Of all the false accusations made by Israel’s enemies, perhaps the most damaging one is that Israel is illegally occupying stolen Arab land and must be forced to withdraw from it in order to return it to its rightful owners, the Palestinian Arabs. The reason this accusation has gained so much traction in so many international forums is that Israel’s leaders have been unable to provide an effective refutation of it, and the reason for that is their deep estrangement from Judaism itself.
The correct answer to the accusation of land theft is that God promised the land of Israel to the Israelites as an everlasting possession, as recorded in the Torah, in return for their promise to adhere to His laws. Even when they went into exile because of failure to uphold the laws, the land was still held in reserve for them to return to at a later time when they were deemed worthy, and in the meantime no other nation was ever allowed to establish a valid claim to it. This is the real basis for the Jewish claim to the land, and attempts to establish a claim on other grounds will ultimately prove inadequate.
The Hebrew nation was created almost 4000 years ago, and still exists today, for a singular purpose, which is to bring the light of God into the world. This is Israel’s destiny, and it can’t escape from it, no matter how hard it tries. Indeed, some in Israel are trying very hard to escape from it. Some of Israel’s top leaders consider any Jew who believes in God, the Torah and the Covenant to be a dangerous extremist, and they’re desperate to prevent religious believers from gaining influence in the government.
But what are they so fearful about? Their own policies of abandoning essential Jewish principles in order to curry favor with the nations, of surrendering parts of the historic homeland in exchange for false promises of peace, and of trying to appease their adversaries rather than standing firm on clearly defined principles have done far more harm than good.
An Israeli government based on Jewish religious belief would conduct itself entirely differently. First, it would announce that its highest goal is to fulfill the Covenant sealed on Mount Sinai, because Israel’s success as a nation depends on it. It would also declare that Israel seeks no conflict with anyone, doesn’t threaten anyone who doesn’t threaten it, and doesn’t covet any territory beyond what the Almighty has promised.
Such a government would also declare that the era of surrendering land in the hope of attaining peace is over. God gave us the land, and to refuse to take it, or to give it away after having it in our possession, because we’re not sure it’s really ours, or because we don’t think it’s worth fighting for, or because we fear our enemies more than we fear our Creator, constitutes an act of rebellion against God which we are required to avoid at all costs.
The new government would also declare that the whole land of Israel will be opened for Jewish settlement in fulfillment of the biblical command to do so. Would the nations be upset by this? The nations are frustrated by the seemingly never-ending Arab-Israeli conflict, but it’s never ending because of Israel’s policy or trying to “manage” the conflict rather than winning it, while trying in vain to negotiate with people who are firmly committed to Israel’s destruction. But an authentically Jewish government would seek to finally end the conflict by forthrightly taking possession of the land, putting an end to the Palestinians’ pretensions to nationhood, and removing any doubts about who the legitimate owners really are. This would be a very favorable outcome for Western countries as well, since Israel’s enemies are also their enemies.
Ultimately, Israel cannot succeed by spurning its religious heritage. It was the Israelites who introduced humanity to the great truth that the world is governed by God and not by Man, and that His purposes will be accomplished regardless of human opposition. An Israel that adheres to the central tenets of its faith, speaks with moral clarity and upholds its core principles in every situation will be a strong and healthy Israel that’s respected by its friends and feared by its enemies, and finally able to fulfill its mission of bringing the light of God into the world. That’s the kind of Israel that every Jew, and even adherents of other religions, should hope and pray for.