Winning on the Conceptual Battlefield – The Israel Victory Project
Recently, the Israeli Knesset passed a controversial law commonly referred to as the “Nation-State Law.” This law goes beyond practical policy charting the course for the future character of the State of Israel.
And it is exactly in this symbolic conceptual plane that the Israeli Victory Project (IVP), a two-year old lobbying group led by Daniel Pipes, operates.
Together with measures such as the Taylor Force Act passed by the U.S. Congress earlier this year and its Israeli equivalent recently voted through the Knesset, the Israel Victory Project seeks a conceptual change, paired with concrete policy measures, to redefine the peace process and broader relations with Israel’s Palestinian counterparts. Both these measures target the Palestinian Authority’s practice known as “pay-for-slay,” which rewards convicted terrorists serving time in prison.
Why is victory an issue for Israel?
The Israel Victory Project is a somewhat paradoxical name. Hasn’t Israel already achieved fundamental victory? From surviving the War of Independence in 1948 and the complete rout of Arab forces in 1967, to overcoming the hardest military challenge in 1973? And didn’t we just recently celebrate Israel’s 70th year as a sovereign state? Yet, an important corollary of victory is actually missing: Peace.
With victory should come peace. Yet peace is absent in Israel’s relations with the Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). And further, millions still claim refugee status and the right of return to what is today considered Israel proper. This indicates that despite Israel’s military prowess, in a strategic sense victory continues to elude Israel.
Victory and defeat in the Israeli-Arab conflict
The absence of victory is not surprising in an Israeli strategic context. Strategic victory over the Arabs has always been regarded as an impossibility. Even if Israel defeated the combined armies of its Arab enemies and adversaries further afield, they would always have the territory and manpower to recover. The best Israel could ever hope for has been successful deterrence. This is why the IVP is more groundbreaking than meets the eye: The project seeks to remedy this fundamental strategic weakness.
The main corollary of victory is peace, and the problematic gridlock after a decades-old peace process with the Palestinians is what prompts the different approach. With a counterpart unresponsive to negotiated compromise due a conceptual inability to make even symbolic concessions, it is necessary to seek victory.
But what, then, is this victory? Simply put, the IVP puts forth facts on the ground and deconstructs diehard Palestinian concepts, but this does not entail a renewed struggle with the Palestinians. The military victory has already been won. It is the translation of military results in the political discourse and, thereby, political reality that has gone awry. And it is here the IVP becomes relevant.
The failure of the Oslo peace concept
A second basic corollary of victory is the defeat of the opponent. Peace is best made with defeated enemies because this allows the victor to dictate the terms of peace instead of engaging in messy, unsatisfactory negotiations. The main thrust of the IVP’s conceptual revamp is to provide a better framework than the failed Oslo Accords, which nevertheless still serve as a zombie framework for the peace process.
The IVP points out that these accords brought not peace or prosperity but “tyranny, failed institutions, poverty, corruption, a death cult, suicide factories, and Islamist radicalization.” At the same time, the Oslo framework perpetuates a false hope of claiming all of Israel for Palestine.
Flawed concepts led to equally flawed policy measures, i.e., premature recognition of the PLO and unilateral withdrawals. Unlike the Israeli withdrawal from Sinai, which resulted in a robust albeit frigid peace with Egypt, these steps were failures because they were interpreted as weakness and demoralization on the Israeli side instead of a genuine willingness to compromise for the sake of peace.
Concrete policy measures and symbolic moves
So, what are the accompanying policy initiatives that go with victory?
“The goal here is not Palestinian love of Zion, but closing down the apparatus of war: shuttering suicide factories, ending the demonization of Jews and Israel, recognizing Jewish ties to Jerusalem, and ‘normalizing’ relations with Israelis.” (https://www.meforum.org/projects/israel-victory-project )
The practical steps involve an aggressive approach to UNRWA and the Palestinian education system. UNRWA perpetuates the detrimental paradox of refugee camps in Palestinian-controlled land and the unique concept of inherited refugee status, which Palestinians are the only refugee group to enjoy. Dismantling UNWRA and annulling the idea of the right of return would be key policy goals flowing from a victory-concept approach to policy.
At the symbolic level, the Trump administration’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital has served as a conceptual jolt to the entire international scene. This is why the bold move was so essential: It sidesteps starting negotiations at a point where Palestinians aren’t conceptually ready to compromise even on completely legitimate Israeli claims. It is also important to bear in mind that Palestinian flexibility was at its peak in 1991, when the PLO was isolated after the end of the Cold War and had sided with Iraq in its first confrontation with the U.S.
The next round of negotiations
Ultimately, the Israeli Victory Project is a stepping stone, because the final destination for these efforts is peace. In this way, it proposes to achieve what the international community has failed to broker: an agreement with the Palestinians. But this will happen because the conceptual reality of victory and defeat are brought into alignment instead of negotiating with an enemy that refuses to accept the consequences of defeat, and who clings to goals that it can never hope to attain through negotiations.
Weaknesses in the victory concept
The Victory Project’s logic is ensnaring because it frees up Israel to dictate its own peace terms. Yet it risks being a conceptual throw of the dice with no certain outcome. Biblical passages indicate that the Palestinians will always be in the land (Joshua 23:13); albeit, biblical history also shows varying degrees of Israelite control of the Promised Land.
Defeat of the Palestinians will remain partly outside Israel’s control. As long as the Palestinians refuse to admit defeat, even if they be reduced to the most basic levels of resistance, the conflict will continue. Thus, the ability to impose this recognition on the Palestinian side is partially beyond Israel’s control.
An A for effort
Regardless of its potential limitations, the Israel Victory Project is a bold recasting of Israel’s conceptual approach to its conflict with the Palestinians. Furthermore, the active lobbying efforts and nascent policy formulations make this an organization to be reckoned with.
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Walking in His peace – The southern steps of Temple Mount
As we often say, “Israel is the only place on earth where your Bible comes alive.” And while God is real and can make Himself known to anyone anywhere (as He is doing all the time), a visit to the Land of Israel does draw any person of faith closer to the Creator, while also placing the biblical accounts in their proper place geographically and culturally. In other words, no other place on earth can invite you to “walk where Yeshua (Jesus) walked,” and for that we are thankful.
Resting quietly right next to what is probably the most controversial piece of real estate on earth, the Southern Steps of Temple Mount are located at the southern edge of the Western Wall. This broad staircase was in daily use, 365 days a year, with great crowds swelling to hundreds of thousands of people during the three Pilgrim Feasts when all the male members of the nation of Israel were commanded to come up and worship God at the Temple.
Not only is this site an archeological treasure house, displaying and confirming biblical events and personalities connected to the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, but we also know beyond any doubt that the Lord Himself ascended and descended these steps many times during His visits to the Temple complex. Then, as it is now, the atmosphere was charged with political tensions, spiritual conflicts, danger and confusion. What we are experiencing today in and around Jerusalem is not new, and only the divine perspective can sustain people of faith as the waves keep crashing upon our walls.
As an island of peace, focus and perfect poise, we read that “Each day Jesus was teaching at the Temple, and each evening He went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives, and all the people came early in the morning to hear Him at the Temple.” (Luke 21:37-38).
Called the “teaching steps” by some, these Southern Steps were used by rabbis and teachers from that period as a platform to spread their doctrines to the passing multitudes along this busy and crowded passageway. With over 50 ritual baths discovered in the vicinity so far, serving the multitudes before entering the Temple courts, this area was no doubt the busiest spot in all of Israel and the greatest platform to stage a public event as we see happening numerous times in the Gospels.
It is important to notice that these steps were (and still are) irregular and uneven. This unusual and intentional design required the pilgrims ascending them to pay careful attention to their steps. The reason was to encourage the worshipers to adopt a thoughtful and reflective mindset as they approach God, resisting the urge for social interaction while passing through the bustling crowds, the family reunions, the buying and the selling at the Temple Courts. Would that this would be the attitude and spirit of many of our communities today as we prepare to “Enter His Gates.”
It is also safe to assume that this was the very spot of the events described in Acts chapter two when the disciples, freshly anointed with the Holy Spirit and addressing the international pilgrims gathering in Jerusalem during the Feast of Pentecost, spoke to them using their own native languages. According to the text, this miracle took place at 9:00 am during the morning prayers when great throngs of worshipers would attend the Temple service. No other place in Jerusalem was better suited to stage Peter’s first and powerful apostolic message, bringing 3,000 Jewish souls into instant conviction, faith, repentance and baptism.
The setting was perfect! Peter’s powerful words still rang in the Jerusalem morning air when thousands of Jewish worshipers “were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call … Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.” (Acts 2:38-43)
With dozens of ritual baths ready to serve these thousands of new disciples, obedience was instant! And they, themselves being pilgrims from all over the world, would now carry the good news of salvation in Messiah Yeshua to their homelands. A new beginning dawned on earth, and it all started in Jerusalem, and probably upon the Southern Steps.
Neil Armstrong was the very first man to walk on the moon. While visiting Israel he asked his guide, the renowned archaeologist Meir Ben Dov who excavated the Temple Mount, if there was a place where Jesus would have walked without a doubt 2,000 years ago. Ben Dov’s answer was, “the Southern Steps.” Visiting the Steps, Mr. Armstrong was quoted as saying that this was a more exciting moment for him than walking on the moon!
For a person of faith, the presence of the Lord surpasses all else. As the Apostle wrote, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Messiah Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Messiah.” Phil. 3:8.
Let this be an example and an encouragement for us today. We, who live and serve God in Israel during these final chapters of history, are witnessing remarkable and dramatic world events concentrating on Jerusalem as biblical prophecy unfolds around us. And though tempted to fear and to be anxious in light of these tremendous birth pangs, the image of our Lord remains our focus. He still walks calmly across the Southern Steps, passing steadily through the bustling crowds tossed about by every wind of doctrine or alarming rumor, and He alone is our inspiration.
He is the Rock, our hiding place, and He will once again pour out His Spirit upon our nation according to His word.
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The key to reformation
One of those Shabbat days, I was standing in worship and feeling desperate, I felt also the worship team was making a great effort to usher God’s presence. Everything seemed to be standing still. My heart longing again for the touch of God, asking: Father, how long will I thirst for Your Presence and people of this city falling in love with You? For a second wondered, are we all hungry and thirsty to hear from Him? Do we really desire His glory move where we are? Often, in the struggle of daily life and in the face of many challenges, we long to replicate what happened in the Book of Acts. However, times and culture have changed, there is only one way- calling on Him for a radical change in us!
In that still moment of a silent cry, suddenly I heard Him saying: “Reformation!” My heart leaped, I heard from the Father! Wait, what He means?! Reformation?! Well, for sure I will not be a next Martin Luther or John the Baptist!
As I went home that day, I pondered on the word that I heard. Then, a well- known Scripture was highlighted to me: The Transfiguration of Yeshua! I read in Mark 9:2-7:
(…) Yeshua took Kefa, Ya‘akov and Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately. As they watched, he began to change form and his clothes became dazzlingly white, whiter than anyone in the world could possibly bleach them. Then they saw Eliyahu and Moshe speaking with Yeshua. Kefa said to Yeshua, “It’s good that we’re here, Rabbi! Let’s put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moshe and one for Eliyahu.” (He didn’t know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud enveloped them; and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Yeshua.
Matthew 17:5-7 gives us a slightly different account:
While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them; and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love, with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him!” When the talmidim heard this, they were so frightened that they fell face down on the ground. But Yeshua came and touched them. “Get up!” he said, “Don’t be afraid.”
As I read these Scriptures over and over again, suddenly, God’s presence swiped all over me. Yes, here it is the key to reformation! The transforming splendour of God’s presence! The three disciples enveloped in the glory cloud surely, did not expect it, tired, waking up from their sleep. And yet, the Father has decided to show up to the closest friends of Yeshua because of their willingness to go with Him.
Initially shocked at the sight of Yeshua in dazzling light, Peter suggested to build a sukkah for each one: Yeshua, Moses and Elijah. It could have been a well meant move to celebrate and contain the moment of worship. Nevertheless, the moving cloud of glory and pillar of fire never let the people to build a permanent abide. Here, on Mt Tabor, the cloud of God’s glory, prompted Peter, James and John to simply fall face down in amazement and fear. Even though Yeshua encouraged them not to be afraid, this encounter had changed their lives. The fear of God they had experienced was bringing reformation in their perception of reality and surrender to the voice of the Father calling them to follow His Son.
Without challenging our knowledge and habits we can be absolutely stuck in the way live our lives, even as believers. Oftentimes, circumstances of life lie to us in order to keep us in ordinary, not daring to take a step forward in believing for God’s radical move.
I had one more thought- Peter, James and John represent something deeper here! They are not only the three witnesses needed to confirm the divinity and prophetic destiny of Yeshua. There was a depth and meaning to their characters!
Peter, even though he was impulsive in nature, was the first one who had the revelation of Yeshua the Messiah (Matt 16:13-15)! The same Peter was martyred during the reign of emperor Nero and crucified head-down, at his own request. What radical love of our Lord he had shown, willing to follow the Messiah for the price of his life! Because of revelation!
James represents faith and boldness. He immediately responded to call of abandoning his life and following Yeshua (Matt 4:18-22). He was bold enough, together with his brother John, and asked to be seated at Yeshua’s right and left hand in His Kingdom (Matt 20:20-28). James became a first martyr who was executed by the sword at the order of Herod, not afraid to pay the price for believing in His best friend and Master- Yeshua.
Finally, John represents intimacy. His name, Johannan, can mean Yahweh Has Been Gracious. John was one of the closest friends and followers of Yeshua, described as leaning on Yeshua’s chest during last supper( John 13:33); took care of His mother after crucifixion, and spoke in incredible tone of love towards believers!
Those incredible ingredients to relationship with God are well known, but how easy we forget them in daily battles we face! We have institutionalised, rationalised and routinised our faith for long enough. Oftentimes, we catch ourselves in doubt, not connecting to the Father. However, the attitudes of Peter, James and John encourage us to pursuit intimacy, obedience and expectation even in a state of weariness and tiredness.
The Father will not disappoint us, He is always ready to share His heart with us when we share ours, healing our wounds in order to flow through us and open our ears to hear Yeshua’s voice. It is worth the time, sacrifice and tears as well its rewards!
I believe that the Transfiguration encounter of the disciples is challenging all of us to abide in the cloud of Glory that will infuse us with faith and revelation. Let it be then, communities transformed according to the measure of His supernatural faith in us and ours in what He can do!
Agnieszka holds a graduate degree of divinity at Spurgeon's College, London, England and MA in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at University of Haifa. She been living in Haifa, Israel for the last 4 years where I she met her husband Nahum. She nad her husband are members of Kerem El Congregation in Haifa. She has served in various churches in the UK, Canada, and Africa, as well as Poland, including organising missions, training leaders, and regularly speaking about the prophetic message of Father God, as well as Israel, in those countries. She enjoys sharing what God puts on her heart in order to challenge her own and others' growth in relationship with Him.
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Response to Netanyahu’s statement about absurd criticism of Nation-State Law
The Prime Minister says that the left’s criticism of Nation-State Law is absurd (July 30, 2018 JPost) but what is absurd is that he apparently has not been paying close attention to the “left” globally. The American left is for doing away with borders, ICE and male/female gender identity. They are in favor of voting rights for illegal immigrants, disrespecting the flag, the national anthem, viewing law enforcement with contempt and not defining English as the official language. Europe’s left is not much different. The traditional values, which once made a country great, strong and secure, are being undermined in ways which seek to weaken the basic tenets that unite citizens. The goal is to dismantle what has been held as societal norms and, most importantly, do away with patriotism, cultural pride and biblically moral and religious values. This concerted erosion has been steadily taking place over the course of the last few decades and is purposely designed to create a certain level playing field which has no unique distinction nor takes into account the exceptionalism of certain nations, such as Israel and America. It has been replaced by the newfound sanctity of diversity and multi-culturalism which, in many ways, is the left’s new brand of religion. Anyone following the news would have expected this kind of reaction by Israel’s left-leaning community who don’t seem to understand that not defining ourselves as a unique and special people, will only serve to diminish the very people who were “not to be reckoned with the nations.”
Cookie is the former managing director of Makor HaTikvah Messianic School in Jerusalem.
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Another view of Israel’s Nation State Law
The recently passed Nation State Law has received a lot of publicity and not a little controversy since it was voted into law last week. Being a follower of Yeshua, a concerned citizen and a member of a minority group; I had hoped and prayed that this proposed legislation would not become law. To my sorrow, it was passed into law, albeit by a very narrow margin. The essence of the Nation State law is to ensure that the Jewish population in Israel will exclusively be the recipients of full civil rights, that Orthodox Jewish religious tradition will be the sole source for legislation concerning cultural and civil affairs, which in effect prioritizes Jewishness over democracy. The fact that the issue of minority rights is absent from this legislation is alarming. It needs to emphasized that this new law is a “Basic Law” and as such is enshrined alongside Israel’s Declaration of Independence. As a Basic Law this legislation provides a conceptual framework for future legislation. Basic Laws are very difficult to rescind.
Some view this law as merely codifying and legitimizing what has become the status quo in the country. The law does reiterate much of the content of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. What is not stated in the law is in some ways more disturbing than what is stated. Minority rights are not mentioned; leaving opening for non-implementation of equal rights for all citizens of which there are over 2 million non-Jews who are Israeli citizens. This law gives priority to Jewishness in terms of both religion and ethnicity. According to this law, Judaism determines national holidays and influences curriculum for education. Jewish ethnicity determines status and certain civil rights. Regarding Messianic Jews, who are a much smaller minority than the Arab population, the already difficult situation with immigration is likely to become even more problematic.
All minority groups in Israel have reason to be concerned, including Messianic Jews. In Orthodox Judaism Messianic Jews, regardless of their ethnicity and certified pedigrees, are routinely categorized as no longer Jewish on account of their faith in the divinity of Jesus/Yeshua. Not even the adherence of some Messianic Jews to traditional Jewish observance and life style is enough for the Orthodox establishment to accept Messianic Jews as truly Jewish. Our faith is the stumbling block upon which they repeatedly fall.
For the large non-Jewish Arabic speaking citizens of Israel this new law is yet another means of reducing their status to that of second-class citizens. Although it is the right of a sovereign government to downgrade a national language, and it and is not without precedent, (Turkey, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ukraine, Gabon, etc.); national downgrading of a major language seems always to be linked to political concerns. In this case, to downgrade Arabic is clearly an instance of Israel asserting Jewish cultural dominance. This is perceived as an affront and insult to the minority Arabic speaking population
The most controversial clause, the “settlement clause,” was removed hours prior to the final vote. For this I am thankful. Had it remained it would give credence to claims that Israel is increasingly racist and would legalize discriminatory policies. There is much opposition to discrimination against certain segments of Israeli society (the LGBT community for example) and this clause would allow the creation of communities based on exclusion of undesirable, unwanted population groups.
While the offensive clause was eliminated, point seven of the law states, “The state views Jewish settlement as a national value and will labor to encourage and promote its establishment and development.”
By passing this Nation State law as a Basic Law of Israel, the foundations of democracy are undermined. Given the total absence of reference to non-Jewish minority populations, the primacy of Jewishness is now inscribed in law which will become the basis of further legislation. A number of major terms (like Israel and settlement) are not defined. This can easily lead to a broad implementation of the basic concepts included in this law. Until now, civil rights and equality have been part of our ethos as the people of the Book. As a citizen of the country and as a member of a minority group (Messianic Jewish) that has experienced prejudicial action and legal efforts to deny access to full civil rights, I am deeply concerned for the future of Jewish ethics and values in Israel.