“See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore He would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.’” (Deuteronomy 1:8)
The historical record is clear: The Jewish People have lived in Jerusalem since King David purchased the threshing floor on Mount Moriah (now the Temple Mount) 3,000 years ago.
David told the owner of the land,
“‘Give me the site of the threshing floor that I may build on it an altar to the LORD—give it to me at its full price … I will not take for the LORD what is yours, nor offer burnt offerings that cost me nothing.’ So David paid Ornan 600 shekels of gold by weight for the site.” (1 Chronicles 21:22–25)
Even after the Romans destroyed the second Jewish Temple in AD 70 and scattered the Jewish People into exile, a remnant have lived throughout the Holy Land ever since.
Yet contradictory statements have left many Christians wondering, “Does the Land of Israel belong to the Jews or the Palestinians?”
As bewildering and complex as the question may seem, there is a clear answer.
The Bible tells us that the Land of Israel and its boundaries arise from a covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants—the Jewish People.
In that Abrahamic Covenant, God describes the land that was occupied by ten people groups and that geographically extended from the “Wadi of Egypt” to the Euphrates as the inheritance of the Jewish People.
“On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram and said, ‘To your descendants I give this land, from the Wadi of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates—the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaites, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites and Jebusites.’” (Genesis 15:18– 21, see also Deuteronomy 1:6–8 above, Exodus 32:13 and 33:1)
On the heels of the Holocaust and a UN resolution—on May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion who later became the first Prime Minister of Israel proclaimed “the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz-Israel, to be known as the State of Israel.”
Today, this official use of the term Eretz-Israel (literally, Land of Israel) is a reference to the covenant that the God of Israel made with Abraham and the descendants of Isaac and Jacob.
It also underscores the fact that the new Jewish State was established on only a portion of the land which God promised the Jewish People, according to the expansive borders mentioned in Deuteronomy 1:6–8, Genesis 15: 18–21, Exodus 23:31.
The Origin of the Term “Palestine”
“I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you.” (Exodus 23:31)
Under the British Mandate after World War I, the British controlled an area of the Ottoman Empire that was divided into two sections—the land west of the Jordan River and the land east of the Jordan (Transjordan). The British called the land west of the Jordan River “Palestine.”
In fact, Jews who were born during the Mandate have birth certificates stating that they were born in “Palestine.” Historically speaking, the term “Palestinian” applied to anyone living in the area, including Jewish people.
The historic reference to the term “Palestine” goes back as far as Herodotus, the 5th century BC Greek scholar who mentioned in The Histories a “district of Syria, called Palaistine.”
The land of the Phylistiim is also mentioned in the Septuagint, the second century BC Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Phylistiim means Philistia, the southwest portion of Israel peopled by the Philistines.
Although the ancient Philistines were neither Semites nor Arabs, but Indo-Europeans, the modern usage of the terms “Palestine” and “Palestinian” is generally linked with these Biblical names of Philistia and Philistine.
The term Palestine only came into use to identify the whole of Israel after AD 135 when the Roman Emperor Hadrian defeated the Jewish zealots in their second revolt (Bar Kokhba Revolt).
Hadrian imposed this term to humiliate the Jewish People by naming the Land after Israel’s enemy and to negate any connection between the Jewish People and their Promised Land.
Sadly, this led to the whole land being called Palestine even though the name was originally associated with only the small area of Philistia within the land of Canaan, which came to be Israel.
Political Battle Over Judea Samaria and the West Bank in the State of Israel
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36:24)
Following the establishment of the State of Israel, the Israeli government continued to use the term Eretz Israel to maintain the historic link with God’s promises to His Chosen People Israel.
In 1951 and 1952, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion twice highlighted that the Jewish state was created “in a part of our small country” and “in only a portion of the Land of Israel” in official state documents (State of Israel, Government Yearbook, 5712, 5713).
In 1955, he emphasized that “the creation of the new State by no means derogates from the scope of historic Eretz Israel.” (State of Israel, Government Yearbook, 5716)
From the beginnings of the state, Herut (Freedom), Israel’s major right-wing party, had been the political party that gave the greatest support to land policies linked to the Biblical promises.
Palestinians Make Unreasonable Demands
“I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners.” (Exodus 6:4)
Meanwhile, in their own pursuit of peace, Palestinians continue to make demands that are unacceptable to Israel.
Those demands include accepting the “pre-1967 borders” that leave Israel with a narrow land area that cannot be adequately secured.
Demands often include the barring of Israel Defense Forces from entering, monitoring, or controlling Areas A and C of the West Bank, as well as the release of hundreds of terrorist prisoners held in Israeli jails.
In recent years, however, the Palestinian Authority has lifted its longstanding demand that Israel freeze construction of Jewish homes in East Jerusalem and the settlements as a pre-condition to peace talks.
“We have not made the settlements an up-front issue this time,” said Abbas’s senior economic adviser and former deputy prime minister, Mohammad Mustafa.
Beyond settlements and borders, the Arab world continues to demand that those who claim to be “Palestinian refugees” from 1948 rebirth of Israel, be allowed to move back to Israel. These refugees are now estimated to be in the millions and growing daily.
However, these same Arab countries completely disregard how they expelled in 1948 approximately one million Jews living in Arab lands and confiscated their accompanying possessions and property. These Jewish refugees have never been compensated for their losses.
At the same time, the leaders of the Hamas party that rules the Gaza Strip continue to call for the destruction of Israel and the death of all Jews.
And Palestinians in general seek to reclaim the entire land of Israel “from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.”
Yet, God has different plans.
The only independent country that has ever existed west of the Jordan River is Israel, and Scripture calls Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) an everlasting possession.
“I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:7–8)
Arabs assert that they are the descendants of Abraham through Ishmael, and are therefore entitled to the covenant land of Israel, but this is certainly not the case.
Not all Arabs are descendants of Ishmael. Not all Palestinians are descendants of Ishmael.
Furthermore, even if they were, according to Scripture, Ishmael and Abraham’s other sons were not the heirs of the covenant; Isaac and his descendants were the heirs.
“… your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac.” (Genesis 17:19–21)
“Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.” (Genesis 25:5–6)
God gave Ishmael separate promises, and he was sent away from his brother Isaac so they would not share the same land (see Genesis 16:12; Genesis 25:12–18).
Today, in fulfillment of Bible prophecy there are over six million Jewish people living in the Land of Israel, and many thousands more arrive every year.
This is such a wonderful proof that the Word of God and His promises are true and active, and being fulfilled even today, despite intense opposition.
And very soon, we will see the Return of Yeshua the Messiah to Jerusalem. He will come to His Chosen People Israel, and reveal Himself to the whole world.