Acknowledging political reality in the Middle East

By Tony Perkins and Yossi Dagan

Tony Perkins is President of Family Research Council. Yossi Dagan is Mayor of the Samaria Regional Council. This article appeared in Washington Times on April 15, 2019.

President Trump’s recent announcement that the United States would “fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights” is an acknowledgement of political reality that will strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, provide greater security and stability in the region and further cement support among the president’s evangelical base. Recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over this land is yet another bold policy step that sets the Trump administration apart.

An American president’s statements can be powerful, but only when backed up by clear and decisive action. Unfortunately, the words of America’s leaders have sometimes meant little to our friends (and adversaries) around the world because those words stood alone without a commitment to action.

Under President Trump, the world sees and understands that the United States is a true friend of Israel. Whether it was moving the U.S. embassy to and recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, straightforwardly dealing with the threat posed by Iran, or acknowledging the sovereignty of Israel over its land, Mr. Trump is making history as perhaps the most pro-Israel president ever.

Some may balk at this pronouncement because in their eyes it harms the chance of a peace deal. Yet an honest review of history shows one must recognize the long wake left by Palestinian leaders and their enablers who have refused to reject violence and have betrayed their partners’ trust time and time again.

Up until the 1967 Six Day War, Israeli communities in the Galilee lived in constant fear of shells raining down from the high ground of the Golan. Taking control of this area from Syrian forces during the war 50 years ago has enabled Israel to protect its people living there ever since. The fact that we are finally recognizing this reality is not by chance; President Trump has made a point of bluntly acknowledging facts and reality. He is now doing the right thing at the right time — recognizing Israeli sovereignty over land which it currently controls and to which its people have a historical connection, at the same time that Iran is increasing its influence over a fractured Syria, presenting an even greater threat to Israel and the region.

Pundits in concert with projectiles from Gaza will predict doom and gloom for the region and the world. We’ve heard it all before. The history of modern Israel is replete with pessimists chiming in at every significant development. The U.N. in particular, is little more than a launching pad for anti-Israel missives. Thankfully, there have been enough leaders who disregarded those voices, as Mr. Trump has done during his presidency. Today, Israel is a developed and stable democracy, anchoring the region and providing an example of liberty to those neighbors who desire freedom and its’ fruits.

One of us is a Christian, the other an orthodox Jew. We both pray for and desire peace, stability, and freedom in the Middle East. But just because we desire something to be does not make it so. We cannot control whether the necessary parties come to the negotiating table, and we should not fail to speak the truth and recognize reality because of the fear of others’ reactions.

At this time, as many are thinking about a new peace deal in the Middle East, they must remember that “land for peace” efforts have a long but failed history. Agreements like the Oslo Accords and the freeze on building houses for the Jewish people did little to stop Palestinian violence, which continued after they were put in place. We must not be naive about this.

Neither should we be hopeless. Relations between many Gulf Arab countries and Israel are getting better, as they recognize their common foe and threat to peace posed by Iran. The time may yet come for a peace agreement in the Middle East, even if it is not here yet.

President Trump’s decisive actions related to Israel have brought a new level of respect for the United States in the region, and greater stability, and it has resulted in peak approval ratings among evangelicals and others who care about the Holy Land. The Trump administration should stay the course, continuing to avoid the “land for peace” proposals, and the policies that have prevented Israelis from building in Judea and Samaria, which have repeatedly failed to work. This looks even more sensible in light of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent pledge to extend sovereignty over these areas.

We commonly cite the foolishness of doing the same thing and expecting different results. If we apply this adage to “land for peace” proposals regarding Israel and the Palestinians, we will be very wary of any claim that we can expect peace if we would only uproot Jews from their ancient lands where Abraham walked and Joseph and Joshua are buried. Withdrawal from Gaza did not stop the violence; there should be no reasonable expectation that this approach to work elsewhere in Israel? In the intractable conflict rooted in the land God gave to the people of Israel, the best approach would be to seek God’s solutions in God’s timing.