Bennett: Judea, Samaria Key to Israel's Security
WASHINGTON -- Judea and Samaria: to Jews and Christians around the world, it's the Bible's heartland. But much of the world, including the United States, wants Israel to give this important piece of history to the Palestinians as part of a Middle East peace deal.
Now Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett is leading the charge to keep that land in the hands of the Jewish state.
His story reads like the American dream: hi-tech entrepreneur makes millions, enters politics, and becomes a rising star.
But that's only part of the story. While Bennett's parents are both American citizens, his story is uniquely Israeli.
After getting rich from selling his start-up company, Bennett could have rested on his laurels. Instead, he led a commando unit in Israel's 2006 war against the terror group, Hezbollah.
"At that point, where I should have been in the Caribbean with one of those cocktails and an umbrella, the Second Lebanon War erupted," Bennett told CBN News.
"That war changed my life," he said. "At that point I decided not to come back to the business world and hi-tech which really is my passion, but that I actually have to do something for my country."
That led Bennett to enter Israeli politics, where he became Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's chief of staff. He now serves as Israel's minister of the economy.
Some may wonder what led the entrepreneur into politics.
"We're surrounded by an ocean of totalitarian, radical Islamic regimes that want to wipe us off the face of this earth," he explained. "And I understood that, while I thought Israel could be taken for granted, it can't."
"And we have to fight, day in and day out to be this beacon of freedom in the region," he added.
Bennett told CBN News that one key to preserving Israel's security hinges on keeping the strategic areas of Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank.
"Judea and Samaria, what would supposedly become the Palestinian state, is a big mountain, 1,000 meters high," he said. "Smaller Israel, the pre-'67 lines, is right under. So imagine giving away this high land to the Palestinians."
Bennett said history shows that when Israel gives away land for peace, its enemies make war. He also noted that the Jewish people's roots in Judea and Samaria go back nearly 4,000 years.
"When I walk around Judea and Samaria, on the very same trails that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob walked, you see the same names: Bethel, Hebron, where the patriarchs and matriarchs are all buried. It's been ours forever," Bennett said.
"If I were put in a time machine and you could click a button 3,000 years backward, my direct ancestors, I'd be able to talk to them - in my land, in my language. We would actually be able to communicate in Hebrew," he noted.
"There's no other place in the world where one can say that," he said.
Nevertheless, pressure is building to hand over these areas to the Palestinians.
While the Obama administration and European Union lead the charge on that issue, Bennett said it's a different story when it comes to Iran's nuclear program. There, the push is to ease sanctions on the Iranian regime, which Bennett called a big mistake.
"It's like in a boxing match where the other guy is down and they're counting, '7, 8, 9.' And at the very last moment the West kind of picks him up and says, 'Drink something,'" Bennett told CBN News.
"We need to enforce those sanctions; otherwise, Israel will be forced to defend ourselves - and we will defend ourselves," he vowed.
Bennett told CBN News he owes it to his four small children - ranging in age from 2 to 8 years old - to keep Israel safe and secure.
He added that he deeply appreciates the support of evangelical Christians who have stood with Israel in the face of international criticism.
"The big picture is, we're a small nation, a beacon of freedom, a lighthouse in this Muslim storm," he said. "We're fighting day in and day out to be a good country - to do good and to be a democracy."