Israel’s Borders in International Law

Claims, Counter Claims and Confusion

borders of Israel

Fig.1: The Levant. Image: CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons

ISIS CLAIM: A study of the legal borders of Israel is timely when politicians or the media use terms like ‘IS’, ‘ISIS’ or ‘ISIL’. When they refer to the so-called ‘Islamic State’ (‘IS’ or ‘Daesh’ in Arabic) they may be referring to ISIS, meaning “Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (Syria)”. But when they refer to ‘ISIL’, they effectively rewrite the map of the Eastern Mediterranean between Turkey and Egypt. ISIL means “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant”, where Levant embraces all of Israel, Cyprus, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and areas of southern Turkey, link. See Fig.1 and Levant.

Clearly, by using the term ISIL, politicians and the media fall into the trap of not even recognizing the State of Israel, never mind the legal borders of Israel. The aims of ISIS are in fact much wider than the elimination of Israel. They see a global caliphate secured through a global war.

RABBIS CLAIM: Of course, Israel’s Rabbis take the opposite view to ISIL:
God’s plan has been to give Israel to His people, not to anybody else … It belongs to the Jewish people of all generations. Nobody authorized us, nobody gave us the right, nobody gave us permission to hand over any part of Israel to anybody else” [Rabbi Gold, ‘Emergency Conference for the Security of the Nation of Israel in the Holy Land’, May 2016].

POLITICIANS & MEDIA CLAIM: The international community (Palestinians, politicians, media, academia …) holds an uninformed and confused view of the borders of Israel. So they frequently call for Israel to withdraw to the ‘pre-1967’ borders, as defined by the 1949 UN ‘Green line’. But these borders were only temporary, according to those who drew up the Green Line, and were never intended to be permanent. So the international community maintains, incorrectly, that Israel is building on ‘occupied land’, and it favours a two-state solution, involving a division of Israel.

THE LEGAL TRUTH: The actual legal position is in Israel’s favour. This article shows that Israel can legally occupy all territory west of the Jordan, including the West Bank. Let’s look at the most contentious issue first.

The Legal Borders of Israel Embrace the West Bank and Gaza

Israel is constantly accused of living on ‘occupied land’. The fact is, according to International Law this is a total misrepresentation of the legal status of Israel. The 1949 UN armistice borders (the ‘Green Line’) have never received international recognition and were not recognized by Arab states, which continued to refuse to recognize Israel:

The armistice agreements of 1949 … did not purport to establish definitive boundaries” [Prof Judge Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice]

The armistice lines were intended to be temporary … this, or course, was particularly true of Jerusalem. At no time … did I refer to East Jerusalem as occupied territory” [Arthur Goldberg (one drafter of UN Resolution 242)]

So all of western Palestine, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, including Gaza and all of Jerusalem remains legally open to Jewish settlement under the original 1922 British Mandate. International lawyers (see video) maintain that this right of settlement is protected by Article 80 of the UN Charter which recognizes the Trust (British Mandate) handed to it by the League of Nations. So Israeli settlers have as much right to live in the West Bank or Gaza as non-Jews. The Israeli Government follows this argument and denies that the occupation of the West Bank is illegal on the grounds that the land was not previously occupied lawfully by any other state. You cannot ‘occupy’ what was never legally owned!

LEGAL TIMELINE OF ISRAEL’S BORDERS

The following is a timeline of Israel’s land borders over the last 100 years. Emphasis is upon International Law as in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine (ratified by 51 members of the League of Nations), Article 80 of the 1945 UN Charter (which enshrines all obligations of the League of Nations), the 1949 UN ‘Green line’ and the 1967 UN Resolution 242.

The 1917 Balfour Declaration

A.J. Balfour (Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, British Foreign Office) stated:

His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people … it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.

Formally, this became known as ‘The Balfour Declaration’. Note that the rights of non-Jews was protected under this Declaration. It did not exclude them from whatever Jewish homeland was to be created.

The 1922 British Mandate for Palestine

The 1920 San Remo Peace Conference gave Britain a provisional ‘Mandate for Palestine’ based upon the Balfour declaration. In legal terms, ‘The Mandate for Palestine’ was ‘The Trust’ and Britain was the ‘Mandatory’ or ‘Trustee’. The primary objective of the Mandate was to grant political rights in respect to Palestine to the Jewish people. Initially the Mandate defined “Palestine” as spanning both west and east of the Jordan.

The Mandate implicitly denies Arab claims to national political rights … the mandated territory was in effect reserved to the Jewish people for their self-determination and political development
[ Prof. Eugene V. Rostow, Under-secretary of State to Lyndon Johnson and Professor Emeritus at Yale Law School ]

borders of Israel

Fig 2: The 1922 League of Nations sub-division
Image courtesy Eli E. Hertz

The British Mandate was formalized in September 1922 by the Council of the League of Nations. This body gave unanimous approval for a Jewish national homeland in Palestine. Article 25 of this Mandate enabled the Mandatory to change the terms of the Mandate in the territory east of the Jordan River, so, in order to please Arab allies, Britain activated this option and cut away 77% of the original mandated area for the Jews. This created a new country called Trans-Jordan (later called Jordan). But, even though this created a fourth Arab state east of the Jordan, the Arab communities wanted as little to do with the Mandate as possible.

The Mandated Borders

So the 1922 Mandate for Palestine redefined the boundary of Jewish Palestine as west of the river Jordan, Fig.2 (that said, it is interesting to note that the land allotted to the tribes of Israel during the millennial reign of Christ is all west of the Jordan (Ezek 48)). The reduced mandated area for a Jewish homeland included the Gaza strip and the Golan Heights, plus Judea and Samaria, today’s West Bank.

According to the final Mandate (Fig.2), the Jews could settle anywhere between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. To date, this is the last legally binding document regarding the West Bank and Gaza. The Mandate did not grant any national political rights to Arabs, but Article 2 of the Mandate did safeguard the civil and religious rights of all inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race or religion.

1946: Article 80 of the UN Charter

The League of Nations was dissolved and its assets and duties transferred to the United Nations (UN). So the Trust (the Mandate for Palestine) was transferred over to the UN, and today Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the Mandate. The chance to change Jewish rights (under Chapter 12 of the Charter) came between 1945 (the start of the UN Charter) and 1948 (the date the British Mandate expired). But since no intervening trusteeship agreement was made during this period, Jewish rights under the Mandate remained in force after 1948. In other words, today Article 80 reaffirms the 1922 Mandate and preserves the mandated rights of the Jewish people. This includes Article 6 of the Mandate which recognized the right of Jews to immigrate freely to the Land of Israel, and to establish settlements.
To summarize (see UN Article 80):

As a direct result of Article 80, the UN cannot transfer these rights over any part of Palestine, vested as they are in the Jewish People, to any non-Jewish entity, such as the ‘Palestinian Authority’.

Also in 1946, all Jewish ownership in the Golan was nullified by the new state of Syria.

The 1947 UN Partition

borders of Israel

Fig 3: The 1947 UN Partition Plan (not implemented) Enlarge

At this time nearly half the land of Palestine was owned by Arabs, nearly half was “Crown Lands”, and about 8% was owned by Jews. In 1947 a UN Special Commission on Palestine recommended that this area be divided equally, with open borders, into an Arab state and a Jewish state (Fig.3). Note that this plan referred to an “Arab” state, rather than to a “Palestinian” state (since there was no indigenous Palestinian people). Jerusalem was to be “internationalized”. The UN General Assembly adopted this plan on November 29, 1947 (UN Resolution GA 181). The Jews accepted the UN resolution but the Arabs rejected it.

On 30 Nov  and 1 Dec  1947 Arab riots broke out in Jerusalem and fighting and violence spread throughout the country. Arab Palestinians began leaving their homes to escape the violence. The Partition Plan was to replace the British Mandate, but since the plan was never implemented, the British Mandate still stands.

The 1948-49 War with Israel

On May 14 1948 the Jews proclaimed an independent State of Israel and the British withdrew from Palestine. On the same date, Britain, as Trustee for the 1922 Mandate turned over its responsibility to the UN and withdrew from Palestine. The Trust (or Mandate) was now totally in the hands of the UN.

As the Jewish State was born, five Arab armies (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq) immediately invaded Israel. At the end of the war, Israel held territory beyond the boundaries set by the UN Partition Plan (approximately 78% of the area west of the Jordan) and Jerusalem was divided between Jordan and Israel, Jordan holding East Jerusalem. Egypt held Gaza and Jordan held the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

The 1949 Green Line

After the war the Arab countries refused to sign a permanent peace treaty with Israel and so the UN arranged a series of ceasefires. Security Council Resolution 62 called for implementation of armistice agreements and as a result Israel’s borders were re-established along the so-called “Green Line”. This UN armistice line largely reflected the ceasefire lines of 1949  and as such represented interim borders for Israel, Fig.4.

The armistice agreements of 1949 expressly preserved the territorial claims of all parties and did not purport to establish definitive boundaries between them. [Prof. Judge Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice]

borders of Israel

Fig 4: Israel’s 1949 ‘Green Line’ Borders

At this point, Egypt held the Gaza strip, and Jordan retained control of Judea and Samaria (the ‘West Bank’), plus the Old City of (east) Jerusalem – so only as a result of war was Israel excluded from the West Bank and Gaza! These areas had never formally been allocated and so were strictly unallocated Palestine Mandate territory. Between 1949 and 1967 Jordan simply attempted illegal annexation of this newly gained territory. Note that the 1949 armistice borders were not recognized by Arab states, which continued to refuse to recognize Israel. So it is contradictory for Arab states to later state that these are ‘legal’ borders. As stated by the International Court of Justice, the 1949 Armistice Green Line was not intended to be Israel’s legal border (see also UN Resolution 242).

The 1967 6-Day War

In the Six-Day War of June 5–10, 1967, the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon (and later Iraq) attacked Israel. Their goal was “to wipe Israel off the map”. Israel defeated the attack even though the Arab armies had huge military superiority. After the war Israel held the Sinai, the Golan Heights, Gaza, the West Bank and all of Jerusalem. The area controlled by Israel after this war was now the same area allotted to Israel for Jewish settlement under the 1922 Palestine Mandate (Fig.2). In the wake of the Arab defeat an Arab summit held later that year formulated the Arab consensus (with the exception of Egypt): “no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with it.”

The 1967 UN Resolution 242

In November 1967 the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 242. This stipulated that the establishment of a just and lasting peace should include the application of two principles. First, it called for the:

Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict

Although the Arabs pushed for the clause to say “all the” territories, the Resolution deliberately did not say how much territory Israel had to give up. In fact, Israel withdrew from 91% of the territories when it gave up the Sinai, but kept the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The West Bank and East Jerusalem were ‘defined’ by the ‘green line’ (Fig.3), but it was clear at the time that the UN regarded the pre-1967 war boundaries as “artificial” and “temporary”:

It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial [ British Ambassador, drafter of Resolution 242 ]
The armistice lines of 1948 were intended to be temporary [ Arthur Goldberg, drafter of Resolution 242]

Resolution 242 also called for the:

termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.

To date the only ‘State in the area’ is the State of Israel and no ‘secure and recognised boundaries’ for Israel have been negotiated since 1967. The only legal boundaries of Israel are therefore those established under the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and now embedded in Article 80 of the UN Charter. Israel therefore has the legal right to all territories west of the Jordan, including the West Bank and Gaza (Fig.1). It can also be noted that the State of Israel has never been ‘free from threats’ from her Arab neighbours and ‘the sovereignty’ of the State of Israel has never been recognised by her Arab neighbours

From 1968 Onwards

The boundaries of Israel fluctuated. In 1988 Jordan formally renounced any claim to the lands that had been lost in the 1967 war i.e. West Bank and East Jerusalem.  And as a result of a 1994 peace treaty between Israel and Jordan, Israel had withdrawn troops from Gaza and most cities and towns of the West Bank by 1996.  Palestinians authorities took control. Then, in 2002, Israel reoccupied all of the West Bank following waves of Palestinian suicide attacks. Also, in response to Palestinian attacks, the IDF recaptured parts of the Gaza Strip in 2002-4, only to unilaterally disengage from Gaza a few years later.

A Two-State Solution is Unlikely – and Wrong!

Historically there have been several attempts at a two-state solution. The Peel and Woodhead commissions of 1937 and 1938 recommended partitioning Palestine into a small Jewish state and a large Arab state, and in 1947 UN Resolution GA 181 recommended that Palestine be divided equally into an Arab state and a Jewish state, Fig.2. The Arabs rejected both. Then, in 2012 UN General Assembly Resolution 67/19 upgraded Palestine to ‘non-member observer state’ status in the UN (like the Pope). In effect, this officially recognized a Palestinian State. But, legally, it is internationally recognized that the UN General Assembly can only recommend the establishment of a Palestinian State; it is up to States themselves to assert state-like-control over their territory and affairs.

Such an assertion is unlikely since the concept of two states conflicts with basic Islamic ideology as stated in the 1988 Hamas Charter against Israel. It states,

Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it … There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad.
[Hamas Charter, 1988]

The Charter goes on to promote the basic Hamas goal of destroying the Jewish State through Jihad and to replace it with an Islamic caliphate. According to the Charter, any type of peace negotiation and diplomatic end to the conflict stand in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement. Moreover, to date, no Hamas representative has ever renounced the charter, link. So, by definition, the Charter is incompatible with any two-state solution.

A final warning: From a biblical viewpoint, a ‘peace treaty’ with Israel does occur for a short time, but it is false and it deceives Israel (Dan 9.27). Also, those who attempt any political division of the land should heed God’s warning in Joel 3.2. More …

West Bank Settlements

Under the 1995 Oslo Accords II, the West Bank was divided into areas A, B, and C. Areas A and B tend to be relatively small and isolated regions within area C, see map. The Palestinian and Israeli authorities have different levels of control within these three areas. Area A is under full civil and security control of the Palestinian Authority, Area B is under full Palestinian civil control and joint Israeli-Palestinian security control, and Area C (62% of the West Bank) is under full Israeli control over security, planning and construction. Some 350,000 Jewish settlers live in the relatively lightly populated Area C, link.

Few UN member states view Israeli settlements as legal, but equally few interpret UN Resolution 242 as it was intended, namely, withdrawal from some but not all of the ‘occupied’ territories. So there is much legal debate and double-talk, link. For example, when the (UN-based) International Court of Justice maintained in 2004 that Israeli settlements were illegal it did not simultaneously maintain that the Green Line constituted Israel’s final, international borders!

The 1949 Geneva Convention

The argument over the legality of the settlements is based principally on interpretations of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. Article 49(6) states:

The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into territories it occupies“.

Such legal arguments rely upon the concept of “occupation of a legally owned land”. But as already discussed, the West Bank has never been formally allocated and so is strictly unallocated Palestine Mandate territory. You cannot ‘occupy’ land that has never been legally owned! Leading international law expert Julius Stone concurred. He asserted that Article 49 only relates to the invasion of sovereign states, a title the Palestinians never possessed, link. Also, according to the final Mandate (Fig.2), the Jews could settle anywhere between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. And that Mandate still stands under Article 80 of the UN Charter.

Conclusion on the Legal Borders of Israel

The 1949 armistice borders were not recognized by Arab states, which continued to refuse to recognize Israel, and the UN armistice borders have never received international recognition. So it is contradictory for Arab states to later state that these are ‘legal’ borders; the 1949 Armistice Green Line is not Israel’s Legal Border! All of western Palestine, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean, including Gaza and all of Jerusalem (as in Fig.2) remains legally open to Jewish settlement under the original British Mandate. International lawyers maintain that this right of settlement is protected by Article 80 of the UN Charter which recognizes the Trust (British Mandate) handed to it by the League of Nations.

Under international law, neither Jordan nor the Palestinian Arab people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have a substantial claim to the sovereign possession of the occupied territories. The West Bank should be considered ‘unallocated territory [ Prof. Eugene Rostow, Professor Emeritus at Yale Law School ]

So Israeli settlers have as much right to live in the West Bank or Gaza as non-Jews. The Israeli Government follows this argument and denies that the occupation of the West Bank is illegal on the grounds that the land was not previously occupied lawfully by any other state. Sadly, given the widespread misunderstanding of the true legal situation, the international community still cries ‘occupied territory’. It appears that the world prefers to ‘believe a lie’ (2 Thes 2.11).


Israeli Politics – Israel is a Democracy

Israeli politics

Israel is a Democracy: Summary

Israel is a western-style democracy where Israelis (citizens of Israel) from all ethnic groups and religious beliefs can participate in regular elections. So voters are Israeli citizens, irrespective of religion, and that includes the 21 percent Arab-Israelis. All votes cast are of equal weight. Perhaps partly because of this democratic freedom, 77 percent of Israeli Arabs prefer to live in Israel than elsewhere.

That said, some deny Israel is a true democracy by claiming that some Palestinians are denied political representation. And there remains the need to better integrate ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities. On the positive side, Israel is one of the few Middle East countries where women have the vote.

As in the UK, Israel is governed by a multiparty parliamentary system and the government is headed by the Prime Minister who is elected in nationwide elections for a period of four years. But, unlike the UK, Parliamentary seats are allotted using proportional representation (as in many European countries).

What is a Democracy?

Democracy can be defined as a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them through a system of representation. This is usually through periodically held free elections, where all votes cast have equal weight. That is the situation in Israel today. Israeli politics permits Israelis of all ethnic groups and religious beliefs, including Arab-Israelis, can actively participate in the election process. Democracy can have different forms, some parliamentary, some representative, others presidential. Like the UK government, the Israeli government is a parliamentary democracy.

Israel’s Democracy

Israel is a democracy

Early Political Structures: Israel’s democracy is rooted in the social and political structures of the people who first returned to Israel. These aliyah’s (immigrations) occurred in several waves, from 1882 to 1948. The first immigrants came from Eastern Europe, with the goal of political, national, and spiritual restoration of the Jewish people in Palestine. This Zionist agenda aimed to establish a Jewish state and formerly became a political organization in 1897 under Theodor Herzl.

By the end of the second Aliyah (1904-1914), immigrants had made a profound impact on the complexion and development of modern Jewish society. Most new immigrants were young people inspired by socialist ideals, and political parties were founded. The significant point is that the returning Jews brought with them their own social and political structures (different from those of the societies within which they lived) and these became the bedrock of Israeli democracy.

1948: A Democracy is Declared

On May 14, 1948, Israel declared the establishment of the State of Israel. So, on 15 May 1948 (i.e. once the British Mandate over Palestine had expired), the new State established her democratic principles, link:

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. [emphasis added]

Clearly, all the inhabitants of Israel, Arab and Jew, were to enjoy the benefits and freedoms of a democracy. Sadly, as soon as this fledgling democracy was declared, five Arab armies (Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq) invaded Israel, so starting Israel’s ‘War of Independence’.

Israeli Arabs Enjoy Israel’s Democracy

Israel is a democracy

In 2018, 70 years after the declaration of a democracy, the non-Jewish population in Israel stood at over 2 million, representing over 25% of the Israeli population, link. Over these 70 years, the Arab citizens of Israel have availed themselves of the open society that Israel created in 1948. According to polls, 77 percent of Israeli Arabs prefer to live in Israel while only 21 percent want to live in a Palestinian state, link. Why? Perhaps because they look at the incredible slaughter and chaos in the Middle East with millions of Arab refugees living in dire poverty.

Life Expectancy: Thanks to universal healthcare, Arab Israelis have the highest life expectancy in the Middle East when compared with the populations of 21 Muslim and Arab countries, [Taub Center for Social Policy Studies]. Arab life expectancy is 79 years, the same as in the United States, link. Overall, life expectancy in Israel is well above that of other Middle East countries, link.

Israeli Arab Satisfaction: According to a survey by the Israel Democracy Institute – Peace Index, most Arab Israelis (60.5%) described their personal situation as “good” or “very good” and 55% said they are “proud citizens” of the State of Israel. That said, the same survey found that over three-quarters of Arab Israelis do not believe that Israel has the right to define itself as a Jewish state.

Israeli Arabs in Authority: On a more formal level, non-Jews are a key fabric of Israeli society. There have been Israeli Arab members of the Knesset (Israel’s government) ever since the first Knesset elections in 1949, and as of 2018 there were 18 such members in the Knesset [Wikipedia]. Israeli Arabs also serve as Israeli ambassadors around the world and as generals in the Israeli army, link.

Democracy by Freedom

In comparison with other Middle Eastern countries, Israel represents ‘freedom’. Israel is the only Middle Eastern country to rate as “free”, according to a report by Freedom House, a top U.S.-based pro-democracy NGO. Ranking as “free” under Freedom House’s criteria requires “open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, freedom of expression, significant independent civic life, and independent media.” For “open political competition” read “democratic voting”.

So Who can Vote?

The term Israeli refers to a citizen of Israel. So we find for example Israeli Jews, Israeli Christians and Israeli Arabs (note that Israel prefers the designation ‘Israeli Arabs’ rather than ‘Israeli Palestinians’ perhaps because the latter might be seen as politically contradictory, link). Voting is a right granted to every Israeli citizen who has reached the age of 18 or older on election day. So Israelis of all ethnic groups and religious beliefs, including Arab-Israelis, actively participate in the process, and all votes cast are equal of equal weight, link. Also note that Israel is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote.

Voting itself takes place only in Israel, with the exception of diplomats, soldiers and sailors who are allowed to vote with absentee ballots, link.

Improving Israel’s Democracy

Not all is well with Israeli politics. As already mentioned, a fundamental characteristic of a democratic system is the free vote by the people. But in recent elections some claim that one in every 4.5 people (excluding Gaza) was denied political representation, and that one person was almost always Palestinian, link. Such claims lead some to see only a veneer of democracy in Israel, achieved by ethnically cleansing indigenous Palestinians from their homes. It is also claimed that democracy cannot be established exclusively by voting [Professor Zeev Sternhell]:

Democracy is tested every day in terms of human rights. All the rest is secondary, because you can easily, by casting a ballot, establish a dictatorial regime

Israeli Politics: The Israel Democracy Institute reforming democracy

 
The Israel Democracy Institute aims to address some of these concerns. For instance, it recognises:

  • the need to accommodate the great diversity in Israel’s society
  • the need to integrate ultra-Orthodox and Arab communities
  • the need to integrate Arabs into Israel’s workforce
  • the need to explore the tension between Judaism and human rights

These democratic objectives parallel the Old Testament injunctions to Israel to accommodate the stranger (non-Jew):

When a stranger resides with you in your land, you should do him no wrong … (he) … shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself
(Lev 19.33,34)

So non-Jews should be welcomed, but they must accept the existence and land-rights of national Israel. Sadly, this goal seems impossible to fully realize as long as the Palestinian leadership reject the State of Israel.

The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC) is another government initiative reaching out to non-Jews, link. Formed in 2004, it recognizes the contribution that Christians around the world are making to the security of the State of Israel and to the welfare of the Jewish people. The caucus aims to forge direct lines of communication between Knesset members and Christian leaders, organizations and political representatives in Israel in order to mobilize political support for Israel.

Israel’s Government Today

Israel is a democracy

The Knesset, Jerusalem. Image: James Emery, Douglasville, USA [CC BY 2.0], Wikimedia

As in the UK, Israel is governed by a multiparty parliamentary system. The government is headed by the Prime Minister, who is elected in nationwide elections for a period of four years. Israel also has an elected President, a largely apolitical ceremonial role, with the real executive power lying in the hands of the Prime Minister. The President of Israel is the elected head of the State; whereas, the Prime Minister is the appointed head of the government. The President selects the Prime Minister as the party leader most able to form a government, based on the number of parliament seats his or her coalition has won. After the President’s selection, the Prime Minister has forty-five days to form a government. There is also a judicial system with courts.

Israel’s Political Parties (post 2015 elections)

Israel’s Parliament (the Knesset) has legislative power and comprises 120 members who are elected for a term of four years in nationwide elections. The electoral system is based on nation-wide proportional representation i.e. the 120 Knesset seats are assigned in proportion to each party’s percentage of the total national vote. The 2015 elections gave the following results, link:

  • Likud, 30 seats (right-wing nationalist party, believing in the right of Jewish people to the land of Israel)
  • Zionist Union, 24 seats (labour party, generally supports concessions to the Palestinians)
  • Joint List, 13 seats (Israeli Arab interests and the Two State Solution)
  • Yesh Atid, 11 seats (center of Israeli society – the secular middle class)
  • Kulanu, 10 seats (focus is economic and cost-of-living issues)
  • The Jewish Home, 8 seats (right-wing religious party, supporting settlements)
  • Shas, 7 seats (the ultra-Orthodox religious party)
  • Yisrael Beiteinu, 6 seats (a nationalist party)
  • United Torah Judaism, 6 seats (non-Zionist, ultra-Orthodox party)
  • Meretz, 5 seats (left-wing Zionist, advocating Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank)

 

In 2015 the Likud party (leader Benjamin Netanyahu) picked up the most votes and formed the coalition government with the Jewish Home, United Torah Judaism, Kulanu, and Shas. Likud is right-wing and a nationalist party, initially inspired by the ideology of the revisionist Zionist leader, Zev Jabotinsky, link. For decades it has alternated in government with Labour (currently Zionist Union).


Whose Capital is Jerusalem?

Summary

who owns Jerusalem
Jerusalem at night from space.
Image: Randy Bresnik. Enlarge

Israel has a strong legal and historical case for claiming ownership of Jerusalem and for proclaiming Jerusalem to be the capital of the State of Israel. In contrast, the international view prefers a two-state solution, with Jerusalem the capital of both Israel and Palestine. This view is inconsistent with the fact that the word ‘Jerusalem’ is found 667 times in the Bible, but it is not even mentioned in the Quran! According to the Bible, Jerusalem is the LORD’s city and has a glorious future on this earth when Christ returns to live and reign from there as King. At that time, ‘light’ will go out to the nations from Jerusalem, through Christ, and the name of the city will be “THE LORD IS THERE” (Ezekiel 48.35).

Who Owns Jerusalem – Whose Capital is it?

Jerusalem is mentioned more than 600 times in the Hebrew Bible
– but not once in Islam’s Quran

Jerusalem is perhaps the most contested city in the world, and the question ‘Who owns Jerusalem?’ is much debated. Who’s capital is it? The international community (the UN, the US and the EU) maintains that Jerusalem should be the capital of two states: Israel and Palestine, link

Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 28 October 2009]
As far as the US government is concerned, Jerusalem is not a part of Israel [US Supreme Court, June 2015]

That said, things have changed under the new US government:

US President Donald Trump will recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital [US government, Dec 2017]

Whilst Congress approved an Embassy move in 1995, previous administrations have suspended it. Benjamin Netanyahu said that he would “love to see that (a move) happen”. But it would signal that the US is perhaps recognizing the importance of Jerusalem to Israel, and so could be destabilizing.

Clearly, there is confusion and political correctness in the western nations, and not even America or the UN can find a political solution to the Jerusalem problem. This impasse is foretold in end-time prophecy:

I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all the peoples; all who would heave it away will be cut in pieces (Zech 12.2,3)

In contrast to the western view, Israel argues that Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish State. Israel’s strong case is based on the historical connection of the Jews to Israel, Bible prophecy, and the actual legal position based upon the 1920 San Remo Resolution, the 1922 League of Nations Mandate, and Article 80 of the UN Charter. Consequently, Israel proclaimed Jerusalem to be her capital shortly after the declaration of the State of Israel in 1948:

Whereas with establishment of the State of Israel, Jerusalem once more becomes the capital
[ Knesset, 1950 ]

PART 1
The Status of Jerusalem in International Law

Let’s summarize the essential legal background concerning Jerusalem:

  • 1920: The San Remo Peace Conference gave Britain a provisional ‘Mandate for Palestine’ based upon the Balfour declaration
  • 1922: The British Mandate was formalized in September 1922 by the Council of the League of Nations. The revised Mandate for Palestine defined the boundary of Jewish Palestine as west of the river Jordan. That included Jerusalem and today’s ‘West Bank’. The mandated territory was in effect reserved to the Jewish people for their self-determination and political development [Prof. Eugene V. Rostow, Professor Emeritus at Yale Law School]
  • The 1949 Green Line divided Jerusalem

  • 1946: The League of Nations was dissolved and its assets and duties transferred to the United Nations (UN). So the Trust (the Mandate for Palestine) was transferred over to the UN, and UN Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the ‘Mandate for Palestine’ of the League of Nations. In other words, the UN implicitly reaffirmed the 1922 Mandate and Article 80 preserved the mandated rights of the Jewish people. Under the Mandate, Jerusalem cannot be divided and Jews still have the legal right to settle anywhere in Mandated land [Dr Jaques Gauthier, international human rights lawyer]. That includes all of Jerusalem!
  • 1947: The 1947 UN Resolution 181 called for Jerusalem to be an international city (‘corpus separatum’). But it never held any force under international law because it was rejected by the Arab side
  • 1949: UN Security Council Resolution 62 called for implementation of armistice agreements and as a result Israel’s “borders” were re-established along the so-called “Green Line”. This UN armistice line largely reflected the ceasefire lines of 1949. The Green Line divided Jerusalem. The entire Old City was in Jordanian territory, whilst the west of the city was within Israeli territory, link. Note that this division simply arose from the invasion of Israel by Arab armies.

The Red Herring of the Green Line

who owns Jerusalem

Jerusalem Old City. Image: Chmouel GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Today there are frequent International and Palestinian calls based on the 1967 UN Resolution 242 for Israel to withdraw from ‘occupied land’ and return to the ‘pre-1967’ borders – a reference to the 1949 Armistice Green Line which divided Jerusalem. Specifically, these so-called ‘borders’ of Israel did not embrace East Jerusalem. But such calls are inconsistent with the true legal position. Drafters of Resolution 242 made it quite clear that the 1949 Armistice Green Line is not Israel’s legal border:

  • The armistice lines of 1948 were intended to be temporary … this, or course, was particularly true of Jerusalem. At no time … did I refer to East Jerusalem as occupied territory [Arthur Goldberg, a drafter of UN Resolution 242]
  • It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial [Lord Caradon, British Ambassador, a drafter of UN resolution 242]
  • The armistice agreements of 1949 expressly preserved the territorial claims of all parties and did not purport to establish definitive boundaries between them [Prof. Judge Schwebel, former President of the International Court of Justice]

To re-iterate, Jordan occupied both East Jerusalem and the West Bank during the 1948-49 war and only gained these areas via war and the Green Line of the UN armistice. These areas had never formally been allocated to Jordan and so were strictly unallocated Palestine Mandate territory. Later, between 1949 and 1967 Jordan simply attempted illegal annexation of this newly gained territory, but then in 1988 Jordan formally renounced any claim to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Eminent legal scholars, such as Prof. Eugene Rostow therefore maintain that Israeli settlers have as much right to live in the West Bank (and therefore Jerusalem) as non-Jews. He states:

Under international law, neither Jordan nor the Palestinian Arab people of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip have a substantial claim to the sovereign possession of the occupied territories. The West Bank should be considered ‘unallocated territory’

The Israeli Government follows this argument and denies that the occupation of the West Bank (and East Jerusalem) is illegal on the grounds that the land was not previously occupied lawfully by any other state.

So on the question ‘Who owns Jerusalem?’ we have to go back to solid legal ground: the 1920 San Remo Resolution, the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine (ratified by 51 members of the League of Nations) and Article 80 of the UN Charter (which enshrines all obligations of the League of Nations), link. Essentially, these articles state that the Jewish homeland includes the Gaza strip and the Golan Heights, plus Judea and Samaria, today’s ‘West Bank’. After spending twenty years investigating the legal aspects of Jerusalem’s sovereignty, international human rights lawyer Dr Jacques Gautier concludes, link, link:

According to international law, Israel has a well-founded claim to sovereignty over Jerusalem, including its Old City …
rights have been granted to the Jewish people in respect to Jerusalem: that they’re entitled to have sovereignty here …
the rights vested in the Jewish people stand on very solid legal ground and are valid to this day
Under Article 80 and the 1922 Mandate, Jerusalem cannot be divided …
[Dr Jacques Gautier, author ‘Sovereignty over the Old City of Jerusalem’, link]

UN Resolutions have Zero Legal Meaning when it comes to Jerusalem

Can the UN change sovereignty? Legally, no! Gautier maintains that, under Article 80 and the 1922 Mandate, Jerusalem cannot be divided and that Jews still have the legal right to settle anywhere in mandated land (i.e. west of the Jordan). He states that “in international law, once the title to Palestine was given to the Jewish people, this cannot be nullified retroactively as a result of the introduction of new principles of international law several decades later”. So it is claimed that none of the UN resolutions passed since the San Remo Conference can renounce the Jewish claim to a united Jerusalem. The 1967 war and the strong Israeli measures for changing the reality on the ground in the direction of irreversible ‘ownership’ of Jerusalem have now brought the UN to a defensive mode of approach, hoping unsuccessfully to stop the Israeli claims, link.

PART 2
Historical Connections of Jews to Jerusalem

Jerusalem – God’s Dwelling Place: When the people of Israel were entering the land of Canaan they were told to locate a special place for worship – a place chosen by the God of Israel for an ‘earthly home’:

You shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. (Deut 12.5-6)

The location of God’s ‘earthly home’ is clearly stated in the Psalms:

For the Lord has chosen Zion (aka Jerusalem); He has desired it for His dwelling place: “This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Psalm 132.13-14)

So, according to the Bible, Jerusalem is the earthly dwelling place of the God of Israel and the place where He is to be worshiped, past, present and future.

The Name: The early name for Jerusalem (in Hebrew pronounced yer-oo-shaw-law-yimthe) is mentioned in the first book of the Jewish Torah (Gen 14.18), when Melchizedek was king of Salem. Salem (which is clearly linked to Zion or Jerusalem in Ps 76.2) is from a Hebrew word (pronounced shaw-lame) which came to mean peace. This text alone is highly significant: Melchizedek, whose name means ‘king of righteousness’, was a priest of ancient Jerusalem and a human type of Jesus Christ who will soon rule as righteous king from the future Jerusalem, a place of peace.

So here we have a strong Jewish link to Jerusalem, written c1445 BC, link, and well before other national claims to Jerusalem. In fact, historic Jerusalem is mentioned 809 times in the Bible, beginning with Joshua 10:1 and ending with Galatians 4:25, link, whilst it is claimed Jerusalem is not even mentioned in the Koran, link, link.

Mount Moriah: This provides another strong historical connection of the Jews to Jerusalem. Mount Moriah is an elongated ridge in Jerusalem’s Old City and the top of the Mount is near the Muslim Dome of the Rock, link. The bedrock here is where Abraham would have walked when he came up to sacrifice Isaac around 1800 BC (Gen 22). It is also believed to be the actual site of the altar of burnt offering in Solomon’s Temple. So historically, Mount Moriah in Jerusalem has been the place of Jewish sacrifice for some 2,000 years.

King David: Around 1405 BC, men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it (Judges 1.8), and King David conquered Jerusalem in 1052 BC (1 Chron 11.4-9). David built Jerusalem into a great city and capital of Israel (2 Sam 5.6-9) and he reigned there for 33 years. So Jerusalem has been the capital of the Jewish people for over 3000 years.

legal title to Jerusalem

A model of Herod’s Temple, Wikimedia Commons. Enlarge

The Temples: The historic links of Jerusalem with the people of Israel are further strengthened by the fact that the city has been the site of two Jewish temples. The first, Solomon’s Temple, was completed in 957 BC but destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 587/586 BC. It was restored (in inferior form) by exiled Jews who were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple and restoration was completed around 515 BC, link.

The Second Temple was modest in size until it, and the whole Temple Mount area, was enlarged by King Herod. It was in this enlarged Second Jewish Temple where Jesus threw out the money changers, and it was this enlarged temple that was destroyed by Titus in 70 AD. The traditional location of the First and Second Temples lies in the immediate vicinity of the present-day Dome of the Rock, link, and the Western Wall is the western retaining wall of King Herod’s expanded Temple Mount.

 

This wealth of Jewish history associated with Jerusalem has, on its own, led to the claim that the Jewish people have a right to their ancestral homeland and ancient capital city in Jerusalem. It is endorsed by the fact that the Jewish people never relinquished their historic claims to the area [Ernst Frankenstein, authority on international law, link, link]. In fact, the 1922 Palestine Mandate itself recognized the historical connections, stating:

recognition is thereby given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country, link

PART 3
World Views on Jerusalem

The Israeli Political Position

To understand Israel’s current position we need a brief review of past events:

1946: The League of Nations was dissolved and its assets and duties transferred to the United Nations (UN). So the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine was transferred over to the UN, and Article 80 of the UN Charter implicitly recognizes the Mandate for Palestine of the League of Nations. So the right of Jews to settle anywhere west of the Jordan was preserved, link. That included all of Jerusalem.

1948: When the British Mandate over Palestine expired on 14 May 1948, the Jewish People’s Council gathered in Tel Aviv to declare the establishment of the State of Israel. The official Declaration makes no mention of Jerusalem, although it foresees that Israel “will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions”. Note that the right of Jews to settle there was already embedded in Article 80 of the UN Charter. Immediately after the Declaration, five Arab armies invaded Israel and the end result in 1949 was a division of Jerusalem, with Jordan holding East Jerusalem.

1949: In December, Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion announced to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) that:

Jewish Jerusalem is an organic and inseparable part of the State of Israel … Israel could not even conceive that the United Nations would attempt to tear Jerusalem from the State of Israel

1950: After a vote in January, the Israeli Knesset proclaimed Jerusalem to be the capital of the new State of Israel, link. An amendment to include all of Jerusalem was defeated, and so Israel established government agencies in the western part of the city, link (at this time Jordan had gained control of East Jerusalem). This proclamation was based upon historical connections, Bible prophecy and the true legal position defined by the 1920 San Remo Resolution, the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine and Article 80 of the UN Charter (see fore-going discussion).

1967: In the June Six-Day War, Israel regained all of Jerusalem. She did not ‘annex East Jerusalem’ as is widely claimed, link. Israel merely took back mandated land that had been taken by war in 1948/49. Article 80 still stood, and so all of Jerusalem and the West Bank remained Palestine Mandate territory. From the point of view of Israeli law, it was held in a number of decisions of the Supreme Court that East Jerusalem had become a part of the State of Israel. In the opinion of the Government of Israel, Jordan never acquired sovereignty over the eastern part of the city since it took control of it in 1948 by an act of aggression, link. The walls and barriers separating the Israeli and Jordanian sections of Jerusalem were removed, and on 27th June the Knesset enacted legislation to put East Jerusalem under Israeli civil law, link.

1980: Given that all of Jerusalem was now under Israeli civil law, in July the Knesset passed the Basic Law-Jerusalem which restated Israel’s rights and obligations concerning the capital. It stated:

Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel. Jerusalem is the seat of the President of the State, the Knesset, the Government and the Supreme Court.

The Law also affirmed that the holy places of all religions be protected from desecration, free access to them be guaranteed. United Nations Security Council Resolution 478, adopted by 14 votes to none, with an abstention from the US, declared the law “null and void.” But, as argued above, UN Resolutions have zero legality when it comes to Jerusalem.

1993: In May, seventy representatives of World Jewry assembled in Jerusalem to sign The Jerusalem Covenant (see sidebar). This is a promise of faith made by the State of Israel to the city of Jerusalem. The covenant incorporates biblical passages as well as rabbinic texts that emphasize the importance of the connection to the city. The Covenant states:

the State of Israel is the State of the Jewish People and the Capital of Israel is the Capital of the People of Israel

2018: In January 2018 the Knesset approved an amendment to Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel that will raise the number of members of the Knesset (MKs) needed to give up Israeli sovereignty over any part of Jerusalem to 80, link. In other words, a special two-thirds majority vote in the Knesset is needed to relinquish any part of Jerusalem to the Palestinians under a future peace accord. Some claim this amendment is weak in that it can be changed with a 61-lawmaker majority, although the bill also canceled the article in the Basic Law that prohibits changing Jerusalem’s municipal borders.

Today: International convention maintains that a capital city is usually where a state’s central political institutions reside. While Tel Aviv is widely regarded as Israel’s economic and cultural center, Jerusalem is where the Israeli government resides. There we find the organs of political power, including the Knesset, Prime Minister’s Office, Cabinet offices, Foreign Ministry and most other government ministries. They are all located in Jerusalem, Israel’s declared capital city.

The Islamic Position

We will never accept a Palestinian state without Jerusalem as its capital [Palestinian leadership]

The facts are that Jerusalem has been a Jewish holy city since the days of King David, and the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem (the site of two Jewish Temples) is the holiest site in Judaism. But in 638 AD the Muslims captured Jerusalem from the Byzantines and built the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Jewish Temple. So is the Temple Mount an Islamic holy site too? How important is this site to the Muslim?

who owns Jerusalem

For some Muslims the Mount is widely considered to be the third holiest site in Islam. But why is it even the ‘third’? The word ‘Jerusalem’ is not even mentioned in the Quran, but it is mentioned 667 times in the Bible! And while Jews pray facing the Temple Mount, Muslims pray towards Mecca!

Islamic Lies: Today, the Muslims deny the 3,000 years of Jewish temple history and in latter years have tried to remove any evidence of the temples through excavation (the video shows what they have done). But archaeology disproves their claims. In 2019 a bulla (seal impression) and a 2,600-year-old stamp dating back to the First Temple and bearing Hebrew names were recently uncovered as part of the archaeological excavations of the Givati Parking Lot in the City of David National Park in Jerusalem. The dig was conducted by archaeologists from the Israel Antiquities Authority and Tel Aviv University, link.

The Western Political Position

As of 2017, Jerusalem was not recognized and no foreign country had an embassy in Jerusalem.

Under the 1947 United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, Jerusalem’s status was to be that of ‘corpus separatum’, inferring a ‘separate’ city with a special legal and political status due to its shared religious importance. The 1947 plan failed and today the international view prefers a two-state solution, with Jerusalem the capital of both Israel and Palestine, link:

Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine [UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 28 October 2009]

This view (which is also held by the EU, link) is based on the pre-1967 borders (when Israel did not hold East Jerusalem). The view of individual western countries also denies Israel’s ownership of Jerusalem. In 1994 the UK Government stated, “the British Government does not recognize Israeli sovereignty of any part of Jerusalem” [Malcolm Palmer, Private Secretary to the British Prime Minister]. And in answer to the question: “Is it the view of the United States that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel?“, the US State Department replied:

We are not going to prejudge the outcome of negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem
[Victoria Nuland, March 2012]

Just a few years later, the US hardened its position, link:

As far as the US government is concerned, Jerusalem is not a part of Israel [US Supreme Court, June 2015]

Clearly, there is confusion and political correctness in the western nations, and not even America or the UN can find a political solution to the Jerusalem problem. This scenario is foretold in end-time prophecy:

I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all the peoples; all who would heave it away will be cut in pieces
(Zech 12.2,3)

The Official Church Position – Vatican Claims on Jerusalem

Although the World Council of Churches (WCC) supports the numerous UN Resolutions against Israel, the prime mover for the church is the Vatican. The Vatican has held decade-long talks on a comprehensive land deal between Israel and the Vatican. In particular, the Vatican wants Israel to relinquish sovereignty over the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, Mount Zion and the Mount of Olives, link. It is claimed:

  • the site known as King David’s Tomb is one of the Vatican’s prime targets. Jesus’ Last Supper and the Tomb of David are traditionally associated with the Cenacle on Mount Zion (located just a few minutes walk from Zion Gate, link). The Vatican wants this to become open to Catholic worship, link
  • the Vatican has long lobbied to build a new church in a section of the Caesaria National Park where a church dedicated to St. Paul once stood
  • there is written proof (actual documentation published by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs) that the Vatican fully intends to build the 3rd Jewish Temple, link

These claims align well with prophecy that the end-time world dictator (Rev 13.1-17) will take his seat in the temple of God (2 Thes 2.4, Dan 9.27). The great reformers saw the papacy as the Antichrist (Rev 13.11-18) who requests worship of the world dictator.

Global Support for a United Jerusalem

On May 26, 2017 a historic initiative bearing over 500,000 signatures from 168 countries was presented to US President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat. This modern ‘Jerusalem Declaration,’ was a historic book containing the names of over 500,000 individuals from around the world who recognize Jerusalem as both the eternal capital of the Jewish People and the undivided capital of the State of Israel, link. The Declaration stands for keeping Jerusalem united under permanent Israeli control.

PART 4
The Biblical View on Jerusalem

Today the nations rage over Jerusalem and it is time for God’s people to pray!

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, “Peace be within you.” Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your good. (Psalm 122.6-9)

Praying for peace over all dwelling in Jerusalem, God’s holy city, also benefits those who pray.

The Bible is quite clear – Jerusalem is the city of the Jews and the city of the God of Israel. The following scriptures clearly map the future for Jerusalem:

Thus says the LORD, I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth … for the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem
(Zech 8.3, Isa 2.3)
 
For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest … you shall be called Hephzibah … for the LORD delights in you
(Isa 62.1,4)
 
And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem
(Zech 2.12)

These scriptures point to the future reign of Christ as King from Jerusalem, and this is clearly prophesied in Psalm 48:

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the great King

Jesus referred to this scripture when He said:

I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King (Mat 5.35)

Recall that Zion was originally a Jebusite stronghold located in or near Jerusalem, link. Biblically, Zion refers to ancient Jerusalem – the City of David (2 Sam 5.7), or to the present-day Old City of Jerusalem, or to the future earthly Jerusalem, or to the future, eternal, symbolic Jerusalem (Heb 12.22). So these prophecies clearly show that present-day Jerusalem has just ONE owner – the God of Israel; He ‘delights’ in her, He ‘chooses her’, He will ‘dwell there’ and He will ‘reign as King from there’. The nations should take note: God commands them to be silent over these matters (Zech 2.13).

Summary

Despite the world’s claims on Jerusalem, the biblical truth still stands:
Jerusalem is the LORD’s city and has a glorious future on this earth when Christ returns to live and reign from there as King. See Jerusalem’s Future

The Restoration of Israel – Zionism

Summary

In general terms, Zionism refers to the national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland (the process of aliyah) and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel. But Zionism means different things to different people. “Political Zionism” has a purely secular objective. Whilst “Zionist Jews” (Mainstream Orthodox Jews) are not political, they support the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. They see the formation of the Jewish State of Israel as accelerating the process of redemption, with themselves playing a major role in doing God’s will by serving the state. They see Zionism as the idea that Jews can self-determine in the land of Israel before Moshiach (the Messiah) arrives.

Some Jews are “religious Zionists” in that they accept the Zionist concept of a homeland for the Jews, but pay little heed to the State of Israel (which they see as secular, even blasphemous). These “anti-Zionist Jews”, as in ultra-orthodox Jews, reject modern Zionism and the State of Israel on the grounds that only God could restore Israel. So they await their Moshiach to restore Israel, whilst opposing the modern hi-tech State of Israel. These are anti-Zionist i.e. anti-State Jews, link.

As with Jews, the Christian response to Zionism is mixed. Some see no prophetic future for national Israel (Replacement Theology), whilst others support the Zionist cause, as in the return of the Jewish people to their biblical homeland in Israel (Christian Zionism). The latter believe that, according to direct interpretation of Bible prophecy, scattered Israel (Jews in the broadest sense) must return to her Promised Land (Canaan) before Jesus returns to Earth as King, link. They see modern Israel as the outworking of the Abrahamic Covenant.

See also Meaning of ‘Zion’

Political Zionism

Zionism

Lawyer and writer Theodor Herzl, 1860-1904 (pictured) is credited as being the ‘father’ of Zionism. More accurately, he was the father of political Zionism since he was a secular, non-Hebrew speaking, cosmopolitan intellectual who proposed a secular/political solution to the Jewish problem. So at the outset, Zionism had strong secular roots since Herzl himself did not believe in or practice the Torah.

Antisemitism in Europe convinced Herzl that the Jewish problem needed a national and political solution and that Jews needed their own Jewish state. In 1896 he published “Judenstaat” (“The Jewish State“) and he convened the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland in 1897. He later claimed, link:

At Basle, I founded the Jewish State … Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will realize it

Zionism

Immigration to Israel: The Palmach, PikiWiki Israel. Enlarge

At this time it appears that he did not have Palestine primarily in mind, proposing in 1903 that the Jews settle in the British territory of Uganda. Herzl refused to accept that Palestine alone must be the Zionist goal. But many eastern European Jews would not accept any homeland other than the land of Zion (in fact, the term itself comes from the hill Zion on which the Temple of Jerusalem was situated). They saw the solution to antisemitism in a return to Jewish ‘roots’ and in a renewal of a Jewish people in the land of their ancestors. So Herzl eventually came to appreciate that the creation of such a Jewish state could be feasible only in Palestine, the traditional homeland of the Jewish people. This birthed ‘political’ Zionism.

Summary: Political Zionism could be defined as:

The national movement for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty (leading to statehood) in the Land of Israel

Such a purely political objective was immediately opposed by the Rabbinic Leadership of that time since they favoured what some now call Religious Zionism. On the other hand, it is claimed that Mainstream Orthodox Judaism is definitely Zionist in some form or other, link. The Celebrate Israel parade reflects this support amongst Jews for the State of Israel.

Religious Zionism (Anti-Zionist Jews)

Orthodox Jews. Yoel Schmidt (Hashkafah.com), GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (Wikimedia Commons). Enlarge

At the time of the 1897 Basle Congress, many Orthodox Jews completely rejected any Jewish political movement, and for many years political Zionism excluded the whole religious establishment, link. Orthodox Jews played no important role in politics except in pressuring successive governments to introduce more Jewish religious regulations into state law. Today, some Orthodox Jews (like Neturei Karta Jews), and ultra-Orthodox Jews (or Haredim) do not recognize the State of Israel. These Jews argue that “Jews are NOT Zionists” and “Judaism is NOT Zionism”. Not surprisingly, for many years these anti-Zionist Jews were exempt from military service (although recent Israeli law has abolished blanket military exemption, link).

Jewish opposition to political Zionism can be understandable. Some rabbis oppose the secular drive to establish a Jewish state and Jewish government on the grounds that it seeks to change the essence of Judaism and substitute chauvinism and militarism and loyalty to the Zionist state for the lofty and unchangeable principles of the Jewish faith, link, link. They argue:

According to the Jewish faith and Torah Law the Jewish people are forbidden to have their own state while awaiting the Messianic Era.

So for example, Neturei Karta Jews oppose the State of Israel not because it operates in a secular way, but because the entire concept of a sovereign Jewish state is contrary to Jewish Law, link. Over the years, many rabbis have opposed the State of Israel, see Rabbinic Quotations.

These anti-Zionist Jews argue that the Jewish redemption will come only with the coming of the Moshiach (the Messiah), and that the establishment of the Zionist state before that time is heretical and blasphemous, link. Such Jews are also critical of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians. Ultra-Orthodox Jews are predicted to make up the majority of British Jews over time, link.

Certainly, from a biblical viewpoint it is clear that the Jewish nation and the land given to the nation (Canaan) was solely the work of God and not the work of the politicians of the day:

The Lord said to Abram (Abraham) … I will make you a great nation … and in you all the families of the earth shall be a blessed
(Gen 12.1-3)
Also I give to you and your descendants … all the land of Canaan (modern Israel) as an everlasting possession
(Gen 17.8)

So, logically, some argue that the last days restoration of the Jewish nation must also be the work of God alone.

But surely God can use secular means, as in political Zionism, to achieve His will? Isn’t what we see today in aliyah, Jewish nationalism and the amazing restoration of the land actually an out-working of God’s unconditional and eternal Covenant with Abraham, link?

The Balfour Declaration – Jews and Gentiles work Together

The mid-late 19th century saw a great move of God amongst leading Protestants and Jews. Protestant leaders like Bishop J.C. Ryle and Charles Spurgeon taught about the restoration of Jews to their biblical homeland, as seen in Bible prophecy. As Bible scholars, they longed for the Second Coming of Christ, but they realized from prophecy that before that can happen the Jews must be drawn back ‘home’. Such Christian teaching greatly influenced the British Government of the time. As already discussed, around the same time, Theodor Herzel (an Austrian Jewish journalist) saw the antisemitism around him and the need for a Jewish State. So with the help of his friend Rev W. Hechler (an Anglican clergyman, crusader against antisemitism, and follower of Ryle and Spurgeon), they birthed ‘political’ Zionism. Because of his Christian beliefs, Hechler was one of the first so-called ‘Christian Zionists’ (see later).

The early 20th century saw more Jew-Gentile collaboration. Chaim Weizmann (a Jew and biochemist) came to England in 1904 and soon became a leader among British Zionists. In January 1906 Weizmann met Arthur Balfour (pictured), a UK politician and former Prime Minister, and persuaded him to look to Jerusalem for the Jewish capital and to Palestine for the Jewish homeland. Being an evangelical Christian, Balfour found the spiritual side of Zionism appealing. But he took no political steps in this direction until 1917, when he was British Foreign Secretary under British Prime Minister David Lloyd George. Lloyd George, who had an evangelical upbringing, made the decision to publicly support Zionism. No doubt this was backed by most of the war cabinet in 1917 since most were evangelical Christians! That said, it seems there were also political motives. Lloyd George saw that British dominance in Palestine (a land bridge between the crucial territories of India and Egypt) was as an essential post-war goal.

The Letter: Prompted by government support and Zionist leaders like Weizmann, Balfour wrote a public letter to Lord Rothschild, a prominent Zionist and a friend of Chaim Weizmann. Rothschild was head of the English branch of the Jewish banking family. This historic letter became known as the Balfour Declaration. It reads:

His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country [November 2, 1917]

This letter laid the foundations for the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine.

The Out-working of Zionism

Whilst Christians claim the universal blessing came through Christ, by then, God’s flagship nation and chief witness had mostly lost her identity amongst the nations. Israel was scattered in disgrace and some maintain that the New Testament Church has now replaced Israel as God’s witness (replacement theology). But since God gave Abraham an unconditional covenant, then national Israel must one day fulfill her role as God’s witness and return to the Promised Land (this is also required by other key prophecies). In fact, God did not destroy national Israel – He simply gave her a ‘writ of divorce’ (see for example Jer 3.8) – and there are many prophecies of the ingathering of national Israel and her ‘remarriage’ to her God. For example:

Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone … and bring them into their own land (Ezek 37.21)
I will say to the north,’Give them up! … bring My sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth’ (Isa 43.6)
And (the Lord) will lift up a standard for the nations, and assemble the banished ones of Israel, and will gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isa 11.12)

These prophecies have seen recent fulfillment as the concept of Zionism and the in-gathering and restoration of Israel started in the late 19th century.

Some Restoration Facts

  • 1882: First wave of emigration (first ‘Aliyah’ or ascent) to Palestine, particularly from Russia and Romania
  • 1897: Theodor Herzel convened the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland
  • 1917: General Allenby liberated Jerusalem from the Turks, giving Jews access to the city
  • 1948: State of Israel established; David Ben Gurion became the first Prime Minister
  • 1950: Law of return passed by Israel’s Parliament – opening Israel to Jews from over 60 countries
  • 1967: All of Jerusalem came under Jewish rule
  • Jewish population: 1915: 0.08m; 1945: 0.55m; 1967: 2.4m; 2005: 5.3m; 2016: 6.4m or 75% of the population; link

Note that 1917 saw Jerusalem liberated from Gentile control after some 2500 years, link. This was the start of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy:

Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled (Lk 21.24)

Jerusalem then came under the 1922 British Mandate for Palestine, and after the 1967 six-day war all of Jerusalem returned to the total control of national Israel. Many see this as the fulfillment of Lk 21.24.

Today, the goal of a State of Israel has been achieved, but the Aliyah continues. For example, to date, some 130,000 Ethiopian Jews have migrated to Israel, with more to come, link. Also, a tribe called the Bnei Menashe in India has maintained their Jewish roots and believe they belong to the lost 10 tribes. In 2014 some 7,000 returned to their ancient homeland. And the role of Zionist organizations like the Jewish Agency & WZO continue to oversee aliyah, immigration, settlement and education.

Christian Zionism

Zionism

The Star of David – probably the best known of Jewish symbols

Christian Zionism is based upon God’s Covenant with Abraham and so can be defined as Christian support for the Zionist cause, as in the return (aliyah) of the Jewish people to their biblical homeland in Israel. These Christians believe that, according to direct interpretation of Bible prophecy, scattered Israel (Jews in the broadest sense) must return to her Promised Land (Canaan) before Jesus returns to Earth as king. They believe there remains a national destiny over the Jewish people and her national homeland is her everlasting possession in fulfillment of God’s plans and purposes for her, link. They hold to dispensational theology (fostered by John Darby) and believe that the Jewish people have a crucial role to play in the end time confrontation between good and evil (Armageddon) and in the return of Christ. Christian Zionists also recognize the fundamental Jewish foundation of Christianity, without which there would be no Christianity.

Such belief motivates Christian Zionists to provide political and financial support to Israel and Jewish causes. Zionists represent a powerful political force in America and often oppose a two-state Israeli-Palestinian solution since they see it as unbiblical. Sadly, many Jews are uncomfortable with Christian Zionism and perceive it as an opportunity for evangelical proselytizing!

God’s Covenant with Abraham does not of course mention a latter-day ‘Jewish state’ or ‘Jewish government’ as seen by ‘political’ Zionism; prophecy simply describes the return of scattered Israel to her homeland. Nevertheless, the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 is seen by Christian Zionists as fulfillment of God’s Covenant with Abraham, link. This fundamentalist interpretation of Bible prophecy puts Christian Zionism in a bad light with the institutionalized church, with academia and with the media. It is seen as a gross misreading of the Bible, as ignoring the plight of the Palestinians, and as uncritical support for Israeli politics, link. Such Christian anti-Zionist views lead to church boycotts of Israel.

The Meaning of ‘Zion’ in the Bible

Zionism

Mt Zion. Image: Wikimedia. Enlarge

The word ‘Zion’ (Heb: tsiyon) occurs over 150 times in the Bible. It first appears in 2 Sam 5.6,7 where the term refers to the Jebusite fortress or stronghold in Jerusalem captured by David. It was then renamed the ‘City of David’. So Zion is synonymous with Jerusalem and the City of David and it is generally agreed that it was located on the long eastern ridge (running north-south) of present-day Jerusalem, link. It is interesting that the ‘elevation’ of Zion is actually referred to in Ps 2.6 and Ps 48.2. Later, when Solomon built the Temple in Jerusalem, ‘Zion’ expanded in meaning to include the Temple and the area surrounding it. So Mt. Zion is synonymous with Mt. Moriah, the site of the Temple, a mountain of Jerusalem, link.

Whilst Zion generally refers to the city of Jerusalem, it is also used in scripture to refer to the land or cities of Judah (Isa 40.9 Ps 137.1-4) and to God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel (Isa 51.16 Zech 9.13). The following prophecy was fulfilled when the State of Israel was established on May 14, 1948:

Shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor she gave birth to her children (Isa 66.8)

Prophecy shows that Zion (Jerusalem) becomes of prime importance in the millennial age because Christ reigns as King from there:

For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place (Ps 132.13) … And I will make the place of My feet glorious … and they shall call you The City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel (Isa 60.13,14)

Looking even further into the future, Zion also refers to the future heavenly Jerusalem, a ‘city’ which embraces all the saved of mankind:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12.22)

You Need to Watch this Video

The following video highlights the restoration of Israel (her ingathering from the nations), the recent persecution of the Jews, the making of a nation from nothing, the revival of the Hebrew language (formerly a dead language), the making of a democracy in the Middle East, the benefits of modern Israel to the world, the hatred of the world towards Israel, and the eventual recognition of the Jewish people by the Gentile nations.


Religion and State in Israel

Is the State of Israel Secular or Jewish?

Summary

There is to be a political restoration of the Jews … There will be a native government again; there
will again be the form of a political body; a state shall be incorporated …
[Charles Spurgeon, Sermon on Ezekiel 37:1-10, 1864]

The State of Israel was declared on May 14, 1948. The Declaration did not claim a “Jewish state” but rather a secular Western-style democratic state embracing all its current inhabitants. But since the Declaration also specifically welcomed Jewish immigrants, many concluded the state had deep religious significance – a homeland for the Jewish people as promised in the Jewish scriptures (Zionism). So some Jews and Christians claimed that the creation of the State of Israel was “of God”.

In 2018 Israel’s position on this was clarified by the passing of a new Basic Law – the Nation-state Law. This formally declared that Israel was a Jewish state. Many followers of Jesus (Yeshua) saw this as partial fulfillment of prophecy, for-shadowing the Millennial reign of Christ. Others, including ultra-orthodox Jews and the institutionalized churches, disagreed. They claimed the creation of the State of Israel was “of man” and that this new Basic Law should be repealed.

To go deeper we need to look at the formal Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, link. To quote:

State of Israel THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. [Israeli Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948]

Note that there is no specific mention of, or reference to “the God of Israel”, or to a “Jewish state”. The Declaration is like any Western democratic state in that it guarantees freedom of all religions. So in 1948 Israel was declared a secular democracy where Judaism was privileged (in the sense that it was open for Jewish immigration), link.

Although the Balfour Declaration of 1917 “viewed with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” (implying a Jewish state), Israel’s 1948 Declaration omitted any specific mention of a Jewish state. Formally, Israel was declared a secular democracy.

The 2018 Nation-state Law

In July 2018 Israel passed a new Basic Law (Basic Laws are the constitutional laws of the State of Israel). It was called: ISRAEL – THE NATION STATE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE and includes the following statements, link:

  • The Land of Israel is the historical homeland of the Jewish people
  • The State of Israel is the nation state of the Jewish People, in which it realizes its natural, cultural, religious and historical right to self-determination
  • The State shall be open for Jewish immigration, and for the Ingathering of the Exiles
  • Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel
  • Hebrew is the State language
  • The Hebrew calendar is an official calendar of the State
  • The Sabbath and the Jewish holidays are the established days of rest in the State

Clearly, the new law makes the State of Israel very “Jewish”. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the law as “a pivotal moment in the annals of Zionism and the State of Israel.” He went on:

We enshrined in law the basic principle of our existence. Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people, that respects the individual rights of all its citizens … This is our state — the Jewish state. In recent years there have been some who have attempted to put this in doubt, to undercut the core of our being. Today we made it law … [emphasis added]

So, as from July 2018, Israel was formally declared “a Jewish state“, whilst at the same time maintaining the right of all Israeli residents to preserve their heritage without consideration of religion and nationality, link.

In the Israeli democracy, we will continue to protect the rights of both the individual and the group, this is guaranteed. But the majority have rights too, and the majority rules … This combination of individual rights and group rights are the definition of a Jewish and democratic state. [Benjamin Netanyahu, July 2018]

The Jewish State of Israel: is it of Man, or of God?

What does the Church think?

The position of the church is not well-defined:

The State of Israel plays a complicated role in the relations between the Catholic Church and Judaism, between the church and the United States, and between different elements within the church itself [Commonwealmagazine, May 2018]

As an example, Pope Francis expressed grave concern about the decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, link. Clearly, he was not comfortable at recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

The 2018 Nation-state Law appeared to harden the church response to the state. The new law was opposed by institutionalized churches who demand it to be repealed, link. Bishops and archbishops of the Roman Catholic, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic and Greek Melkite churches said in a joint statement:

Our faithful, the Christians, our fellow citizens, Muslim, Druze and Baha’i, all of us who are Arabs, are no less citizens of this country than our Jewish brothers and sisters … Christians, Muslims, Druze, Baha’i and Jews demand to be treated as equal citizens

Clearly, these churches do not regard the declaration of the Jewish state to be “of God”. That said, it should be noted that the Nation-state Law includes “the right of all Israeli residents to preserve their heritage without consideration of religion and nationality”.

What do Jews think?

Political Zionism: Modern Israel springs from both political and religious sources.

In 1897 Theodor Herzel convened the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. The Congress dealt with ways for implementing the goals of Zionism – the movement to restore Israel as a nation in her own land and to create a Jewish state. More accurately, Herzel was the father of political (non-religious) Zionism since he was a secular, non-Hebrew speaking, cosmopolitan intellectual who did not believe in or practice the Torah. He proposed a secular/political solution to the Jewish problem of anti-Semitism and Jewish secular identity. So, as far as political Zionism was concerned, the creation of a Jewish state had a purely secular objective and was not religious. This vision of a Jewish state was “of man”.

But now that the State of Israel has been established, some claim the major goal of Zionism today is to build the spiritual center, link. In other words, some Jews claim there is an important religious aspect to the State of Israel. For example, those who wish to preserve their Jewish identity and raise their children as Jews should learn Hebrew.

Messianic Jews

Jews at the Western Wall, Pixabay

Religious Zionism: So today many Jews hold a biblical view of Zionism. After all, the biblical promises of a land for the Jews and a return to the Temple in Jerusalem were enshrined in Judaism. These “Zionist Jews” (Mainstream Orthodox Jews) are not political, although they support the establishment of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel. They see the formation of the Jewish state of Israel as accelerating the process of redemption, with themselves playing a major role in doing God’s will by serving the state. They see Zionism as the idea that Jews can self-determine in the land of Israel before Moshiach (their Messiah) arrives. In this sense, these Jews might see the State of Israel as “of man”, but aiding God’s plans.

Jewish Opposition to the State of Israel: Some Jews (12% of Israel’s population in 2017) are “religious Zionists” in that they accept the Zionist concept of a homeland for the Jews, but pay little heed to the modern State of Israel (which they see as secular, even blasphemous). The anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodox groups Neturei Karta and Satmar Hasidism reject modern Zionism and the State of Israel on the grounds that only God could restore Israel. So they await their Moshiach to restore Israel, whilst opposing the modern hi-tech State of Israel. These are anti-Zionist i.e. anti-State Jews, link. To these Jews, the State of Israel is vigorously opposed and definitely “of man”.

Zionism and Israel’s Government: With the exception of ultra-Orthodox Jews, Zionists generally agree that the State of Israel should exist, but disagree on what Israel’s government should look like. The Zionist left prefers a secular government and is inclined to trade Israeli-controlled land for peace with Arab nations. The Zionist right tends to be more skeptical of “land-for-peace” deals and is more comfortable mixing religion and politics. Recent events, as in the 2018 Nation-state Law, imply that the modern State of Israel is looking to its Jewish heritage and the biblical promises in the Jewish scriptures. In this sense, many Jews might see the State of Israel as “of God”.

The Jewish State: What does the Bible say?

Bible scholars note that Israel, the modern nation, was literally ‘born in a day’, as prophesied in the Bible. The date: May 14, 1948.

Who has ever seen anything as strange as this? Who ever heard of such a thing? Has a nation ever been born in a single day? (Isa 66.8, NLT)

If May 14, 1948 really was a literal fulfillment of this prophecy, it seems fair to claim that God planned the modern State of Israel i.e. it is “of God”. Recent fulfilled prophecy provides overwhelming evidence to underscore this claim. For example, within just 100 years the Jewish population of Israel has risen an amazing 7,700 percent. Why? It is a fulfillment of prophecies which say that God will take His people from all the nations and bring them back into their own land (as promised to Abraham):

Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone … and bring them into their own land (Ezekiel 37.21)

Through aliyah God was (and still is) redeeming His chosen nation:

And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name … (2 Samuel 7.23, emphasis added)

Such a rapid and large influx of people with a common identity and vision (as provided in Judaism) required a governmental framework with laws. This came to fruition in May 1948. Although secular in declaration, the democratic State of Israel appears to be an ordered mechanism for the fulfillment of prophecy.

In the prophetic sense it is logical to conclude that the State of Israel is “of God”. But note that it is only a step towards God’s kingdom upon earth. According to the dispensational view of prophecy, this important but human form of government will soon be replaced by the theocratic rule of Christ in the millennium.

The State of Israel – First of TWO Steps

The Declaration of the State of Israel in 1948 was the first and necessary step towards the establishment of Christ’s Kingdom upon earth. Although essentially secular, the state is needed for several reasons:

  • to encourage the Jews to come from out of the nations and immigrate to their own land. To quote the Declaration: “THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles”. As of 2018, Israel’s 6.5 million Jews accounted for 44.5% of Jews worldwide, link. This immigration is a literal fulfillment of God’s land covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:7,8)
  • A Jewish state has to exist in order for Israel to sign a (false) seven-year covenant with the coming world dictator (Dan 9:27a). It soon transpires that Israel has made “a covenant with death” (Isa 28:15) and great tribulation follows

The Great Tribulation: Once the Jews have been regathered in unbelief, the world dictator breaks his covenant and starts to persecute them (Dan 9:27b). Some see Dan 11:35-45 and especially Mat 24:15-22 to be descriptions of the invasion of Israel by the world dictator. Ezekiel explains that this persecution is to refine them:

I will bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered, with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm and with wrath poured out; and I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples, and there I will enter into judgment with you … I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me … Thus you will know that I am the Lord. (Ezek 20:34-38)

The point here is that the Jews are regathered in unbelief. Today, apart from a small percentage of Messianic Jews, most Jews in Israel do not recognize Yeshua as their promised Messiah (Heb: Mashiach). Ezekiel, and Zephaniah (2:1-2) makes it clear that regathering is prior to God’s judgments. It is only through the great tribulation judgments (Mat 24:15-22) that the regathered Jews are purged of rebels. Just one third come through the ‘fire’ and are refined as silver (Zech 13:9). Only when under great tribulation do the regathered Jews look upon Yeshua who they pierced, and mourn for Him (Zech 12:10-14).

It is this refined remnant who enter the second and final step towards the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ on earth. They enter the Millennial age to serve Yeshua as their King and be His witness to the world (Isa 66:19).