Of course, many in the West see all this Islamist rhetoric as mere posturing, that eventually when conditions are right Realpolitik will kick in and a lasting peace agreement reached. But it is far from empty rhetoric. Hamas openly declares it is in for the long haul, pointing out how Muslims succeeded in removing the Crusaders from their holy land, albeit over several centuries. Hamas’ strategy today is exactly the same, a long, slow war of attrition aimed at a piecemeal reclamation of the land and Israel’s eventual disappearance. This is why Hamas will only ever consider a temporary truce with Israel and refuses point-blank to discuss a final peace settlement, which would clash with its very raison d’etre. (At least Hamas and Ahmadinejad have the honesty to state their ambitions clearly and unequivocally, unlike some of Israel’s other enemies, notably militants within Fatah.) As such, peace settlements with such organisationsÃ‚ are impossible.
"How could the disappearance of Israel possibly occur," I hear some of you say. "Israel is a powerful regional superpower boasting a large army and nuclear weapons. There is simply no way she will ignore threats to her very existence, roll over, and give up" . Indeed.Ã‚ But sadly a sixty year war of attrition is beginning to take its toll. Many Israelis long for peace and will give almost anything to secure it. The problem is, this is perceived as a weakness ripe for exploitation by her enemies. Thus, a piecemeal process of national deconstruction is arguably underway already.
It goes something like this. You begin by withdrawing from Southern Lebanon before the conditions are right to do so, which in turn strengthens Hezbollah (its claim of victory has strengthened the organisation no end and made it a kingpin of Lebanese politics). In turn, Hezbollah’s new found cockiness leads to a cross-border attack on an Israeli patrol, resulting in last year’s Israel-Lebanon war, which exposed Israel’s current inability to deal effectively with asymmetrical and propaganda warfare. Many Israelis’ desire for peace whatever the cost intensifies, and the pressure is on for an embattled and weak Israeli Prime Minister Olmert to discuss giving up large sections of the West Bank. Add to this a withdrawal from Gaza, which Hamas claims as a military victory and then uses the territory as a springboard for near-daily attacks on Israel proper. In time, a tired, corrupt, and ineffective Fatah movement loses control of Gaza and flees to the West Bank, leaving Gaza to full Hamas control. Thus Israel finds herself under threat along three fronts: Hamas in Gaza to the West, Hezbollah to the North (both backed by Iran), and Syria to the Northeast.
Note: None of this is conjecture. It has happened already.
The next stage is when Israel, in a bid to isolate Hamas and capture world opinion, seeks to bolster the `moderate’ Palestinian entity in the West Bank. (This, too, is already well underway). Such a strategy entails giving Fatah control of at least major swathes of the West Bank as a reward, which is indeed Israel’s and the US government’s current game plan. The problem, of course, is the deep-rooted and historic corruption of Fatah. The organisation is also ill-disciplined and weak, with its support base ebbing away. On the other hand, Hamas’ zealous visionaries (make no mistake, they are disciplined and brave, despite their fanaticism) have a long-term, driving vision which is increasingly earning Muslim support, even among moderates. Moreover, Hamas has learned the Marxist-Leninist need for grand strategic political alliances and coalitions in order to secure its wider aims, and already overtures are being made to Fatah in the West Bank. (The purges will come later!) Once Hamas has a firm foothold there, it is not inconceivable that a weakened Fatah will eventually be edged aside. Thus, Israel would face a fourth front to the East, again backed by Syria and Iran. Added to this, of course, would be discussions of a `final peace settlement’ to lull Israel into a false sense of security, with Jerusalem possibly accorded some kind of international status, thus ripping out the country’s very religious heart.
As you can see, it is not really a massive step from where we are today to a situation where Judaea and Samaria are separated, with the former all alone and vulnerable (much like after the Assyrian conquest of the Northern Kingdom in 721 BC). Given the Islamist long term vision for the complete annihilation of Israel, the situation would not end there. Regardless of any peace settlement, buoyed by their successes, Syria, Iran and their puppet organisations would surely push for more. We hear a great deal within the Arab world about returning to pre-1967 borders, but far less so of Hamas’ uncompromising (and frank) aim to get back to the 1948 borders. The push for pre-1967 borders is just the beginning.
So what might the strategy to do this be? Perhaps initially, assisted by well-meaning but naÃƒ ¯ve post-Zionist Jews who are tired of conflict, there will be a push for a new multicultural state, where Arab and Jew live together in peace and harmony, to replace the Jewish state. Or perhaps the violence might intensify and Israel will face a renewed face of terrorist attacks. In time, I suspect control of the West Bank might lead Palestinian militants to target the very narrow strip of land between Netanya and Haifa to the north, where the West Bank reaches deep into Israeli territory. This could result in severing northern Israel from the rest of the country, weakening it yet further. It would only take a small trickle of Israelis fearing for their families’ safety to become an exodus before the rout was in full swing. One thing is clear: Israel’s enemies are in for the long haul and it is little wonder some pro-Israeli commentators are gloomy about Israel’s long term survival. (A useful article is John Neuhaus’ `After Israel’, originally appearing in First Things (April 2002) and more recently reproduced in The Best of the Public Square. Book Three. Eerdman 2007).
Update (27/10/07): I just came across this article by Middle East expert Daniel Pipes which echoes this gloomy Zionist outlook.
There is little doubt that seeking to link present-day events with biblical prophecy can be highly speculative, sensational, and aimed more at selling books than teaching good theology. Nonetheless, Israel’s very existence and misery feature strongly in several key passages which are undeniably eschatological in both the Old and New Testaments. This is surely a challenge to liberal Protestants, for whom biblical prophecy was always written ex eventu (i.e. after the event by, as liberals claim, biblical authors in order to demonstrate the existence of predictive prophecy). Moreover, such people should ask themselves why, after so many centuries, this tiny strip of land still central role on the geopolitical stage. Given the centrality of Israel as a biblical theology theme in both Testaments, it is difficult to see how someone with a theological background cannot recognise the significance of Israel’s position today, as well as the irrational (supernatural?) hatred aimed at her at the expense of other countries who have been far, far more brutal, yet which so many people simply choose to ignore completely.
Some elites regard the views of the former Grand Mufti, Ahmadinejad, Hamas, and Hezbollah as little more than rhetoric which will pass when Israel has had her wings clipped and a final peace settlement secured. These are the appeasers, much like the ones in Hitler’s day who felt they could buy off a tyrant. Then there are those who recognise full well the existential threat Israel faces. Much like the person detailed in Neuhaus’ article, these are the ones who understand a long war of attrition is being waged against Israel, which she must eventually lose. Indeed, some would be sad to see her demise, but most would be quite glad in a world that has had enough of this sore which is the Middle East problem. Such people are the pragmatists, yet they too are appeasers. Like the others, they see a final solution (I’ve seen that term somewhere before) as something which will lead the world to breathe a huge sigh of relief and enable us to get back to the business of West-Islamic cooperation and peaceful co-existence.
The problem is (as with all appeasers) they have little foresight, concerned only with the immediate situation and not driven by the long-term strategy of Hamas and others. Many believe they can really make peace with such people and eventually we can all live in harmony. But many commentators are far from sure of this. Islam (rather than just Islamism) is a totalist ideology, that is to say, it demands total adherence, everything is interpreted through the lenses of Islam, and its goal is to spread Islam and Islamic law across the globe. Make no mistake, this dominionist vision is actually embraced by the majority of committed Muslims. The main difference between Islamists and moderates is not whether or not to set about this goal, but rather, how to do so, whether within the framework of Western law and the multiculturalism and pluralism it offers, or else through violent, bloody jihad. With Israel gone, a major obstacle to Islamist global aims will be gone. Only then will the good, well-meaning but totally naÃƒ ¯ve appeasers realise this is, fater all a major ideological struggle much like that between the West and Soviet Marxist-Leninism, which was likewise totalist and dominionist in outlook.
Finally, there are those who recognise that Israel is at the forefront of the wave of Islamism that threatens the globe. They are happy for her to take the blows, because as long as the Muslim world is united against the sore which is Israel, this will detract its attentions (to a degree) away from the West. TheseÃ‚ are the realists. The problem is, such people can’t have it both ways, that is, recognise Israel as a bulwark against terrorism but then constantly undermine this position by criticising or not supporting her fully. The question is this: Are President Bush and Condaleeza Rice realists or appeasers? It seems to me that US pressure on Israel’s current weak Prime Minister to make yet further concessions in the lead-up to the forthcoming Middle East peace smacks of appeasement, or more sinisterly, an attempt by an unpopular American president to win back his place in history by doing what no one has ever been able to do before " “ solve the Middle East situation. Make no mistake, naturally-speaking Israel has survived over the past sixty years because of US support. Once that support melts away, Israel’s disappearance will be a matter of time.
Calvin L. Smith, Ph.D.
Principal and Tutor of Theology
King's Evangelical Divinity School
Faculty Page: www.kingsdivinity.org/about/faculty-calvin-smith
Editor, Evangelical Review of Society and Politics