The recent relinquishment of land in Gaza and parts of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority has led Shofar editor Norman Manzon to ask this question of
Messianic Jewish Scholar Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum of Ariel Ministries, www.ariel.org
Here is Dr. Fruchtenbaum’s response:
To answer your question, it is not really asked correctly: “Is it biblically permissible for Israel to give up land that has been promised to it by God?” The question should be asked as: “What are the circumstances by which Israel will be forced to give up segments of the Promised Land?” It should be kept in mind that even King Solomon gave up some territory to the King of Tyre in order to pay off a debt incurred by the building of the Temple and the Royal House.
The real issue is that two covenants must be kept in balance. First of all, the Abrahamic Covenant teaches that ownership of the land is unconditional and therefore it is always Israel’s land whether they happen to be in the land or outside the land. The actual ownership of the land, biblically, is indisputable.
The second covenant, the Land Covenant of Deuteronomy 29-30, teaches that the enjoyment of the land is conditional on obedience. The reason why they never had all the land in biblical times nor have it now is because they have never been a really obedient people. Furthermore, as you look through biblical history, you will notice that throughout history they sometimes had more, sometimes less, sometimes more, and sometimes less. Furthermore, even in the area that they did control, there was constant turmoil. By the same token, since 1948, we see the same principle, sometimes more, sometimes less, and in the sections they do actually possess, there is turmoil. That is to be anticipated by believers who understand the Scriptures and understand the prerequisite for both peaceful living in the land and possessing all of the Promised Land.
It should be kept in mind that Ariel Sharon has always been a right wing politician who is responsible for much of the settlement in the territory conquered in the Six Day War. He came to realize that in order to maintain the Jewish identity of the State and to uphold democracy, withdrawal became necessary. The basic fact is that over the next 20 years
or even less, the population between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River will be primarily an Arab population in number. If Israel holds on to all of the territory it is controlling, it would become an occupied State if for no other reason than the minority is ruling the majority and those in the majority have no right to vote, etc. In other words, they would not have basic civil rights. Sharon’s program in the withdrawal is to withdraw from the very heavy Arab concentrations, and by means of a fence or wall, separate the Jewish population from the Arab population and therefore maintain a solid Jewish majority within the actual borders of the State of Israel and avoid dealing with issues such as creating an occupied State. The Gaza Strip for example had a total population of 9,000 Jews but 1.2 million Arabs. Maintaining a defensive posture for the settlements with such a heavy Arab population was simply unreasonable. By withdrawing from the Gaza Strip and giving up only segments of the West Bank that have heavy Arab populations, he still maintains most of the West Bank under Israel and the Jewish populations in those areas outnumber the Arab populations. Once it is drawn up, there will be approximately 5.1 million Jews and approximately 1 million Arabs within the Israeli State borders and the 1.5 million Arabs located elsewhere will be living outside the State and the borders of the Promised Land.
Did Israel want to give up the Gaza Strip and the four settlements in the Northern West Bank? The answer is no. But the facts of the case forced them to do so. While Sharon is doing it for political purposes and Israel securing the majority of the population, from a biblical perspective, he was carrying out the divine decree that Israel would not be able to hang on to the land until they become a believing people and the land that they do possess will be under constant turmoil. This continues to this day.
It should also be pointed out that according to the Scriptures, God Himself determines when Israel controls what. Just as Israel was forced to move out of certain territories in biblical times, the same things is happening today. Again, in the past when Israel was forced to withdraw from a territory it was a work of God. Today, by the same token, Israel is forced to withdraw from the land and Israel is carrying out God’s own decree upon a people who have not yet chosen to believe on Him.
In the Messiah,
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum
(published by permission of Dr. Fruchtenbaum)