Every time I travel to my office I go through an area dubbed the Arab Triangle. This is an area just north of the West Bank that is part of Israel proper but in which there are several Arab towns. From Afula our hometown, I travel to Megiddo, site of a very ancient and historical fortress. From Megiddo I head through a pass on the tail end of the Carmel Mountain range and the beginning of the Central Mountain Range (that runs through the West Bank). The various Arab cities along the route are Bavada, Musmus, Uhm Al-Fahm, Basma, Katzir, Arara and Kfar Qaria. The cities surround the main road, Rt. 65, through the area. During the last Intifada (uprising) from 2000-2003, I was told it was dangerous to travel this route due to rock throwing and demonstrations. Why is this area primarily Arab?
Prior to Israel’s independence, the United Nations partitioned then Palestine into two parts – the Jewish part and the Arab part. Each part was to be its own nation. The boundaries were determined by where there was a Jewish (blue) or Arab (orange) majority. I’m enclosing a map of that partition plan. The northern part of the large orange section, just north of Jenin is the area known as the Arab Triangle.
The Arabs in then Palestine and the surrounding Arab nations rejected the Partition Plan and attacked Israel, which lead to Israel’s War of Independence, 1947-49. During Israel’s successful prosecution of the war, she pushed into territory originally granted to the Arabs. Many Arabs fled; some were forcibly displaced. However, the area known as the Arab Triangle remained Arab. Following the war, Jordan claimed the West Bank for herself and Egypt claimed Gaza, interestingly depriving the so-called Palestinians of their own state even at that time. Despite the large Arab populations in the Triangle, Israel claimed the area for herself for strategic reasons and traded parts of land just south of Hebron to Jordan (early land swaps). See the map of post Independence war Israel. The light pink bordering the northern side of the West Bank is the Arab Triangle. That’s where Route 65 traverses, and that’s where I drive at least three times a week.
As Jewish/Arab relations have deteriorated and terrorism is increasing, demonstrations have begun in a number of Arab areas throughout Israel, including the towns of the Arab Triangle. I now pray and keep a watchful eye as I travel the area. But I also think about the Arabs in these towns. The vast majority are Muslim. In fact, of the 1.5 million Arabs in Israel proper, 83% are Muslim. Many are being influenced by the increasingly radicalization of Islam throughout the Middle East. It’s hard to imagine them ever accepting the idea of a Jewish state despite living in it. Some of Israel’s right wing politicians have actually suggested trading the Arab Triangle to a future Palestine with land swaps for some of the settlements in the West Bank. Interestingly, however, in the year 2000, a survey was conducted in Uhm Al-Fahm, the largest city of the Triangle, regarding this question. 83% opposed the idea of a transfer to Palestine. Something has to give.
In addition, more and more nations are openly supporting the idea of a Palestinian state. Without movement on Israel’s part, she will be isolated in an increasingly dangerous world. But more importantly, Israel is called to be a light to the nations. It’s hard to be so when you are occupying land that no other nation recognizes as legitimate, and you are occupying people that don’t want to be part of you. It’s time for a change and for the government to act boldly to help preserve Israel’s future. There’s no question the Bible promises the land of Israel to the Jewish people. In fact, there are more such promises in the Hebrew Scriptures than there are about the Messiah. Nevertheless, the right of Israel to be resident in the land is based, in part, upon her conduct, especially just conduct. Thumbing one’s noses at the rest of the world and resisting opportunities to resolve the intractable Palestinian problems lead to continuing conflict and isolation. And, for my purposes, makes travel through the Arab Triangle increasingly perilous.