
Olmert as a man of integrity –- and one with whom Hastings has prayed.
“He was completely accepting of the fact that we
were praying in the name of Jesus,” said Hastings, who has been
involved in various trade missions to Israel and has also led a yearly
tour group to the Holy Land.
“What I am disappointed in is the plan to divide up
or give away parts of the Holy Land — parts of the Promised Land
because, after all, the land was promised to the Jewish people, the
Hastings described himself as “a strict
Bible-believer” from the standpoint that “all through Genesis and,
actually, all the way through the Old Testament, there is time and time
again [God’s declaration] that the land has been promised to Israel.”
“And at no place do we find any Scripture, that I’m
aware of, that indicates that that promise was taken away,” Hastings
said. That includes the Gaza
Strip, where Sharon forced nearly 9,000 settlers from their communities
Noting that Olmert has indicated the new pullback
process may take a year, Hastings said he will be praying that
political events and “other events that the Lord may impact” will stir
Olmert to understand “that this is not a good idea.”
Within the West Bank areas that could be handed over
to the Palestinian Authority, Hastings said, are Shiloh, where “the
tent of the tabernacle was for almost 300 years,” and the site commonly
described as where Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well.
Hastings said Nablus, for example, which already has been given to the
Palestinians, is the site of Joseph’s tomb, which has deteriorated from
neglect and been made inaccessible to tour groups.
One positive outcome from the March 28 Israeli
election, Hastings added, is that “the people who were pro-giving away
the land did not hit the numbers that they thought they would, while
the people who want to preserve the land got a better-than-expected
The parties that would tend to favor retention of
the biblical lands, however, will hold only a small minority of seats
in the new Knesset, which opens April 17, and they have varied stances
on other issues facing the nation.
An even stronger warning about Israel’s future was
issued the day before the election by Daniel Pipes, director of the
Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum and author of numerous books on
the troubled region.
Pipes had noted that “not one of the leading parties
offers the option of winning the war against the Palestinian Arabs,”
calling it a “striking and dangerous” circumstance.
“The Arabs fight to eliminate Israel; Israel fights
to win the acceptance of its neighbors,” Pipes wrote in a commentary
carried in various media outlets. “… For nearly 60 years, Arab
rejectionists have sought to eliminate Israel via a range of
strategies: undermining its legitimacy through propaganda, harming its
economy through a trade boycott, demoralizing it through terrorism and
threatening its population via WMD. While the Arab effort has been
patient, intense and purposeful, it has also failed. Israelis have
built a modern, affluent and strong country, but one still largely
rejected by Arabs.”
As a result, “a sense of confidence [has emerged]
among politically moderate Israelis,” alongside “a sense of guilt and
self-criticism among its leftists. Very few Israelis still worry about
the unfinished business of getting the Arabs to accept the permanence
of the Jewish state. … Rather than seek victory, Israelis have
developed a lengthy menu of approaches to manage the conflict.”