The Sharon Position. The most dramatic recent event in the development of modern Israel was the Gaza withdrawal, in which thousands of Jewish settlers were forcibly evacuated from their homes in the Gaza area and resettled elsewhere in Israel. The images that were seen on our TVs over several days are burned on our minds — Jews being removed by Israeli soldiers from their homes and synagogues, with considerable resistance. The Gaza withdrawal was ordered by the Ariel Sharon government and backed by the Bush administration, as part of the Roadmap for Peace program to establish a Palestinian state alongside the Israeli state.
Israel is greatly divided over this issue, with those for and against the Gaza withdrawal split about 50/50. What was Sharon trying to do with such drastic measures? How could he justify the program? Much of the following information was obtained in an interview I had with well known Messianic Jewish author and lecturer, Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, shortly before the withdrawal. Security and demographics are the primary reasons. The West Bank Arab population is increasing at six children per family, while the Israeli Jewish population is having two children per family. In a few years, the Arab population will outstrip the Jewish population in the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
The Sharon government has concluded that the best protection that the Jews can have includes the finishing of the construction of the fence or wall to keep the Arab terrorists out. This fence, that becomes a wall in the populated areas, is one of the few innovations that has actually worked in protecting Israel from the suicide/homicide bombers. By pulling the Jewish settlers out of Gaza, the Israeli government was able to get them out of harm’s way and behind defensible barriers. To leave them there was to continue a serious drain on the Israeli military. The plan further intends to construct a road between the “West Bank” and Gaza with no exits, to allow the Arabs to pass between the two Palestinian segments without creating problems for the Israelis. The Israelis, on the other hand, will have an overpass that would allow them to go from Tel Aviv south to the Negev and Eilat without molestation.
The opposition position. That being the Sharon position, what is the position of the opposition that so vigorously disputed the Gaza withdrawal? They believe in the inexorable expansion of the Jewish presence in the Land, and have a Biblical basis for their position. God has given the Jewish people the Land, all of the Land, and they intend to claim it, settlement by settlement. To give up even an inch of the territory they have settled is craven appeasement to terrorism, and shows a lack of faith in God and the destiny of Israel.
The opposition is committed to an aggressive show of force against the terrorist leaders in order to provide security for the Israelis. They believe that the settlers themselves and the Israeli army can provide all the protection that is needed. Furthermore, the opposition is generally opposed to the creation of a Palestinian state, which would be a formal surrender of a considerable part of the Land to the Arabs. They feel that is unnecessary militarily, unwise politically and wrong theologically.
Evangelical Christian Responses
Support of Israeli opposition and belief that recent major disasters are the judgment of God upon America for forcing Gaza withdrawal. Among Evangelical Christians, there is considerable support for Israel, but on this issue there is about as much a split as there is among the Israelis themselves. There is a vocal group of Evangelicals who strongly support the opposition in Israel (who believe that it is appeasement for Israel to give up the Gaza settlements or any other settlements, and will only embolden the terrorists to do more damage). Furthermore, they believe that since the US encouraged Israel to conduct the evacuation of Jews from Gaza, the United States has suffered enormous judgments from God, including Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, during which there were eerily similar forced evacuations of thousands from their homes. Thus, they argue that all of these calamities have fallen on America because our government has acted against Israel in the Gaza withdrawal. It is a fulfillment of the curse upon those who curse Israel.
Recognition of ebb and flow of Jewish occupation of the Land until the Second Coming of Christ. There are other Evangelical Christians who are just as strongly in support of Israel, but see reasonableness in the Sharon plan to provide maximum security to the Jewish people under these difficult circumstances. The Israelis are living in close proximity to Arabs, many of whom want nothing more than to kill them and destroy Israel, and the Jews have been fighting them for more than 100 years. The Biblical solution would appear to be the resettlement of the Palestinian Arabs in their promised land, Saudi Arabia, which is wealthy with oil. It would take a miracle from the Lord to accomplish this, but He has not brought about that miracle yet. Rather, it seems that the barrier is working where little else has worked all during the long bitter confrontation. Maybe it will continue to work or maybe not, but at least for the present, the terrorist attacks have subsided, in large part because of the fence.
This fence is somewhat reminiscent of the broken walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s time. Some 90 years after the Jewish people had returned to Jerusalem from Babylon to rebuild the Temple, the city remained defenseless, with the numerous breaches in the walls. There were enemies all around Jerusalem who wanted to attack the city. Nehemiah was determined to repair the walls, though with great difficulty, so that the Jewish people would be protected and defended from their vicious neighbors.
Also, many Evangelicals realize that the Jewish presence in Israel will have an ebb and flow from now through the Tribulation until Christ returns to redeem His people — Israel. In fact, the largest evacuation of the time will be one that the Lord Himself commanded in Matthew 24 and is indicated in Revelation 12. He declares that when the Abomination of Desolation is committed by the Antichrist, Jews in Judea should immediately run from their houses into the wilderness to “the place provided for” them, possibly the natural fortress city Petra, in ancient Edom. There, the Lord will provide protection for His people (Israel) during the Great Tribulation. Thus, we cannot Scripturally contend that Jewish presence in the Land will continue to expand unabated until the Lord returns, as much as we would desire that to be the case.
Job’s friends argued that the calamities he suffered came because of his sins, while the Scriptures say that God was testing Job to demonstrate his servant’s faithfulness. All Job was told, however, was that he was in no position to question the actions of the Creator of the universe. Ultimately, Job was vindicated and was blessed greatly by the Lord.
Also, the Lord told His Disciples not to think that the falling of the tower of Siloam and subsequent death of several people was an act of special divine judgment. Thus, not all calamities are the result of divine discipline. It is not clear that the disasters that have struck America were the result of the actions taken by our country in the Gaza withdrawal, but we must always be cautious about any policy actions we take that have a negative effect on Israel. Thus, the Gaza withdrawal is a great dilemma is for both the Jewish people and Evangelical Christians. However, the Gaza withdrawal is symptomatic of the perplexing developments that are listed to come about as we move toward Christ’s Second Coming.