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Israel Answers

How Can We Help Palestinian Refugees?

Seventy years ago, the United Nations voted to declare Israel a modern state. When Prime Minister Ben Gurion read Israel's Proclamation of Independence on May 14, 1948, he urged the Arab population to remain “on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all bodies and institutions.” The Jewish population danced and sang on Israel’s streets. Their joy was short-lived.

The Cause of the Refugee Problem

Arab armies from Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon attacked the nascent state the next day. Their leaders ordered Arabs to leave their villages and cities promising a quick victory and return to their homes. The roughly 160,000 Arabs who stayed have grown into 1.5 million Israeli-Arab citizens with full rights in a thriving country with Hebrew and Arabic as the official languages.

Most, however, left—roughly 720,000. A few years later, the Jordanian newspaper Ad Difaa quoted one who had fled to Jordan saying, “The Arab governments told us, ‘Get out so that we can get in.’ So, we got out, but they did not get in.”

The 1947 UN Partition Plan had provided for two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs. Had Arab leaders accepted the UN solution, those who fled in 1948 would now reside in their own state. There would be no Palestinian refugees. The Jews accepted the UN Plan, and even though more than 850,000 Jewish people had to flee Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Iraq, Yemen, Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria in 1948, Israel absorbed all of the ones wishing to resettle in their ancestral homeland.

The UN Has Not Helped

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is the main agency working with the 22.5 million refugees worldwide. Its goal is resettlement in one of 37 countries with programs to do so.

However, a second and separate agency was created for Palestinians—the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). UNRWA’s goal is not to resettle Palestinian refugees but to “protect and assist” them. It has even expanded the definition of a refugee to include descendants. This means that in addition to the roughly 20,000–30,000 original refugees still alive today, UNRWA has added another 5.3 million Palestinians to its registry.

UNRWA itself has been a burgeoning bureaucracy of 30,000 staff members with an annual budget of $800 million. It is in UNRWA’s own interest to perpetuate the problem, because solving it through resettlement would mean the end of its existence.

UNRWA is Part of the Problem

UNRWA has fueled the Palestinian refugee problem for decades by treating the Palestinians differently than other refugees and holding out hopes that have not, and likely will not, materialize—to return to ancestral homes. No other refugee population in the world benefits from a specialized agency nor do descendants of refugees have hope of repatriation efforts.

Donor countries have given $6 billion to UNRWA since 1950 with the United States as the largest donor nation. But instead of solving the problem, UNRWA uses Palestinian refugees as political pawns in a campaign against Israel. Even worse, many UNRWA employees are affiliated with Hamas, teaching and promoting hatred among young people and hiding weapons in their facilities in Gaza.

What Are Some Practical Solutions? 

UNRWA must give the Palestinians an honest assessment of their future and change its charter to adopt similar resettlement goals as UNHCR. Only those refugees without citizenship or permanent residency in their host country should be registered as a refugee. All funding to UNRWA should be redirected for the purposes of resettlement and the agency put on a five-year plan to shut down.

Refugee camps in the West Bank governed by the Palestinian Authority and in Gaza under Hamas should be shut down. Future donations to these governments should be allocated for the absorption of the refugees, and if the Palestinian authorities refuse, the refugees should be offered the right to resettle elsewhere.

Working together, Israel, UNHCR, and UNRWA can identify bona fide refugees and implement affordable, effective plans. Putting UNRWA out of business and redirecting its budget into fresh, workable solutions would be a godsend to the Palestinian refugees.

- by Susan Michael, US Director, creator of and the American Christian Leaders for Israel (ACLI) network.

Does the United States Benefit from its Alliance with Israel?

Like a diamond with many facets, Israel shines in its value to the United States. Our ally enhances our national security and economy, and improves our quality of life.

National Security

On the national security front, since Israel’s expertise in fighting terrorism is second to none, US and Israeli military train in joint exercises with exotic names like Austere Challenge, Juniper Cobra, and Reliant Mermaid. This training includes missile defense training and search and rescue.

Israel’s military intelligence leads the world in its expertise. Former head of the US Air Force Intelligence Maj. Gen. George J. Keegan Jr., estimated back in the 1970s that Israel’s intelligence value exceeded “five CIAs.” Today, terrorism challenges have exponentially increased Israel’s worth.

Former NATO Supreme Commander and US Secretary of State Gen. Alexander Haig (deceased) viewed Israel this way: “If there would not be an Israel, the United States would have to deploy real aircraft carriers, along with tens of thousands of US soldiers, which would cost tens of billions of dollars annually, dragging the United States unnecessarily into local, regional, and global conflicts.”

In battlefield medicine, Israel’s expertise in combat and development of post-traumatic stress treatment directly helps our American troops. Israel often takes our military hardware and improves it. For example, Israel created an underside reactive armor for our Bradley tanks which has saved more than a thousand US soldiers from IEDs.

In addition, US police commissioners, police chiefs, and sheriffs rely on Israel’s law enforcement practices, and conduct cooperative programs in both countries. Our airline security is effectively increased due to the Transportation Security Administration learning how to improve their proficiency by working closely with experts at Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport.


In the economic arena, statistics show that Israel invested more than $25 billion in the United States in 2015. Thirty states have official cooperative agreements with Israel in the fields of technology, agriculture, energy, business, and homeland security.

According to Myron Brilliant, the executive vice president and head of international affairs for the US Chamber of Commerce, our economic relationship with Israel is extensive: the United States has the oldest free-trade agreement with Israel—30 years—which now produces more than $40 billion annually. Israel imports more goods from the United States than any other Middle East nation, even though it is only 2 percent of the region’s population. And because Israel excels in innovation, 250 multinational companies have operations in Israel; two-thirds are US companies like Apple, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, and Cisco.

Medical Innovations

Israel’s medical innovations are another vast resource for Americans. The list of Israeli medical innovations is extensive, but just a few of their medical advances include: Re-Walk, a robotic exoskeleton that enables paraplegics to walk; Ice Cure, which penetrates benign breast tumors in a ten-minute ultrasound procedure; the Total Lift Bed, which places hospital patients in an upright position; and fingertip monitors, which aid in sleep disorders and cardiac ailments.

Is Israel a benefit to the United States? Facts say a resounding “YES!”

- by Susan Michael, US Director and creator of


The United States and Israeli militaries are closely aligned with similar ethics policies governing their actions. Although the media often characterize Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operations as crimes, let’s take a reality check. Here are examples of context and facts which demonstrate the humanitarian bedrock of Israel’s military personnel.

Twisted Facts Abound

In 2014, Israel conducted Operation Protective Edge, and common headlines were, “Israel Bombs Gaza.” Most news reports omitted the context that terrorists had rocketed southern Israel’s civilians for years on end, during which Israel demonstrated great restraint while almost daily her frightened citizens ran for cover from incoming rockets. Other articles with headlines such as, “Israel Kills Civilians in Gaza” made no mention that Hamas terrorists purposely hid themselves inside their own civilian population, cruelly turning them into human shields, and had used apartment buildings as weapons storage sites.

One of the best-kept secrets during the war were the protective measures taken by Israel to save the lives of civilians in Gaza. Those measures included the Israel Air Force dropping pamphlets in Gaza warning the population to take shelter before they attacked a known weapons cache or rocket launcher. Thousands of warning phone calls were also made from Israel into Gaza before attacks. After all that, Israelis also rerouted in-flight missiles if civilians were observed in harm’s way in the last few seconds. It seems Israelis were more protective of Gaza’s civilians than its Hamas terrorist government.

Checkpoints a Necessity

Accusations about Israel’s checkpoints are also skewed and lack context. Due to decades-long, deadly terror resulting in the murder of thousands of Israeli civilians in restaurants, buses, and homes, Israel is forced to maintain checkpoints and conduct searches. They don’t prefer to do this but necessity calls for it, because armed terrorists have been found hiding in ambulances and suicide bomb-belts have been hidden under Palestinian women’s burkas.

Checkpoints are certainly inconvenient for Palestinians who work inside Israel or need to travel to Israeli hospitals for treatment. Despite the challenges, however, thousands of Palestinians daily go in and out of the checkpoints to their needed destinations.

Stopping Weapons Transfers

Israel’s Air Force is excoriated when it conducts targeted bombing runs into Syria, yet from the beginning of Syria’s unraveling Israeli leaders have been clear they would bomb any detected weapons transfers from Iran to Hezbollah. The weapons transfers continued unabated, and now that the war is slowing down, Hezbollah is pulling out of Syria to again focus its energy on using those weapons to destroy Israel.

IDF Humanitarian Aid

An underreported yet powerful example of the IDF’s humanitarian character is the field hospital on the Syrian border where they have rescued more than 5,000 wounded Syrians who make it to safety. If the wounds are serious, the IDF transports them to Ziv Medical Center, a hospital in northern Israel. Through translators, the Syrian patients express shock, then gratitude for the skillful and kind treatment they receive. Although Israel and Syria have no peace treaty, Israelis still provide humanitarian aid when possible.

It’s useful to recall Benjamin Franklin’s quote when you are forming your opinion about Israel’s military and media coverage of its actions: “Half a truth is often a great lie.” 

- by Susan Michael, US Director and creator of


Israel’s detractors and even uninformed friends often complain that Israel receives more US foreign aid than other nations. Let’s clear away the debris of misinformation to look at the facts.

The Big Picture: US Foreign Aid Budget

First, take a moment to ask yourself: What percentage of the US budget goes toward foreign aid? Your answer might be 10% or even 25%. It’s much less. Foreign aid is only 1% of our annual budget and includes both economic aid and security assistance.

Foreign Aid to Israel

US foreign aid to Israel is only 6% of the 1%, and it is security assistance—not economic aid. This financial aid designated for military expenses is critical to Israel’s small budget.

Comparing defense spending in several countries as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the US allocates 4.35% for its defense, the United Kingdom 2.49%, and China 1.99%. Tiny Israel spends more than 5.8% of its GDP, the highest in the industrialized world. Surrounded by a sea of terrorist threats, they are forced to allocate a higher percentage of their GDP on their military budget—around $55 billion in 2016.

Countries Costing the United States More

Nevertheless, Israel is not the largest recipient of US foreign aid. Afghanistan costs American tax payers $4.7 billion per year from both the economic and security assistance budgets.

The $3.1 billion in security assistance to Israel is far less than what the United States spends on other countries if you also take into account the larger Department of Defense budget for things like overseas military bases. There are 48,828 American soldiers stationed on Japanese soil costing the American tax payer $27 billion per year. US troops are also stationed in Germany costing $21 billion and in South Korea $15 billion. Moreover, these American troops may be expected to enter a war if these nations are threatened.

In contrast, Israel does not ask for or want American soldiers to fight their battles. While the United States and Israel closely cooperate on multiple levels, the only US service personnel on the ground in Israel are a few dozen stationed at an Israeli facility housing a US military radar installation.

Most Aid to Israel Stays in the United States

Approximately 75% of Israel’s $3.1 billion annual foreign aid never leaves American bank accounts because funds are used for weapons manufactured right here at home in defense industry plants throughout the country. Thus, US foreign aid to Israel is essentially a way of subsidizing the American defense industry while strengthening the military capabilities of its strategic ally.

Among many other benefits, Israelis also improve our weaponry. For example, they invented a Bradley tank under-carriage reactive armor that blows explosions from Improvized Explosive Devices (IEDs) outward, thus saving more than 1,000 American soldiers serving in Iraq.

Both Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress agree that Israel’s value to US security is incalculable. Congress demonstrated this by renewing a ten-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that increased foreign aid to Israel to $3.8 billion annually beginning in 2018.

Compared to the costs the United States would incur if Israel did not have our backs in the Middle East, this is a small price to pay. Without Israel the United States would be forced to maintain American military bases throughout the region with protective air and sea patrols. This would cost many times over what we pay now in foreign aid to Israel.  

- by Susan Michael, US Director and creator of


Israel was one of the first countries to send a team of disaster management experts, mental health experts, and engineers to Houston after hurricane Harvey hit last week. This team, sent by IsraAID, is working together with local authorities and is seeking to provide emergency assistance to those in need and to help rebuild the community of Houston, TX.

Even though just the size of New Jersey, Israel has achieved acclaim all over the world with its humanitarian aid efforts. With the advent of the modern Jewish state in 1948, Israel set its course to embrace its biblical history of charity, “repairing the world,” known in the Hebrew language as “Tikkun Olam.” Isaiah 1:16–17 sums it up: “Devote yourself to justice, aid the wronged, uphold the rights of the orphan, defend the cause of the widow.” This value permeates Israeli society which transports Tikkun Olam to nations in need.

Several agencies oversee Israel’s world impact including MASHAV, established in 1957 under Prime Minister Golda Meir. As an arm of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, MASHAV runs Israel’s official humanitarian assistance program. MASHAV’s training courses have impacted the lives of millions living in poor nations by enabling 270,000 participants from 132 nations to return to their countries to improve agriculture, medicine, water, and other necessities.

IsraAID, a non-profit, non-governmental organization, focuses on disasters and long-term support. Since its establishment in 2001, it has been on the ground in nearly every major humanitarian crisis in the 21st century. Their civilian and Israel Defense Force personnel, including medics, doctors, search and rescue teams, and post trauma experts, often arrive in the earliest days of a disaster.

For example, when Haiti’s 2010 earthquake hit, IsraAID’s team was the first on the scene, saving thousands of lives. They set up a world-class field hospital recently named in a ceremony by the World Health Organization as “the number one in the world.” At the time, The New York Times reported, “Years of dealing with terrorist attacks, combined with an advanced medical technology sector, have made Israel one of the nimblest countries in disaster relief.” IsraAID has helped in 140 countries.

Israel even reaches out to its enemies in overt and covert ways. Ziv Hospital located in the northern Israeli town of Tzfat has treated more than 2,000 seriously wounded Syrians who make it to the Syria/Israel border.

In another fascinating outreach, Israeli humanitarian aid volunteers undertake dangerous missions from Israel into Syria to deliver medicines, food, and other necessities to hundreds of thousands of desperate Syrians. They secretly go to countries without diplomatic ties to Israel.

One of its leaders describes their work: “We are a group of Israeli citizens who love their homeland and believe in a Jewish tradition and culture that values compassionate, open-minded respect for the sanctity of human life and dignity. We believe we are blessed to be born in a democratic country that enables its citizens to travel to challenging and dangerous places ... Israel feels a moral and ethical duty to become ‘the voice of the voiceless’ ... even among some of our toughest and cruelest enemies.”  

How Does Israel Treat Palestinians?

Ride around Israel with an Arab taxi driver, and he will readily tell you he prefers to live under an Israeli government. Various polls indicate that 60 to 78 percent of Arabs in East Jerusalem share the same opinion. How can it be that most Arab residents of Jerusalem would choose to live under Israeli governance rather than Palestinian?

West Bank Under Israeli Rule

A few facts will supply insights. At the time of the 1967 Six-Day War waged by five Arab nations against Israel, Arab residents of the West Bank—biblical Judea and Samaria—lived a third-world life. Although Jordan had occupied the area for 20 years, low life expectancy, malnutrition, poor education, infectious diseases, and child mortality were widespread. Fewer than 60 percent of all male adults were employed.

During the 1970s, under Israeli administration, the West Bank and Gaza then grew into the fourth fastest-growing economy in the world. By 1986, 92.8 percent of the population had electricity around the clock compared to 20.5 percent in 1967; 85 percent had running water compared to 16 percent in 1967. Not one university had existed in the territories, but by the early 1990s, seven such institutions were in operation boasting 16,500 students.

Under Israeli governance the adult illiteracy rate had plummeted to 14 percent. More than 100,000 Palestinians worked in Israel, and many more worked in the 2,000 industrial plants that Israel built in the West Bank. Mortality rates fell significantly and life expectancy rose from 48 to 72 years by 2000. Childhood diseases like polio, whooping cough, tetanus, and measles were eradicated.

Palestinian Government Corruption

Since 1995 the Palestinian people have been ruled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) government. Whereas Israel had spent millions of dollars dramatically improving public services like electricity, water, roads, universities, and clinics, Palestinian leaders are lining their own pockets with donations from many nations designated to help the Palestinian people. When Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Chairman Yasser Arafat died in 2004, he was worth some $1 billion. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is said to be worth around $100 million.

The PA’s corruption, embedded in Palestinian society, is one reason the Palestinian population prefers living in Israel. An egregious example of government corruption hurting the Palestinian people is found in the PA’s health care program where medical services are often supplied to the one who pays the largest bribe.

Even in recent years when 95 percent of Palestinians have been ruled by their own government, Israel has built a new regional business center in the West Bank which serves Israeli and PA personnel. In 2015, 190,000 Palestinians entered Israel for medical treatment, and trucks filled with humanitarian aid and goods for Gaza increased by 108 percent. A designated medical unit in the Israel Defense Force offers on-site medical care to Palestinians in cooperation with Palestinian hospitals.

Israeli Checkpoints

Although various outbreaks of violence have marred the relationship between Jews and Arabs since the 1920s, the Second Intifada from 2000–2005 marked a dreadful turning point. More than a thousand Israelis died at the hands of suicide bombers detonating themselves on buses and in restaurants. The Israeli government finally implemented a passive solution by building security fences to hinder or slow down terrorists. This resulted in a 95 percent reduction of Jewish deaths, but necessitated checkpoints manned by the IDF.

The checkpoints remain a burden on both the Palestinians and the Israelis. The Palestinians feel trapped and inconvenienced. The Israelis don’t know who is going to wield a knife or a gun, or wear a bomb belt, to kill more Jewish people if allowed through the checkpoint.

Protecting the Palestinian Authority

One benefit of Israel’s security apparatus, including the wall and checkpoints, is that it has kept the PA government in power. The PA’s number one existential threat is the Hamas terror organization that would like to take over the West Bank just as it did Gaza. While growing disenchantment with the PA government may eventually give way to a Hamas takeover from within, Israeli security has been doing all it can to prevent a hostile takeover from without.


Despite these complex political problems, Israel has done much to better the lives of the Palestinian people over the last 50 years. They should demand as much from their own leaders.

Did the Jews Steal the Palestinians’ Land?

A common accusation against Israel is that the state is founded upon land stolen from the Palestinian people. A quick review of history reveals a far different story.


Ancient History

The Jewish people’s connection to the land goes back some 4,000 years when, according to the Bible, God bequeathed it to the Jewish people through an unconditional covenant with Abraham. The Bible also records the Israelites’ settlement of the land and the establishment of the Davidic Kingdom there. Over the next 3,000 years the Jewish people suffered two exiles; however, a Jewish presence always remained.

The second exile began when Roman forces destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70, slaughtered many Jewish inhabitants, took others into captivity to Rome, and caused many others to flee. In AD 135, Emperor Hadrian attempted to remove all traces of Jewish identity from the area by building a pagan city he named Aelia Capitolina over Jerusalem and erecting a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount. He also renamed the area of Judea “Palestine” after the Philistines, the ancient enemies of the Israelites.

Paganism eventually gave way to Christianity in Rome, and the Christian Byzantine Empire ruled over the region of Palestine for some 300 years until the Islamic invasion of the seventh century. After that, Islam ruled the land of Israel for some 1,400 years until the defeat and breakup of the crumbling Ottoman Empire in World War I.

International Backing of the Modern Return

In 1920, the Allied countries of Britain, France, Italy, and Japan met in San Remo, Italy to decide what to do with the areas in the Middle East vacated by the Ottoman Turks. At this conference, they resolved to establish mandatory trusts over these areas for their respective indigenous inhabitants. These mandates were viewed as “sacred trusts” intended to prepare the areas for self-rule by the indigenous peoples. The 1917 Balfour Declaration had already declared Great Britain’s support for the establishment of Jewish sovereignty in Palestine, in recognition of the ancient Jewish claim and connection to the land of Israel. Former British diplomat Lord Curzon called the Balfour Declaration Israel’s “Magna Carta.”

On July 24, 1922, the fifty-one members of the League of Nations, which was later succeeded by the United Nations, unanimously adopted the British Mandate for Palestine. This decision was based on international recognition that the Jewish people were indigenous to the land of Israel. It thus enshrined into international law the legal right for Jewish people to settle anywhere in western Palestine, between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.

Professor Eliav Shochetman, an expert in international law at Hebrew University, explains: “The right of the people of Israel to the Land of Israel was recognized by the League of Nations in 1921…From this moment on [the Balfour Document] became accepted by all of the nations” When the League of Nations ended and the United Nations was established, the UN Charter contained “ a special clause, no. 80, in which it is said that all of the rights that were recognized in international law by the League of Nations still exist and are still binding . . . there is no document in international law that grants rights of sovereignty to anybody other than to the Jewish People. This is the legal position,” according to Shochetman.

Land Purchases and Statehood

Several waves of Jewish immigration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries resulted in economic development and job opportunities for the local population. Therefore, as the Jewish communities grew, so did the Arab population. Jewish organizations and individuals bought property from private landowners—many absentee—often paying exorbitant prices for barren desert and malaria-infested swamps. Upon statehood, Israel assumed title over any public lands once held by the Ottoman Empire.

Palestinian Grievances

After the UN Partition Plan of 1947, the Jews declared statehood, were recognized by the United Nations, and were admitted as full voting members to the international body. Israel’s founding was legal and accepted by the international community as such. However, the new Jewish State was immediately attacked by the surrounding Arab nations.

During the 1948 War of Independence, many Arab peoples living in areas now under Israeli sovereignty were displaced. Their displacement occurred for several reasons, including Arab leaders urging them to flee and promising their return after victory in a few short weeks. Most Arab refugees never left “Palestine” itself since they traveled a few miles to the other side of the fighting, while others crossed over into bordering Arab nations with the same language and ethnicity. Unfortunately, these Arab nations did not welcome their brethren, choosing instead to put them into refugee camps where many remain to this day.

Israel’s Proclamation of Independence, issued May 14, 1948, invited the Arab inhabitants of the land to remain in their homes and become equal citizens in the new state. The 160,000 Arabs who remained in Israel kept their homes and properties and are today Israeli citizens who enjoy the freedoms and opportunities afforded them by the region’s one and only democratic country. There are some 1.7 million Arab citizens of Israel today.

Meanwhile, in the wake of their defeat in 1948, the Arab states forcibly expelled more than 800,000 Jewish citizens and stripped them of all their property—constituting a much larger theft of land and belongings and a larger refugee problem than that claimed by the Palestinians. While Israel absorbed these Jewish refugees, the Arab countries did not absorb the Palestinian Arab refugees.


Hence, it is true that some Arabs lost their residences by vacating them in 1948 only to realize they were unable to return once the fighting stopped. It is also true that some Arab individuals have lost their homes due to Israeli military or security measures. And while any legitimate grievance should be recognized and compensated, the problem is small compared to the large amounts of land Israel obtained legally and the number of Jews who lost their properties in Arab countries. Therefore, it in no way calls into question the legitimacy of the Jewish State.

Susan Michael is the USA Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and creator of the website.

Is Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a True Peace Partner for Israel?

Mahmoud Abbas became the first prime minister of the Palestinian Authority in 2003 and was elected as its president in 2005 after former leader Yasser Arafat’s death. Abbas belonged to Yasser Arafat’s inner circle for 40 years and still imitates some of his mentor’s policies. Egyptian-born Arafat was a product of the Muslim Brotherhood and is often cited as the godfather of modern terrorism.

In 1982, during Soviet Union communism, Abbas earned his doctorate from Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow (now known as the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia). His thesis, “The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement,” was published in Arabic as a book entitled The Other Side: The Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism. Abbas claimed that the 6 million who were killed in the Holocaust was a “fantastic lie” and “a myth,” and the “Jews which were killed by the Nazis were actually the victims of a Zionist-Nazi plot.” Critics of his book view it as Holocaust denial. A decade later, Abbas seemed to abandon some of these tenets after an outcry from the Jewish community.

Abbas was implicated in the financing and planning of the massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes in 1973. Then, in 1985 he was implicated in the hijacking of the Italian Achille Lauro cruise ship by Palestinian terrorists who threw a wheelchair-bound Jewish businessman overboard to his death. Along with the Palestinian terrorists, Italian courts convicted Abbas in absentia for his part in planning the hijacking, but he served no time.

In the ensuing years, Abbas accumulated a mixed record. Western nations generally consider him more of a pragmatist. For example, under international pressure he said he was not in favor of the Palestinian’s violent uprising (Intifada) in 2003. Although he participated in a round of direct peace talks in 2008 with Israel’s then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Abbas walked away—even though he was offered 95 percent of his requests.

In negotiations with PM Netanyahu in 2010, Abbas refused to continue discussions citing the “building of settlements” as a hindrance. He called on PM Netanyahu to halt construction for 10 months, promising to restart talks. Netanyahu complied, but direct negotiations have not taken place since.

Instead, Abbas has focused on winning favor in the United Nations. He justifies this move in part because he claims that US-mediated peace negotiations did not put enough pressure on Israel to make concessions. To make matters worse, not only has Abbas refused direct negotiations with PM Netanyahu, but in 2014 he aligned with Hamas, the terrorist government of Gaza.

He and his sons have been accused of corruption with his net worth now estimated to be $100 million. In July 2012, the US Congress called the corruption into question naming it “Chronic Kleptocracy: Corruption Within the Palestinian Political Establishment.”

A true partner for peace? You decide.

Susan M. Michael is US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and creator of educational website.



JERUSALEM­—it’s a name which stirs a wide spectrum of emotions and a quagmire of international disagreement. Here are several reasons for the multilayered controversy over Jerusalem.



Over the last 150 years, as Jerusalem expanded beyond the ancient walls of the Old City, Jews and Arabs lived interspersed on both the eastern and western sides. A complicating factor was introduced in 1947 when the United Nations drew up the Partition Plan, offering swaths of land for both Jewish and Arab states, and keeping Jerusalem separate as an internationally managed city. The Jews begrudgingly accepted the plan and declared statehood, while the Arabs rejected it outright and, instead of statehood, declared war on the new-found Jewish State.

At the end of the 1948 War of Independence between Israel and the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, armistice lines were drawn on a map with a green pen­—still known today as the Green Line. Jerusalem became a divided city: Israel controlled the western part and Jordan controlled the eastern part. For the next nineteen years, Jordanians prevented Jews from accessing Jerusalem’s Old City and Western Wall of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.

In 1967 the Six Day War broke out with the surrounding countries. Israel won the war, capturing the rest of Jerusalem and, for the first time since 1949, allowing the Jewish people to worship at the Western Wall. Israelis offered Arabs full citizenship and many accepted, while others accepted Permanent Resident status. For fifty years now, an undivided Jerusalem has thrived under Israel’s governance, and all three faiths have enjoyed full access to their holy sites.


The Jerusalem controversy intensified in 1980 when Israel’s Knesset declared all of Jerusalem as their eternal, undivided capital. An outcry sounded across the world. The United Nations refused to recognize Israel’s decision and urged embassies in Jerusalem to relocate, wherewith they vacated the city for Tel Aviv. In response a small group of resolute Christians founded the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ). Since 1980 the ICEJ has mobilized Christian support for the State of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. In the ensuing years, Israel’s government has recognized the ICEJ’s important outreach to all the country’s communities, including Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Druze, and Ethiopians.


Jerusalem was forced into a more dangerous quagmire under the tutelage of Palestinian Authority leader, Yasser Arafat. In 1993, after the Oslo Peace Accords, Arafat moved to Israel and set out on a disinformation crusade. He renamed the local Arabs as “Palestinians,” incited Intifadas, and proclaimed the goal of Palestinian statehood with Jerusalem as the capital, even though “Palestine” had never before been a nation.

Arafat’s repeated declaration of Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital sent shock waves into Israel and beyond. In recent decades, the United Nations has positioned itself squarely on the Palestinians’ side and has become a veritable playground of anti-Israel resolutions, while the Palestinians themselves refuse direct negotiations with Israel.


Many streams flood into this river of controversy, but the United States Congress has been a consistent champion for Israel—both Democrats and Republicans. In 1995, Congress passed the Jerusalem Embassy Act which recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and legislated that the US Embassy should move there from Tel Aviv. A caveat in the legislation allowed the last three presidents to delay that move. However, moving the US Embassy is now a hot topic as President Trump has declared his intention to relocate the US Embassy to Jerusalem.


For the worldwide Jewish community, Jerusalem is at the heart of their faith and was established by King David as the capital of the Jewish people some 3,000 years ago. Jerusalem was also the focal point during 2,000 years of Jewish Diaspora as they longed for their ancient homeland. For Christians, Jerusalem is particularly significant: it is the ancient Jewish city where Jesus walked, taught, lived, died, and rose again some 2,000 years ago. The Muslim world reveres Jerusalem and believes their prophet ascended from there on his Night Journey.

The problem is not in the close proximity of holy sites belonging to three different religions but when one of those religions shows disrespect for the others.  The Muslim Jordanian armies destroyed all of the synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem and refused access to Jews who wanted to pray at the Western Wall.  The Jewish Israeli government has shown respect to all three faiths and allowed freedom of access to all sites.  The only religion not having free access to all of their holy sites is the Jewish faith, whose believers can not pray on top of the Muslim-controlled Temple Mount.

It is time for international powers to recognize the peace and religious freedom that Israeli governance has maintained and stop attempts to delegitimize their rule over the city. As a Christian organization, the ICEJ applauds the Israeli government for our freedom of worship and access to holy sites.

For students of the scriptures it is not surprising that the mention of the name Jerusalem draws such a lightning rod of controversy; it is predicted. Zechariah 12 even contains dire warnings of the consequences of this type of international opposition to Jerusalem and pursuit to take control of the city—a warning the nations should certainly heed:

And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples;
all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces,
though all nations of the earth are gathered against it. (Zech. 12:3, NKJV)

Susan Michael is the US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, creator of the  www.IsraelAnswers.comeducational website on Israel and Christian Zionism. 

The Truth about Israeli Settlements

Settlements are not the Major Obstacle to Peace

While settlements can be a source of conflict, they are not the major obstacle to peace. From 1948-1967 no Israeli settlements existed, yet the Palestinian leadership and the Arab World still sought Israel's annihilation.

As a result of the resounding Israeli victory in the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel gained the “West Bank,” “Gaza,” ”Golan Heights” and “East Jerusalem.” Less than a week after the war ended, the Israeli unity government under PM Levi Eshkol affirmed – and then told the Americans -- that Israel would return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and the Golan Heights to Syria in return for signed peace treaties. Separate negotiations would then be conducted regarding the future of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and the refugee issue. While Egypt accepted the Sinai offer, Syria rejected the Golan Heights offer. Negotiations over the West Bank and Gaza failed.

Settlements do not Jeopardize Future “Land for Peace” Deals

In the meantime, some Israelis took up residence in areas around Jerusalem that were across the 1967 armistice lines. These Israeli developments, known as “Settlements,” only take up around 2% of West Bank land. Over time, US Administrations recognized that Israel would retain some of these towns in any peace agreement.

Israel has uprooted other settlements such as those in the Gaza Strip. In 2005 Israel evacuated all the Jewish families living in Gaza—a total population of 8,000. However, instead of making peace, Hamas—a terrorist organization—took over the Gaza Strip and responded by firing thousands of rockets at Israeli cities in the ensuing years.

The Israeli Government is not Building New Settlements

For years, the only legal construction allowed by the Israeli government has been within existing communities to accommodate the natural growth of resident families. Illegal outposts, which do not conform to Israel’s policies, do exist. Some critics fault the Israeli government for not dealing with them more forcefully, but the government works to resolve the issue peacefully or by court order.

Israeli Settlements may not be Illegal at all1

Many legal scholars question whether Settlements are illegal at all. Eugene V. Rostow, one of the authors of UN Security Council Resolution 242—written after the 1967 war to create a framework for peace negotiations—stated, "The Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated and cannot be terminated except by a recognized peace between Israel and its neighbors." Moreover, Rostow contended that "The Jewish right of settlement in the area is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing Palestinian population to live there."

Others contend that the Geneva Convention, passed after WWII, makes the Settlements illegal. The December 2016 UN Security Council Resolution 2334 Vote—passed due to the US government’s abstention—declared them illegal and opened the door to future international actions against Israel.

Palestinians are Building Illegally around Jerusalem2

All of the governments and international bodies that criticize Israel for building what many claim to be legal communities are silent about the construction of new Palestinian developments surrounding Jerusalem. According to a detailed article by Bassam Tawil of the Gatestone Institute, the questionable construction is primarily in Zone-C, which under the Oslo Peace Accords should be territory controlled by Israel. According to Tawil, Palestinians estimate that in the past few years they have built more than 15,000 illegal housing units in areas surrounding Jerusalem as part of a plan to encircle the city. These are not single family homes, but massive apartment complexes without proper licenses, not built to code, and some without proper sewage. The article claims that many of the "contractors" are land-thieves and thugs who are building without permission on private Palestinian-owned land or on lands whose owners are living abroad.

The Major Obstacle to Peace is Palestinian Leadership

The Palestinian leadership's refusal to give up the conflict, recognize Israel as a Jewish State, and renounce the "right of return" for most Palestinian refugees, is the real obstacle to peace. The so-called "right of return" would allow millions of descendants of Palestinian refugees to flood Israel. No Israeli leader would ever accept the "right of return," since it would mean the end of the world’s only Jewish state. Yet, the Palestinian leadership has never told its own people that they must forfeit this claim in order to achieve peace.

Susan M. Michael is US Director of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and her articles can be found at and



  1.   For further reading on the legality of Settlements see:
    The legal case for settlements in Judea and Samaria

  2. For further reading on illegal Palestinian construction see:
    The Real Illegal Settlements in Israel
    Palestinians are Building Illegal Settlements to Extend their Claims to Jerusalem
    Israel Clamping Down on Illegal EU Building in West Bank


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