Land Idolization and Annexation Sacrifices Human Dignity in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories
Was Prime Minister Netanyahu’s promise to annex all Israeli settlements in the West Bank if re-elected just pre-election bluster, or a serious commitment to quashing hopes for a two-state solution? With Benny Gantz’s concession and Likud on a path to forming a governing coalition in the Knesset, it looks like Israelis, Palestinians, and the world will find out. What does the prospect of annexation mean for people of faith and groups who have been advocating for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians for decades? Where do we go from here?
For Christians, following Christ means placing the Jewish prophets’ calls for social justice at the heart of our witness. The push for annexation sacrifices the human dignity of Israelis and Palestinians as people created in God’s image upon the altar of ethnonationalism's idolization of land. A Christian ethic must always value the peoples of the land--including Israelis and Palestinians--above the value of the land itself.
For decades, most advocates for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians have favored a two-state solution as the best way to offer both peoples self-determination that their human dignity demands. The Oslo Accords beginning in 1993 attempted to lay the groundwork for that two-state solution, the prospects of which grow dimmer by the day. Within the past two years, President Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel without also acknowledging East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestine, pressured UNRWA to redefine Palestinian refugees in order to strip the descendants of those who lived through 1948 of their claimed right to return, and acknowledged Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. Add to these Netanyahu’s promise of annexation and the possibility of territorial contiguity in the West Bank is eviscerated.
The Trump Administration has hinted that it intends to release its peace deal after the results of the Israeli elections are known. As they have taken us down the road towards the unraveling of Oslo, the Administration now faces a critical choice: will they offer something new and substantive in its place or will the plan simply be a rubber-stamp of approval on unilateral Israeli action going forward?
For a Trump peace proposal to be viable for both Israelis and Palestinians, it must offer Palestinians a meaningful chance for self-determination. Historically, this has meant sovereignty. Not sovereignty over a scattered archipelago of cities and towns. Not local autonomy. A truly viable state. For the plan to be acceptable to Israelis, it must offer them security. All peoples, after all, are deserving of security. This too has historically been interpreted as the need for a sovereign Jewish state.
As a faith-based organization striving above all else for a just peace in the Holy Land, we will continue to press the Trump Administration to make such a substantive offer. We will also continue to elevate the voices of Israelis and Palestinians as the situation evolves so that all possibilities are considered for obtaining the security and self-determination that they deserve as humans created in God’s image.
Formed in 1984, Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is a coalition of 28 national church communions and organizations, including Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, and Evangelical traditions that works to encourage US policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. CMEP works to mobilize US Christians to embrace a holistic perspective and to be advocates of equality, human rights, security, and justice for Israelis, Palestinians, and all people of the Middle East.