Greater Israel

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Greater Israel is a controversial expression with several different Biblical and political meanings over time.

Currently, the most common definition of the land encompassed by the term is the territory of the State of Israel together with the Palestinian territories. Other earlier definitions, favored by Revisionist Zionism, included the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine (with or without Transjordan, which developed independently after 1923). Other religious uses refer to one of the Biblical definitions of the Land of Israel found in Genesis 15:18-21, Deuteronomy 11:24, Deuteronomy 1:7, Numbers 34:1-15 or Ezekiel 47:13-20.

The boundaries of the Land of Israel defined by Genesis 15:18-21
The boundaries of the Land of Israel defined by Ezekiel (blue line) and in the Torah (red line).

State of Israel, West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights[edit]

Currently in Israel, in the debate relating to the borders of Israel, "Greater Israel" is generally used to refer to the territory of the State of Israel and the Palestinian territories, the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine. However, because of the controversial nature of the term, the term Land of Israel is used.

Joel Greenberg, writing in the New York Times notes; ‘At Israel's founding in 1948, the Labor Zionist leadership, which went on to govern Israel in its first three decades of independence, accepted a pragmatic partition of what had been British Palestine into independent Jewish and Arab states. The opposition Revisionist Zionists, who evolved into today's Likud party, sought Eretz Yisrael Ha-Shlema -- Greater Israel, or literally, the Whole Land of Israel.[1] The capture of the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Jordan and Egypt during the Six Day War in 1967, led to the growth of the non-parliamentary Movement for Greater Israel and the construction of Israeli settlements. The 1977 elections, which brought Likud to power also had considerable impact on acceptance and rejection of the term. Greenberg notes:

THE seed was sown in 1977, when Menachem Begin of Likud brought his party to power for the first time in a stunning election victory over Labor. A decade before, in the 1967 war, Israeli troops had in effect undone the partition accepted in 1948 by overrunning the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Ever since, Mr. Begin had preached undying loyalty to what he called Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and promoted Jewish settlement there. But he did not annex the West Bank and Gaza to Israel after he took office, reflecting a recognition that absorbing the Palestinians could turn Israel into a bi-national state instead of a Jewish one.[1]

Yitzhak Shamir was a dedicated proponent of Greater Israel and as Israeli Prime Minister gave the settler movement funding and Israeli governmental legitimisation.[2]

Annexation of the Palestinian territories (the West Bank and Gaza Strip) was part of the platform of the Israeli Likud party, and of some other Israeli political parties.[3] On September 14, 2008 Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert remarked that "Greater Israel is over. There is no such thing. Anyone who talks that way is deluding themselves".[4]

The same territory, "from the river to the sea", is also claimed as Palestine by the PLO[5] and Hamas.[6]

Hillel Weiss, a professor at Bar-Ilan University, "preaches" the necessity of rebuilding the Temple and of Jewish rule over Greater Israel.[7][8][9] Rabbi Meir Kahane, assassinated ultra-nationalist Knesset member who founded the American Jewish Defense League and the banned Israeli Kach party, worked towards this and other Religious Zionist goals.

Promised Land[edit]

Greater Israel occasionally refers to the Promised Land (defined in Genesis 15:18-21) or to the Land of Israel, and is also called Complete Land of Israel or "Entire Land of Israel" (Hebrew: ארץ ישראל השלמה‎, Eretz Yisrael Hashlemah). This is a more accurate translation than "Greater" Israel, which is used in English but has no real counterpart in Hebrew.

The Bible contains three geographical definitions of the Land of Israel. The first, found in Genesis 15:18-21, seems to define the land that was given to all of the children of Abraham, including Ishmael, Zimran, Jokshan, Midian, etc. It describes a large territory, "from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates", comprising all of modern-day Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, as well as Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, U.A.E, Oman, Yemen, most of Turkey, and all the land east of the Nile river.

The other definitions are found in Deuteronomy 11:24, Deuteronomy 1:7, Numbers 34:1-15, and Ezekiel 47:13-20. They describe smaller territories (see the map included in this article). The definition in Numbers and Ezekiel refers to the land that was divided between the original twelve tribes of Israel after they were delivered from Egypt, and finally, the borders defined in the book of Deuteronomy are those that will be given to the children of Israel slowly throughout the years (please see Exodus 23:29 & Deuteronomy 7:22).

10 Agorot coin controversy[edit]

Zionists, and the State of Israel, have been accused of plotting to expand Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates. This so-called 10 Agorot controversy is named after the Israeli coin brandished by PLO chairman Yasser Arafat in 1988 as evidence for this accusation. The Bank of Israel denies this claim and maintains the coin is a replica of a historical coin dating from 37-40 BCE.[10]

British Mandate of Palestine[edit]

Emblem of the Irgun (also known by its acronmym, Etzel)

Early Revisionist Zionist groups such as Betar and Irgun Zvai-Leumi regarded as Greater Israel the territory of the Mandate of Palestine including Transjordan.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The World: Pursuing Peace; Netanyahu and His Party Turn Away from 'Greater Israel'
  2. ^ Mordechai Bar-On (2004) A never-ending conflict: a guide to Israeli military history Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0-275-98158-4 p 219
  3. ^ "Likud - Platform". www.knesset.gov.il. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  4. ^ Ha'aretz 14 September 2008 Olmert: There's no such thing as 'Greater Israel' any more By Barak Ravid "Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Sunday reiterated his position that the vision of Israel holding onto the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of its sovereign territory was finished."
  5. ^ The PNC Program of 1974, June 8, 1974. On the site of MidEastWeb for Coexistence R.A. - Middle East Resources. Page includes commentary. Accessed 5 December 2006.
  6. ^ "The Covenant of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas)". MidEast Web. August 18, 1988. 
  7. ^ Haaretz Weiss versa by Avi Garfunkel, 30 January 2004
  8. ^ friendvill0104 (copy of Ha'aretz article)
  9. ^ ABC News
  10. ^ [1]
  11. ^ Pappé, Ilan (1994). The making of the Arab-Israeli conflict, 1947-1951. London: I.B.Tauris. p. 21. ISBN 978-1-85043-819-9. 

External links[edit]