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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 Israelmarker together with the Palestinian territoriesmarker. Other earlier definitions, favored by Revisionist Zionism, included the territory of the former British Mandate of Palestine (with or without Transjordanmarker, which developed independently after 1923). Other religious uses refer to one of the Biblical definitions of the Land of Israel found in , or .

State of Israel, West Bank, and Gaza Strip

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 ill-defined 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. The capture of the occupied territories 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 lands) 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 binational state instead of a Jewish one.

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

Annexation of the Palestinian territories (the West Bankmarker and Gaza Stripmarker) is part of the platform of the Israeli Likud party, and of some other Israeli political parties. 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,".

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

Hillel Weiss, a professor at Bar-Ilan Universitymarker, "preaches" the necessity of rebuilding the Temple and of Jewish rule over Greater Israel. Rabbi Meir Kahane, assassinated Jewish leader and Knessetmarker Member who founded the American Jewish Defense League and the Israeli Kach party worked towards this and other Religious Zionist goals.

The Promised Land

Hypothetical map of the Greater Israel derived from the definitions in Genesis 15:18-21.

Greater Israel occasionally refers to the Promised Land (defined in ) or to the Land of Israel, and is also called Complete Land of Israel or "Entire Land of Israel" ( , 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 , is vague. It describes a large territory, "from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates", comprising all of modern-day Israelmarker, the Palestinian Territoriesmarker, and Lebanonmarker, as well as large parts of Syriamarker, Jordanmarker, and Egyptmarker. The proportion of current Iraqmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker, and Turkeymarker included in this territory is debatable.

The other two definitions are found in and and describe a smaller territory.

10 Agorot coin controversy

Some Arab nationalists accuse Zionists of plotting to expand the state of Israelmarker 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.

Mandatory Palestine

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

See also


  1. The World: Pursuing Peace; Netanyahu and His Party Turn Away from 'Greater Israel'
  2. The World: Pursuing Peace; Netanyahu and His Party Turn Away from 'Greater Israel'
  3. Mordechai Bar-On (2004) A never-ending conflict: a guide to Israeli military history Greenwood Publishing Group, ISBN 0275981584 p 219
  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. Haaretz Weiss versa by Avi Garfunkel,30 January, 2004
  7. friendvill0104 (copy of Ha'aretz article)
  8. ABC News
  9. "Imperial Israel: The Nile-to-Euphrates Calumny", by Daniel Pipes (accessed 12 October, 2005)

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