What can Israel do to achieve peace with its Middle East neighbors?
I'm often asked that question by radio and TV interviewers. I won't tell you there are any easy answers – especially after so many strategic blunders by Israeli political leaders.
But there is a starting point. If I were prime minister of Israel, I would begin by explaining to the country's enemies and friends alike – all over the world – that practically everything they have heard about the conflict between Arabs and Israelis is wrong.
First, the Jews in Israel took no one's land.
When Mark Twain visited the Holy Land in the 19th century, he was greatly disappointed. He didn't see any people. He referred to it as a vast wasteland. The land we now know as Israel was practically deserted.
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This is very important to understand. Because one of the biggest demands of so-called Arab "Palestinians" today is the "right of return." They contend that millions and millions of Arabs must be permitted to settle in Israel with full voting rights. Most of these people have never set foot in Israel before. Many of their parents never set foot in Israel before. A few had lived in the area in 1948 or 1967 and fled at the instructions of Arab invaders who pledged to "liberate" the land and annihilate the Jews.
But it is important to understand these are not refugees in the usual sense of the word. Instead, they are political pawns, exploited by Arab leaders who use the refugee issue to empower and enrich themselves.
It is a fraud, however, to say that these Arab Palestinians had lived in the region "from time immemorial," as the propagandists say. When "Palestine" was under the control of Muslims – right up through World War I – Arabs and Muslims showed little interest in the land, including Jerusalem.
A travel guide to Palestine and Syria, published in 1906 by Karl Baedeker, illustrates the fact that, even when the Islamic Ottoman Empire ruled the region, the Muslim population in Jerusalem was minimal. The book estimates the total population of the city at 60,000, of whom 7,000 were Muslims, 13,000 were Christians and 40,000 were Jews.
"The number of Jews has greatly risen in the last few decades, in spite of the fact that they are forbidden to immigrate or to possess landed property," the book states.
Even though the Jews were persecuted, still they came to Jerusalem and represented the overwhelming majority of the population as early as 1906. And even though Muslims today claim Jerusalem as the third holiest site in Islam, when the city was under Islamic rule, they had little interest in it.
As the Jews came, drained the swamps and made the deserts bloom, something interesting began to happen. Arabs followed. I don't blame them. They had good reason to come. They came for jobs. They came for prosperity. They came for freedom. And they came in large numbers.
Winston Churchill observed in 1939: "So far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied till their population has increased more than even all world Jewry could lift up the Jewish population."
This is the modern real history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. At no time did the Jews uproot Arab families from their homes. When there were title deeds to be purchased, they bought them at inflated prices. When there were not, they worked the land so they could have a place to live without the persecution they faced throughout the world.
It's a great big lie that the Israelis displaced anyone – one of a series of lies and myths that have the world on the verge of committing yet another great injustice to the Jews.
But there's more to this story. It illustrates why non-Jews were not interested in the Holy Land until the Jews returned.
It's something I learned from a rabbi in Brooklyn by the name of Menachem Kohen, author of a book called "Prophecies for the Era of Muslim Terror."
Do you know why the Holy Land became a wasteland during the 1,800-year dispersion of the Jews that lasted until they returned in significant numbers beginning in the early 20th century?
Rabbi Kohen points out the land suffered an unprecedented, severe and inexplicable (by anything other than supernatural explanations) drought that lasted from the first century until the 20th – a period of 1,800 years coinciding with the forced dispersion of the Jews.
Kohen sees this as a miraculous fulfillment of prophecy found in the book of Deuteronomy – especially chapter 28:23-24.
"And thy heaven that is over thy head shall be brass, and the earth that is under thee shall be iron.
"The LORD shall make the rain of thy land powder and dust: from heaven shall it come down upon thee, until thou be destroyed."
The climate in Israel dramatically changed during this 1,800-period – way before Al Gore discovered "global warming" or invented the Internet.
Before the Jews entered Canaan, it was described in the Bible as a land flowing with milk and honey. If you read what Israel's climate and natural landscape was like from the time Joshua crossed the Jordan right up until the time of Jesus, it sounds like a heavily forested land. There were amazing crops raised by the people who inhabited the land when the Jews arrived.
Sometimes I've wondered what happened to Israel to turn it into the dusty, arid land it was when the Jews came back in the 20th century. Until I read that prophecy in Deuteronomy, brought to my attention by Rabbi Kohen, I had no clue.
For 1,800 years, it hardly ever rained in Israel. This was the barren land discovered by Mark Twain. So-called "Palestine" was a wasteland – nobody lived there. There was no indigenous Arab population to speak of. It only came after the Jews came back.
Beginning in A.D. 70 and lasting until the early 1900s – about 660,000 days – no rain.
I decided to check this out as best I could and examined the rainfall data for 150 years in Israel beginning in the early 1800s and leading up to the 1960s. What I found was astonishing – increasing rainfall almost every single year – with the heaviest rainfall coming in and around 1948 and 1967.
Is this just a coincidence?
I'll be quite honest with you: I don't think so.
Nor do I think Israel can continue today to make bad stewardship decisions regarding the land bequeathed the Jews by God without consequences – serious consequences.
So, if I were prime minister of Israel – even just for one day – I'd start out giving the world a little history lesson. Maybe people would listen. Maybe they wouldn't. But it must be said. And if Israel won't tell that story, who will?