Late last year, Benjamin Netanyahu became Prime Minister of Israel for the third time. Recently, it has been a tumultuous time in Israeli politics, wherein disparate coalition governments were surviving only a matter of months until they collapsed and another election was required. Religious and conservative parties have gained such influence that it was necessary for Netanyahu to put together the most radically right-wing coalition government in Israel’s history, with religious parties having and outsized influence on the State of Israel.
Thus, Tuesday Israel’s parliament, The Knesset, scrapped a previous law that had prevented Jewish settlers from stepping foot on four parcels of West Bank land that the law declared out-of-bounds for them since Israel dismantled Jewish settlements and evacuated those parcels in 2005. Those four plots are near the large Palestinian cities of Nablus and Jenin. This “disengagement plan” had been in conjunction with Israel’s unilateral decision in 2005 that 9,000 Jewish settlers vacate their twenty-one settlements in the Gaza Strip and turn the whole Strip over to the Palestinians. The Palestinians’ Hamas organization soon took control of the Strip, which continues to the present. The U.S. declares Hamas a terrorist organization.
So, this Knesset decision on Tuesday overturns some of that process and opens the door for Jewish settlers to possibly return and resettle these four parcels in the West Bank. And of course, this further heightens tensions between Israel and Palestinians. The West Bank has been becoming like a tinder box in recent months with mounting violence exercised by both sides of the conflict.
This Knesset decision also goes strongly against U.S. policy. That is that there should be no Jewish settling in the West Bank since that endangers the peace process. It may even threaten the $3 billion aid the U.S. gives Israel annually. Therefore, the Biden administration issued a statement saying it is “deeply troubled” by this Knesset decision.
West Bank Jewish settler Bezalel Smotrich has now become the finance minister in Netanyahu’s administration. Last weekend he declared in a speech delivered in Paris that there is “no such thing” as a Palestinian people, that they are a “fictitious nation,” reiterating early Prime Minister Golda Meir saying that. As I recorded in my book, Palestine Is Coming: The Revival of Ancient Philistia (1990, p. 105) she said of the Palestinian people, “They do not exist.”
Although I have been against Israel approving of Jews settling the West Bank, since it inhibits a peace process, it does correspond to the thesis of my book. I maintain that biblical prophecy indicates there will be a Palestinian state, it will be located in the coastal plain south of Tel Aviv as a very expanded Gaza Strip representing a political revival of ancient Philistia, and Israel will annex all of the West Bank in either a land swap or forced arrangement. Since my book was published, events in this disputed territory continue to move in the direction I lay out in the book. Tuesday’s Knesset decision is more of the same.