A new push for a solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict was launched in March, being led by the USA. As Barack Obama draws to the end of his presidency he is expected to push hard for progress towards the two-state solution, according to multiple sources. France has joined the initiative, and is working with the USA to develop a UN Security Council resolution to set parameters for talks, including key outcomes for both sides in the dispute. The core points include the usual contentious issues: cessation of Jewish settlement building on contested land, surrender of the right to return for Arabs, and the right for any newly formed Arab state to claim East Jerusalem as its capital.
We have been here before, and shall have to wait and see how things proceed; but as we see this renewed focus on the peace process, and in particular the status of Jerusalem, it is important to reflect once more on the words of the prophet Zechariah as he describes Jerusalem prior to the second coming of Jesus:
“Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples . . . 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” (12:2,3).5
This prophecy should lead us to expect increasing global tension over Jerusalem as we draw closer to the return of our Master; claim and counter-claim, from Jews and Arabs alike, for the right to govern Jerusalem will not go away. That is exactly what we should expect to see as we draw closer to our Lord’s coming. The battle for Jerusalem will only intensify, as the nations of the world become more embroiled in seeking a human solution to this intractable dispute. Ultimately, we know that neither of these descendants of Abraham is in the right, for ultimately this is God’s city, “the city of the great King” (Mt. 5:35). May He soon send His Son to claim it and usher in a new age of peace and righteousness.
Friend or foe?
The UN also has the two-state solution as one of its top priorities for 2016, meaning that the USA and France will find plenty of support for their initiative within the UN leadership and the majority of member states. As we have noted before, there are only a few nations amongst the 193 member-states of the UN that actively support Israel; the rest either abstain or vote against the Jewish state. Even the UK, a nation presumed to be an ally of Israel, has a record of ambivalence towards anti-Israeli sentiment at the UN. In recent years the UK has mainly either abstained or voted with pro-Palestinian resolutions. There was even a symbolic House of Commons vote in 2014 to officially ‘recognise’ the Palestinian state. This pattern of behaviour is not new and dates back even to the UN partition plan which established the Jewish state in 1947. At the termination of the British mandate over Palestine, the British government of the day abstained in the vote to form Israel and proved positively obstructive to the interim UN administration, refusing to assist with the transition to Jewish and Arab rule. With friends like this, who needs enemies?
Peace with security
When the time is right, God will allow men to proceed with their plans. We must assume that the only reason why the intention of the nations to divide God’s land once more has been unsuccessful until now is because the time is not yet right. The determination to impose the two-state solution has been growing again in recent months and we expect such a move to lead to disastrous consequences for the Jewish people.
As in the time of Isaiah (30:1-7; 31:1,2) and Jeremiah (17:5,6; 42:9-16), when Israel put their trust, not in the Lord, but rather in their own strength, looking to earthly allies for support, disaster came upon them. And so it will be that they are humbled once more before they look on him whom they pierced and mourn (Zech. 12:10).
During March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of a new era in Israel’s relationship with her Arab neighbours and the potential for this to drive improved internal Arab-Israeli relations. This warming of relationships has in part been driven by Israel’s burgeoning finds of gas and oil in the eastern Mediterranean. Could it be that we are on the verge of a shift in Arab-Israeli relations that will lead to a period of peace and prosperity for Israel and her neighbours? It looks possible.
With the fragile ceasefire holding in Syria and the surprise announcement of the withdrawal of Russian forces,9 the balance of power in the region may start to shift again. The prophet Ezekiel seems to describe a scenario where the northern confederation of nations is ‘turned around’ (38:4) with ‘hooks’ in their jaws to draw them back down onto the mountains of Israel. The nation is described as dwelling “safely” (v. 8) and “a peaceful people” (v. 11). Neither of these words can be applied to the Jewish people at present, for they are fearful of terrorist attacks both from within and from without, and they are worried about the aggressive posturing of surrounding nations—not least the Iranian nuclear program. This fear of internal and external threats has led to Israel being the most militarised nation on earth, according the to the Global Militarisation Index. During her short existence in the modern era she has fought seven external wars and four large-scale internal military operations — hardly a picture of “a peaceful people.”
An eastern Mediterranean energy boom could well drive closer relations between Israel and her neighbours, and increased prosperity in the region as a result. Such could be the scenario that brings about the secure, peaceful and prosperous nation described in Ezekiel 38, and which draws Gog and his allies down to take a spoil. We watch and pray with earnest expectation and hope in our hearts.
- Bible quotations are from the NKJV.