Two controversial issues in Israel have dragged on for months now. One of them has constant international attention, and world leaders on both sides of the political spectrum have been free in their support or criticism. The other issue has dragged Israel through three election cycles in less than one year and is threatening to lead to a fourth. The other has potential to squash a centuries-old conflict that has stayed at the top of every U.S. president’s policy list for the last 70 years.
I’m speaking of course, of Israel’s elusive unity government and the volatile potential for Israel to apply sovereignty to parts of Judea and Samaria.
After third elections in March 2020, Knesset members have shown more determination to lay down their egos to form a coalition….to a certain degree anyway. A unity government was agreed upon a few weeks ago, but the small details of who gets which ministry position, committee seats, etc. has dragged discussions on for an interminable amount of time. Just yesterday, however, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Benny Gantz (the two leaders of the largest parties forming the unity government) announced that the new coalition will be sworn in next week.
The only caveat to this new unity government is that it will be mostly made up of Israel’s largest right wing party (Likud) and largest left wing party (Blue and White). Part of the agreement calls for Netanyahu to serve as prime minister for the first two years, and Benny Gantz to serve as prime minister during the second two years. A number of other critical ministerial positions have also been promised to Blue and White, leaving right wing lawmakers wondering if a unity government is worth the price that they will have to pay when liberal MKs hold key positions in the government.
The unity government is not sworn in yet. It’s still a game of wait and see.
The second issue is one that has brought some parts of Israel together and others further apart. Since President Trump’s “Deal of the Century” peace plan was released in January of this year, there has been no small talk of sovereignty in parts of Judea and Samaria. As coalition talks in Israel’s government have progressed, the question of if and when to apply sovereignty has dominated much of the debate.
The biggest question, however, resolved itself this week when the United States announced that they expect Israel to declare sovereignty very soon. U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that they expect Israel to apply sovereignty within weeks, as soon as the mapping process is finished. The mapping process refers to the delineation of which areas in Judea and Samaria will be annexed to Israel, which parts will remain Palestinian, and which Jewish communities will exist only as enclaves surrounded by Palestinian territory.
The only conditions that the U.S. will expect in exchange for sovereignty, according to Freidman, are those laid out in the Deal of the Century.
- Enact a partial building freeze in the 15 Jewish communities that will exist as enclaves in Judea and Samaria.
- Keep the door open for peace negotiations with the Palestinians for a period of four years.
Firstly, a building freeze could be disastrous for the fifteen Jewish communities that will become enclaves. Har Bracha, for example, is a booming town in northern Samaria whose growth rate is tremendous. They constantly have waiting lists of new families to move into the town, and they have a massive vision to become a city that can compete with any modern city in Israel. They currently have about 3,000 residents and have already drawn up architectural plans to expand the community at least four times its current size.
The second condition laid out by David Friedman is that Israel must keep the door open for peace with the Palestinian Authority for four years. The PA has already declared that it wants no peace with Israel, and refuses to even come to a negotiating table with them. However, just in case they happen to change their minds over the next few years, the U.S. insists that Israel has to be ready. The end result, according to Friedman, would be the creation of a Palestinian state side by side with Israel, scattered like salt and pepper throughout East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
Imagine that you live in a suburban neighborhood. Now, even though this may sound like a scene out of a horror movie, imagine that one of your neighbors murders two of your children. Not only do they get away with it, but they continue living across the street. The rest of your neighbors in the community are good people, but they insist that you be friendly with the family who murdered your children. It doesn’t matter that they won’t talk to you, and take every opportunity to attack you, both verbally and physically. It doesn’t matter that they are training their own children to murder more of your family. According to the neighborhood civic league, the only thing that matters is that you must make the murderous family happy, allow them to live in peace with you, and try to talk to them about giving them some of your yard so that they can live even closer to you.
Sounds crazy right? To make fiction into fact, however, the strange story I just told is very true in Israel. This is really what is happening between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Even though Ambassador David Friedman is a staunch supporter of Israel and their right to live and prosper in Judea and Samaria, he stated the end goal of sovereignty himself. When criticized that the “Deal of the Century” would eliminate the possibility of a two-state solution, Friedman said:
The Trump vision provides for a two-state solution. Ours is the first and only administration to have obtained Israel’s commitment to negotiate based upon specific terms, conditions and territorial dimensions that would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state with double the geographic footprint they enjoy now.” (New York Post)
On both issues, there are pros and cons. Of course we all hope and pray that Israel will establish a unity government and that they will apply sovereignty to Judea and Samaria. At what price should we align ourselves with these two issues though? At the price of a murderous Palestinian state living next to their Jewish neighbors? At the price of a liberal government in Israel that very well could destroy more Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria?
Whatever happens in the coming weeks and months in Israel, be sure to always check your Bible to figure out which side of the coin you should stand on. Try passages like Joel 2, Amos 9, Genesis 12, Ezekiel 36, Jeremiah 33…..I think you get the idea. Just read the Bible.