Light for the Last Days

Israel Desk – February 2020

Peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians.

Updated 04/02/2020

Donald Trump’s peace plan, put forward by his son in law Jared Kushner, is entitled Peace to Prosperity, a vision to improve the lives of Palestinian and Israeli people.  For details of the plan go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Peace-to-Prosperity-0120.pdf 

Under the plan Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel, but at the same time, it calls for a future Palestinian state with a capital in parts of East Jerusalem, probably in Abu Dis, a village on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem.

The plan envisions Israeli control over the Jordan River Valley.  Control of this area, with its border with Jordan on the River Jordan is considered vital for Israel’s security.  It would also give Israel continued control over the and Israeli settlements in the West Bank, home to around 600,000 Israelis.  This would be a vindication of the right wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu and his position on the settlements and the impossibility of dividing Jerusalem and a rejection of the policies of the Israeli left. It is also seen as an acceptance of ‘facts on the ground’, in other words the existing settlements will not be uprooted but remain under Israeli control.  One possibility is that Netanyahu will propose that Israel annexes these areas now if as expected the Palestinians reject Trump’s peace plan.

The Palestinians complain that this would give them control of three disconnected geographic regions, one north of Jerusalem (Samaria) and one south of Jerusalem (Judea) plus Gaza.  See map. It is much less than their original demand for a state on the whole of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) plus Gaza, within the pre 1967 borders of Israel and the West Bank area which was incorporated into Jordan after the 1948 Arab Israeli war.  Above all they demand that the whole of East Jerusalem, including the historic Old City, be the Capital of Palestine with the border with Israel as it was from 1948 to 1967. This demand is unacceptable to Israel, which is the reason previous attempts to make a peace settlement have failed.

The plan promises the Palestinians a better life and more prosperity in the region.  However it has been completely rejected by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president.  He refused to receive a copy of the deal or look at it repeating his “complete” rejection of the Trump plan and saying: “I will not have it recorded in my history that I sold Jerusalem.” 

He later addressed the Arab League on 1st February saying that the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel, including those relating to security, after rejecting a Middle East peace plan presented by U.S. President Donald Trump.  This means that the Palestinian Authority will no longer cooperate with the Israeli Defence Forces in policing areas of the occupied West Bank that are under Palestinian control. This could lead to a rapid loss of peace and security in the region.

Palestinian resistance to the plan is already manifesting itself.  Hamas produced a press release saying that “the Israeli occupation’s attempts to Judaise Jerusalem and holy sites are an alarming sign that must prompt our Arab and Islamic Ummah (community), along with the free people of the world to intervene immediately. We call for similar Fajr prayers to be organized in all Arab and Islamic capitals for the sake of Al-Aqsa and holy places in Palestine. The popular fight continues to defend Jerusalem’s identity and future.”  One fear is that the rejection of Trump’s peace plan will lead to an increase of conflict in the region.  

On the other hand moderate Arab leaders are telling the Palestinians to go with the plan as it is the best hope they have of getting a Palestinian state.  Many of these Arab leaders are tired of the continual intransigence of the Palestinian leaders who have ‘never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity’ in the words of former Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban.  

The fact that the central point of conflict is Jerusalem ties in with the prophecy of Zechariah 12-14 that in the last days Jerusalem will be the ‘burdensome stone, burdening all nations’ and that the final conflict will centre on the holy city as the nations gather to battle against Jerusalem, causing the physical return of the Lord Jesus to the Mount of Olives, to the east of Jerusalem.

Before this happens there are scriptures which indicate some kind of peace plan for Israel.  Daniel 9.27 speaks of a time when ‘he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week.’  Many commentators identify the ‘he’ in this case with the antichrist who confirms a peace covenant for ‘one week’ / seven years.  This covenant breaks down midway through the seven year period and leads to the time of great tribulation which will precede the return of the Messiah.  Isaiah 28.14-22 speaks of ‘a covenant with death’ made by Jerusalem’s rulers, which it is hoped will save them from ‘the overflowing scourge’ (enemy invasion).  However the deal turns out to be based on lies and falsehood and leads to just such an invasion, which the Lord’s intervention will save Israel from.  

According to Daniel’s prophecy, the one making this covenant will be one who is identified as ‘the prince to come’ who destroys the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (The Temple).  Before this event takes place Daniel tells us that the Messiah will come. In Daniel 9.26 we read: ‘And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.’  The people of the prince to come were the Romans who destroyed the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (The Temple) after the Jewish revolt in 70AD.  Forty years earlier, around 30-31 AD, the Messiah (Yeshua / Jesus) was cut off, dying a violent death for the sins of others.  

According to my understanding of Daniel 9 there is a long period of time between the fulfilment of verse 26 and verse 27, into which time comes the present church age, starting with the Day of Pentecost and ending with the rapture of the church.  After this the events of the great tribulation begin with the seven year period described in Daniel and Revelation 6-19. This period begins with the false peace covenant with Israel and ends with the final war of Armageddon and the return of the Messiah Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.  

The one who makes the covenant in Daniel 9.27 is the prince to come of verse 26.  He is also known as the antichrist or the beast of Revelation 13. Therefore he will have some connection to the Roman Empire, either arising out of the western leg of the Roman Empire, the EU, or the eastern leg, the Islamic world, led by Turkey.  Another possibility is that he is a leader of the UN which could be seen as the ultimate world empire in the latter days. Not Donald Trump or Jared Kushner then.

Interestingly both the passages in Daniel 9 and Isaiah 28 have references to the Messiah as the one who will bring real peace.  Daniel speaks directly of Mashiach / Messiah as one who would be ‘cut off but not for himself’. This means He dies a violent death but not as a punishment for his sins, but rather as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of others, as we read in Isaiah 53.5-6 about the Suffering Servant Messiah, ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’ Applying this verse to Jesus, Peter writes the ‘He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.’ 1 Peter 2.24-25.  

In Isaiah 28 in the midst of the passage about the trouble which results from the ‘covenant with death’ and the deception involved with it, we read a verse which says “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.”  Isaiah 28.16. This verse points to the Messiah as the one who is the foundation stone for the kingdom of God and the corner stone who holds it all together. Those who believe in Him will not act hastily or rashly, but will have God’s guidance and wisdom to help them through these troubled days.

The idea of the chief cornerstone being connected to the Messiah is also found in Psalm 118: ‘I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation (Yeshua / Jesus). The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. ]This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvellous in our eyes.’  

The rejection of the stone / the Messiah and His elevation to be the chief corner stone, holding the building together, is fulfilled in Yeshua the Messiah, in His life, death and resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of God from where He will come again to judge the world in righteousness.  This verse is quoted five times in the New Testament, each time applying to Jesus as the Saviour (Matthew 21.42, Mark 12.10, Luke 20.17, Acts 4.11, 1 Peter 2.6).

In the passage in 1 Peter 2 we are told to come to Him ‘as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua ha Mashiach / Jesus Christ.  Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”  They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.’

If Donald Trump’s deal does not bring ‘Peace to Prosperity’ (as we expect), we should consider the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5, ‘When they say peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them.’  In fact no attempt to make political peace in the Middle East is going to succeed before the return of the Messiah. When He returns He will bring the real peace not just to Jerusalem, Israel and the Middle East, but to the whole world, as Isaiah prophesied: ‘He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’  Isaiah 2.3-4.

Meanwhile we can find personal peace with God through faith in Jesus the Messiah.  Speaking to Jews and Gentiles Paul writes: ‘For He Himself (Jesus) is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.’  Ephesians 2.13-15.

Donald Trump’s peace plan, put forward by his son in law Jared Kushner, is entitled Peace to Prosperity, a vision to improve the lives of Palestinian and Israeli people.  For details of the plan go to https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Peace-to-Prosperity-0120.pdf

Under the plan Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel, but at the same time, it calls for a future Palestinian state with a capital in parts of East Jerusalem, in Abu Dis, a village on the eastern outskirts of Jerusalem.

The plan envisions Israeli control over the Jordan River Valley.  Control of this area, with its border with Jordan on the River Jordan is considered vital for Israel’s security.  It would also give Israel continued control over the and Israeli settlements in the West Bank, home to around 600,000 Israelis.  This would be a vindication of Benjamin Netanyahu and his desire to annex the settlements and the Jordan Valley and to prevent any division of Jerusalem, which he sees as the eternal and indivisible capital of Israel. It is also seen as an acceptance of ‘facts on the ground’, in other words the existing settlements will not be uprooted but remain under Israeli control.

The Palestinians complain that this plan would give them control of three disconnected geographic regions, one north of Jerusalem (Samaria) and one south of Jerusalem (Judea) plus Gaza.  It is much less than their original demand for a state on the whole of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) plus Gaza, within the pre 1967 borders. Above all they demand that the whole of East Jerusalem, including the historic Old City, be the Capital of Palestine with the border with Israel as it was from 1948 to 1967.  This demand is unacceptable to Israel, which is the reason previous attempts to make a peace settlement have failed.

The plan promises the Palestinians a better life and more prosperity in the region, with a massive injection of funds if they accept it.  However Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, responded to it by saying: We say 1,000 times: No, no and no to the deal of the century.” https://www.timesofisrael.com/abbas-on-us-plan-we-say-1000-times-no-no-and-no-to-the-deal-of-the-century/ He said: “I will not have it recorded in my history that I sold Jerusalem.”

He later addressed the Arab League on 1st February saying that the Palestinian Authority has cut all ties with the United States and Israel, including those relating to security, after rejecting a Middle East peace plan presented by U.S. President Donald Trump.  This means that the Palestinian Authority will no longer cooperate with the Israeli Defence Forces in policing areas of the occupied West Bank that are under Palestinian control. In reality he may not actually put this into effect because he relies on help from Israeli security to prevent Hamas from toppling his regime and taking over the Palestinian Authority rule in the West Bank as they have already done in Gaza.

Hamas produced a press release saying that “the Israeli occupation’s attempts to Judaise Jerusalem and holy sites are an alarming sign that must prompt our Arab and Islamic Ummah (community), along with the free people of the world to intervene immediately. We call for similar Fajr prayers to be organized in all Arab and Islamic capitals for the sake of Al-Aqsa and holy places in Palestine. The popular fight continues to defend Jerusalem’s identity and future.”

It was hoped that moderate Arab leaders would tell the Palestinians to go with the plan as it is the best hope they have of getting a Palestinian state.  Many of these Arab leaders are tired of the continual intransigence of the Palestinian leaders who have ‘never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity’ in the words of former Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban.

However Egypt and Jordan, the two Arab countries which have a peace treaty with Israel, have not endorsed the plan nor has Saudi Arabia, the country who should have played a large part in financing it.  On 1st February the 22-nation Arab League, at an emergency meeting held in Cairo, rejected the plan. A League statement declared that it “rejects the US-Israeli ‘deal of the century’ considering that it does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people.” Arab leaders vowed “not to… cooperate with the US administration to implement this plan.”

https://www.timesofisrael.com/after-arab-league-rejects-peace-plan-us-official-laments-approach-as-outdated/

ON 3rd February at the request of Abbas, the 57-nation strong Organization of Islamic Cooperation met in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to discuss the plan. The OIC released a statement calling “on all member states not to engage with this plan or to cooperate with the US administration in implementing it in any form”.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/02/oic-hold-emergency-meeting-trump-middle-east-plan-200203064919675.html

The deal has also been rejected by the EU and Russia.  “In line with international law and relevant UN Security Council resolutions, the EU does not recognise Israel’s sovereignty over the territories occupied since 1967,” said EU foreign minister, Josep Borrell.  He rejected any attempt to apply Israeli sovereignty over the settlements in the West Bank, releasing a statement: “Steps towards annexation, if implemented, could not pass unchallenged.”

Kushner appears to be already backtracking on the offer of Israeli sovereignty over the settlements and the Jordan Valley.   On February 2nd, he gave an interview that showed on Egyptian TV. In it, he said (emphasis added): “The plan seeks to curb the expansion of the settlements, to allow the feasibility of a Palestinian state … The map attached to the plan is not a scientific map. If the Palestinians don’t like where the line is drawn, they should come and tell us where they want to draw it.http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/275441

This statement would prevent Israel from taking any move to annex the Jordan Valley and the Israeli settlements and give the Palestinians the right to say where the final borders should be.  They want the borders to be the pre 1967 borders between Israel and the West Bank. So Israel should give up the Jordan Valley, the Jewish settlements and the whole of the eastern part of Jerusalem including the Old City.  Israel has made it clear that this is totally unacceptable to them.

So on present form there is not much hope of peace and prosperity from this plan of President Trump and Gerard Kushner.  It looks like going the way of all other peace offers, as Yochanan Visser commented on Israel Today (4th February): ‘PA leader Abbas ruined the chance to achieve peace when he turned down the unprecedented offer made by former Israeli PM Ehud Olmert in 2007, and the proposal made by former US Secretary of State John Kerry in 2013.  Had the Palestinian Arabs truly been interested in improving their lot, they would have done so already in July 2000, when Yasser Arafat was offered an independent state by then-US President Bill Clinton and former Israeli PM Ehud Barak.

The essence of the conflict is, however, the stubborn Palestinian refusal to finally come to terms with the existence of a Jewish state, and that explains why they also turned down this new American proposal. After all, this is what they have been doing since 1947, when the leadership of the Jewish community in what the British called “Palestine” accepted a state under UN resolution 181, and the Arabs rejected it out of hand and then started a war.’

So what prospect is there of peace in the Middle East?

The prophecies of the Bible indicate that in the last days of this age there will be a restoration of a Jewish state of Israel, following the return of Jewish people to the land of Israel and a conflict with the surrounding nations which will reach its climax in the return of the Messiah Jesus to Jerusalem.  The central point of the current conflict is the status of Jerusalem. In the prophecy of Zechariah 12-14 we read that in the last days Jerusalem will be the ‘burdensome stone, burdening all nations’ (in other words, a cause of concern involving all the nations of the earth). The final conflict will centre on the holy city as the nations gather to battle against Jerusalem, causing the physical return of the Lord Jesus to the Mount of Olives, to the east of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14).  When He returns He will bring the real peace and safety to Israel and the surrounding nations – see Isaiah 2.1-4, Isaiah 19.19-25, Zechariah 14, Revelation 20.

Before this happens there are scriptures which indicate that there will be some kind of peace plan for Israel, but it will turn out to be a false peace.  Daniel 9.27 is believed to describe this: ‘Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.”

The big question is ‘Who is he?’, who is the one who makes this covenant?  Some say it is the Messiah who makes the new covenant bringing us salvation, but this does not fit in with the rest of the text which tells how this covenant leads to ‘abominations’ and ‘desolation’, not salvation.  If we look back to verse 26 we find the last person mention is ‘the prince to come’:

‘And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.’ Daniel 9.26.

In this case the ‘he’ of verse 27 is the ‘prince to come’ of verse 26.  This one is connected in Daniel with the ‘little horn’ (Daniel 7), ‘the king having fierce k]features, who understands sinister schemes’ (Daniel 8.23) and ‘the king who does according to his own will’ and magnifies himself ‘above every god’ (Daniel 11.36-39).  In each of these scriptures he exercises great power in the last days before Messiah returns but comes to a miserable end, being ‘given to the burning flame’ (Daniel 7.11).  He is connected with the figure of the beast or antichrist of Revelation 13 who has power over the nations in the last seven year period before Jesus returns. Revelation 19 tells us that at the coming again of the Lord Jesus the beast and the false prophet will be ‘cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone’ (hell).  This ties in with the end of Daniel 9.27 where we are told of ‘the consummation (end) that is poured out on the desolate’ (or the one who makes desolate, in other words the antichrist).

Coming back to Daniel 9.26 we read that the people of the prince to come destroyed the city (Jerusalem) and the sanctuary (The Temple).  These people were the Romans who crushed Jewish revolt against their rule in 70AD. Forty years earlier, around 30-31 AD, the Messiah (Yeshua / Jesus) was cut off, dying a violent death for the sins of others.

According to my understanding of Daniel 9 there is a long period of time between the fulfilment of verse 26 and verse 27, into which time comes the present church age, starting with the Day of Pentecost and ending with the rapture of the church.  After this the covenant is made, setting off the events of the final seven year period before the return of Jesus Christ, described in Revelation 6-19. This covenant breaks down midway through the seven year period and leads to the time of Jacob’s trouble described in Jeremiah 30.6-11, out of which Israel will be saved by the revelation of Yeshua / Jesus as the Messiah and His physical return to the earth.  In this case the rapture of the church comes before the signing of this covenant, so when you see steps being taken towards the signing of such a peace treaty you know that Jesus is coming soon for the church to fulfil the rapture event of 1 Thessalonians 4.13-5.11.

In a parallel passage concerning the peace covenant, Isaiah 28.14-22 speaks of ‘a covenant with death’ made by Jerusalem’s rulers, which it is hoped will save them from ‘the overflowing scourge’ (enemy invasion).  However the deal turns out to be based on lies and falsehood and leads to just such an invasion, which the Lord’s intervention will save Israel from. This period begins with the false peace covenant with Israel and ends with the final war of Armageddon and the return of the Messiah Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.

The one who makes the covenant in Daniel 9.27 is the prince to come of verse 26.  He is also known as the antichrist or the beast of Revelation 13. Therefore he will have some connection to the Roman Empire.  There are a number of possibilities of how this connection could take place. The first is that he arises out of the western half of the Roman Empire, the EU which is seen by many as a revived Roman Empire in Europe.  The second possibility is that he arises out of the eastern half of the Roman Empire, which at one time had a capital in Constantinople, now Istanbul. In this case he arises out of an Islamic confederation, led by Turkey.  A third possibility is that he is the leader of the UN which could be seen as the ultimate world empire in the latter days. A fourth (less likely) possibility is that he comes out of the USA, the current chief mover in seeking a peace settlement in the Middle East. The USA became a nation led by European settlers migrating there and creating a European kind of government, so it may just be possible that a US leader could qualify as coming out of the Roman Empire.

Whoever he is, he will not bring a lasting peace.  Interestingly both the passages in Daniel 9 and Isaiah 28 have references to the Messiah as the one who will bring real peace.  Daniel speaks directly of Mashiach / Messiah as one who would be ‘cut off but not for himself’. This means He dies a violent death but not as a punishment for his sins, but rather as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of others.  There is a much longer passage about this in Isaiah 53 which prophesies about the Suffering Servant Messiah: ‘He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.’

Applying this verse to Jesus, Peter writes the ‘He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.’  1 Peter 2.24-25.

In Isaiah 28 in the midst of the passage about the trouble which results from the ‘covenant with death’ and the deception involved with it, we read a verse which says “Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily.”  Isaiah 28.16. This verse points to the Messiah as the one who is the foundation stone for the kingdom of God and the corner stone who holds it all together. Revelation 7 shows that at the beginning of the seven year tribulation period a large number (144,000) of Jewish people will have the revelation that Jesus is the Messiah and spread His message during the tribulation period. These people who believe in Jesus will not act hastily or rashly, and will reject the false peace plan, and tell others about the true Messiah who will bring real peace, Yeshua, Jesus the Messiah of Israel and Saviour of the world.  They will have God’s guidance, protection and wisdom to help them through these troubled days.

The idea of the chief cornerstone being connected to the Messiah is also found in Psalm 118: ‘I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation (Yeshua / Jesus). The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. ]This was the Lord’s doing; It is marvellous in our eyes.’

The rejection of the stone / the Messiah and His elevation to be the chief corner stone, holding the building together, is fulfilled in Yeshua the Messiah, in His life, death and resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of God from where He will come again to judge the world in righteousness.  This verse is quoted five times in the New Testament, each time applying to Jesus as the Saviour (Matthew 21.42, Mark 12.10, Luke 20.17, Acts 4.11, 1 Peter 2.6). It is also significant that He will be elevated to the highest place by many Jewish people in the final period of history, after so long being despised and rejected by them.

In the passage in 1 Peter 2.4-9 we are told to come to Him ‘as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Yeshua ha Mashiach / Jesus Christ.  Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture, “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious, and he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” Therefore, to you who believe, He is precious; but to those who are disobedient, “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone,” and “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.”  They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.’

Those who do believe in Jesus will not act rashly or hastily as Isaiah 28.16 tells us but will have a solid foundation for their lives which will hold them together in the troubled time which is coming in the days before His return.

If Donald Trump’s deal does not bring ‘Peace to Prosperity’ (as we expect), we should consider the verse from 1 Thessalonians 5, ‘When they say peace and safety, then sudden destruction comes upon them.’  In fact no attempt to make political peace in the Middle East is going to succeed before the return of the Messiah. When He returns He will bring the real peace not just to Jerusalem, Israel and the Middle East, but to the whole world, as Isaiah prophesied: ‘He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.  He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.’  Isaiah 2.3-4.

Meanwhile we can find personal peace with God through faith in Jesus the Messiah.  Speaking to Jews and Gentiles Paul writes: ‘For He Himself (Jesus) is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace.’  Ephesians 2.13-15.

Middle East tensions after the assassination of Iranian General.

2020 got off to a start with a bang as a US drone strike killed Iranian General Kassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), on January 3rd.  He was the second most powerful man in Iran, spreading the influence of the Iranian Islamic Revolution into the Arab Middle East with the ultimate aim of destroying the Jewish state of Israel.  He had led the Iranian attempt to influence and control Arab Middle East countries, spending vast sums of money supporting Iranian proxy forces in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and supplying them with thousands of missiles, now pointed at Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The assassination raised fears that the US was heading towards war with Iran, which could have escalated into a regional war, bringing in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Russia. Not long before the event in Baghdad, Iran held a joint naval exercise with Russia and China near the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the head of the Gulf.  30% of the world’s oil flows through this strait and any conflict here could create a world oil shortage and economic crisis. IRGC Commander Abuhamzeh threatened attacks on ships in the Gulf and spoke of ‘some 35 U.S. targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv that are within our reach.’ The US responded by saying it had 52 Iranian targets ready for attack if it was provoked.

In the event both sides have backed down for the moment, probably fearing the devastating consequences of an all out war in the region.  Iran’s revenge for the Soleimani assassination was quite muted, a missile attack on the US base in Iraq which did not kill any Americans and which Trump did not respond to.  Trump played it down and did not take action saying no Americans were harmed (although Pentagon has now said dozens of US servicemen and women suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of an Iranian missile strike).

The event was overshadowed by the downing of the Ukrainian plane as it left Tehran airport.  All on board were killed, mostly Iranians. After denying responsibility, the government eventually had to admit it had been shot down by two missiles fired from an IRGC base outside Tehran by mistake.  This caused demonstrations in Iran against the regime, accusing its leaders of being incompetent liars and calling for Ayatollah Khamenei to stand down. Some of the slogans used were ‘‘Down with the dictator’ and ‘shame on IRGC, let the country go.’ 

Within Iran there is a power struggle between the hardliners of the IRGC, and the moderate faction led by President Rouhani.  There is also a growing revolt against the Islamic regime as people suffer under its repressive and incompetent rule. With the approval of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, the IRGC has poured billions of dollars into arming and supporting Iran’s proxies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Gaza, while the Iranian economy is in ruins after sanctions and chronic inflation have destroyed the value of its currency.

Many Iranians, especially young people are angry at the government’s neglect of their own needs while spending money on the likes of Hezbollah in Lebanon.  Iran has again been hit in January by torrential rains causing devastating flooding in the east of the country. Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, urged youths to help flood-stricken people.  She said, “By destroying the environment, the mullahs have worsened the floods, doing nothing to help the victims. They squandered the nation’s wealth to pursue nuclear and missile projects and warmongering, leaving our people defenceless in the face of natural disasters.” 

One of Iran’s main projects in the region has been to arm the Shiite Muslim terrorist movement Hezbollah in Lebanon with 150,000 Iranian missiles aimed at Israel. Iran intends to set up a factory in Lebanon to increase the accuracy of these missiles and so intensify its threat to Israel.  Israel has said it will destroy these factories if they go operational, which could set off a regional war starting with Hezbollah in Lebanon and bringing in Iran and its allies in Syria and Iraq. There is also the danger of Iran breaking out of nuclear deal, making uranium needed for nuclear weapon, which could also set off a conflict if Israel or the US goes ahead with its threat to attack Iranian nuclear facilities to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.  

All of this is highly relevant for Bible prophecy.  According to prophecies in Ezekiel and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, the Jewish people will return to the land of Israel and make the barren land fertile and rebuild ancient cities (Ezekiel 36).  An enemy will arise from the north of Israel, identified in Ezekiel 38 as Gog of the land of Magog. He will lead an alliance of nations which will include Persia / modern Iran (Ezekiel 38.1-6). God says to this leader ‘In the latter years you will come into the land of those brought back from the sword and gathered from many people on the mountains of Israel, which had long been desolate.’  Ezekiel 38.8. Today we are living in the ‘latter years’ (the last days) and the Jewish people are back in possession of the ‘mountains of Israel’ (Golan Heights, central mountainous area of Judea and Samaria / the West Bank).  This is disputed by the nations listed in Ezekiel 38.1-6 who form an alliance and come down against Israel in the latter days.  

Persia / Iran is not the leader of this alliance.  It is led by a power from the uttermost north of Israel.  If you go to the far north of Israel you come to Russia. Russia today has forces in Syria, just to the north of Israel where it is working with Iran to restore power in the country to Bashar Assad and end the Syrian civil war.  Iran is using its position in Syria to prepare for war against Israel, making frequent threats to destroy Israel and arming its proxies that surround Israel with missiles aimed at Israel. 

In his analysis of the events in January, Israeli Messianic Jew, Amir Tsafarti, said that he believed Iran has been seriously set back by the events that have taken place in January.  Its government is in a position of great weakness at home, and its proxies are facing increasing hostility in Lebanon and Iraq as unrest against the government there grows and many blame Iranian interference in their countries for what is going wrong.  Its most effective military leader has been assassinated and divisions at home have been exposed. The Islamic regime becomes ever more unpopular as the economy collapses and the society becomes more and more oppressive. Young people are leaving Islam in droves, many turning to Christianity.  For this reason Amir believes that Iran is not now in a position to risk war against Israel or the US, knowing it could bring devastation on the country and an end to the Islamic regime. 

When it comes to the War of Gog and Magog prophesied in Ezekiel 38, Persia / Iran is a junior partner in the alliance led by the power to the north, not its prime motivator.  If we are correct in identifying the power to the north as Russia there is another reason why the war of Gog and Magog may not be not imminent. Russian President Putin is not currently minded to attack Israel.  In fact he is quite friendly towards Israel and Netanyahu. He attended the Holocaust Memorial event in Jerusalem for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and has not opposed Israeli attacks on Iranian bases in Syria.  

Something will have to change in Russia to bring them into leading a war against Israel. Putin is set to stand down as President in 2024, but he has just made a change to the Russian government, which has resulted in the entire government resigning.  Analysts say the change he has made will turn Russia into a one party state and enable him to continue as its Russia beyond 2024.  

One thing which could affect Putin’s attitude towards Israel is Trump’s proposed peace deal which offers Israel control of the whole of Jerusalem, the West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley, particularly if Israel goes ahead with its proposal to annex these territories.  Russia has already denounced Trump’s plan, as it favours a complete withdrawal of Israel from east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the setting up of a Palestinian state in the pre 1967 borders of Israel.  

Another possible issue is Israel’s gas pipeline from the Leviathan field off the coast of northern Israel.  This is scheduled to take gas under the Mediterranean through Cyprus and Greece into Europe. It is a challenge to Russia’s supply of gas to Europe, one of Russia’s main sources of income. According to Ezekiel the army from the north comes down to ‘take a spoil’ or ‘plunder’ (Ezekiel 38.12-13), in other words to take something of value to the invading army, which could apply to an invasion to take possession of these gas fields currently owned by Israel.

An alternative scenario sees Russia tiring of its Syrian involvement, moving out and making way for Turkey to come in as leader of the Gog and Magog war.  Turkey is also situated to the north of Israel, though not the far north. Turkish President Erdogan would like to see Turkish influence restored in the Arab Middle East, as it was in the days of the Ottoman Empire which once had control of Jerusalem and the land of Israel / Palestine, as well as Syria, Egypt and much of north Africa and the Balkan region of Europe.  Under Erdogan, Turkey has moved from being a secular republic, on reasonably friendly terms with Israel, to being much more Islamic, aligned to the Muslim Brotherhood, and hostile to Israel. Some radical forces in Turkey, which are close to Erdogan, have called for a joint Islamic army to come against Israel and return Jerusalem to Islamic rule. Turkey has already moved its troops into the north of Syria.  

Erdogan is also currently involving himself in Libya with an eye to helping the Libyan government in its civil war with General Haftar.  On the other side of this conflict are Russia and Egypt who are supporting Haftar. Turkey wants some kind of deal involving Libya and itself to exploit the gas under Mediterranean in opposition to the deal between Israel, Cyprus and Greece.  So Turkey could also come against Israel to ‘take a spoil’. Ezekiel’s Gog Magog war line up includes Libya (‘Put’ in Hebrew) which at present plays no part in the situation.  

The Middle East is a bewildering mix of shifting alliances and ancient hatreds, making it hard to work out who is on whose side in the conflicts which are making life such a misery for its peoples.  According to the Bible it is the epicentre of events which will lead up to the return of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) who will overrule all these apparently chaotic events to ensure that Israel survives.  The last battle before Jesus returns will take place in the valley of Jehoshaphat outside Jerusalem. Then He will come in the clouds of heaven with all power at His disposal to bring an end to Satan’s rule over human affairs and to rule from restored Jerusalem in the Millennial kingdom, bringing peace and justice to the world.  

How long we have before this happens only God knows.  For reasons given here we may see some more time before the end time conflict prophesied in the Bible takes place, but the dangers remain very great.  There is not much ‘peace and safety’ for the people of the region and plenty of possibilities of ‘sudden destruction. We should pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the salvation of the people of the region, Jews, Muslims, nominal Christians and all.  Events in the Middle East are the subject of these prophecies given so long ago which are unfolding in today’s world events. They are a sign to us that Jesus is coming and we must be ready to meet Him at any time.

Israel’s laser weapon defence.

Give that Iran’s main threat to Israel comes from its missiles supplied to proxies and installed in the region, another factor in this scenario has come to light this month.  Israeli Ministry of Defence has achieved a “technological breakthrough” that will allow the development of powerful laser-based systems for intercepting hostile incoming missiles, drones and aerial threats from neighbouring countries.  Its launch statement added that the new technology will “bring about a strategic change in Israel’s air defence capabilities.”

“This technology enables the development of highly effective operational systems that will serve as an additional layer of defence to secure the state of Israel by air, land, and sea,” it added, saying future laser weapons could intercept a variety of threats that include unmanned aerial vehicles (drones), rockets, and anti-tank missiles.

The technological breakthrough is based on laser beam accuracy. Using the new technology, the defence system has been able to target and stabilise the beam on a long-range target, including overcoming atmospheric disturbances. This technology enables the development of effective intercepting systems, with high operational efficiency, that will form another layer in the effort to protect the State of Israel by air, land and sea.  To see a short film giving an awesome display of the potential of this development go to https://optics.org/news/11/1/25 .  

Despite Iran’s threats to destroy Israel with their missiles, the Bible’s prophecies tell us Israel will survive until the coming of the Lord Jesus. When you look at Israel’s history, over and over again they have faced enemies who sought to destroy them.  As is written in Psalm 83 ‘For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more.”  

In Israel’s wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973, the Jewish people faced more numerous and better equipped armies seeking their destruction.  But with a combination of skill, bravery and divine protection, Israel has survived and prospered. God does not intend Israel to be destroyed by the missiles of Iran and so He has again given skill and power to the people of Israel in order to protect themselves.  But ultimately the battle is the Lord’s and He will keep His chosen people until the day of redemption at the return of the Messiah. According to Zechariah 14 ‘Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations, as He fights in the day of battle. And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east.  … And the Lord shall be King over all the earth.’

World leaders in Jerusalem for 75th anniversary of liberation of Auschwitz.

46 of the world’s top leaders went to Jerusalem to mark the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and participate in the Fifth World Holocaust Forum.  The event called “Remembering the Holocaust, Fighting Antisemitism,” organized by the World Holocaust Forum Foundation in cooperation with Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, took place on 23 January 2020 at the museum’s Warsaw Ghetto Square in Jerusalem. The event marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Among the dignitaries were Prince Charles, Russian President Vladimir Putin, French President Emmanuel Macron, US Vice President Mike Pence, as well as the kings of Spain and Sweden. 

The assembly meant business, starting as it did without preamble, simple statistics showing the dramatic increase in anti-Semitic acts flashing across a giant screen.  Each speaker made the point in his own way. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Allied forces and the Righteous Among the Nations who risked their lives and their families to save Jews. He also described Auschwitz as not just the symbol of evil, “but, more than that, for our people, it’s also the symbol of Jewish powerlessness. Today, however, we have our ancient homeland. The Jewish people have learned the lesson of the Holocaust,” he said.  And, although this people appreciates the support of the nations, it must be able defend itself and “remain the master of its fate.” He also warned about the danger posed by both the current uptick in anti-Semitism, in addition to the “tyrants of Tehran who threaten all of the Mideast and all of the world.”

Netanyahu reinforced this point by an emotional message in Hebrew showing the rebirth of Israel with control of Jerusalem as the answer to the holocaust.  “Auschwitz the destruction; Jerusalem the resurrection. Auschwitz was incarceration and enslavement; Jerusalem is freedom and liberty. Auschwitz was death; Jerusalem is life.”  Am Israel Hai.  

Other powerful speeches included those by US Vice President Mike Pence, who shared the impact of visiting Auschwitz, saying “one cannot walk there without being overcome, one cannot see the pile of shoes, the boxcars and those grainy photos of the men, women and children brought to their death without asking, ‘How could they?’  And Charles, the Prince of Wales, speaking of survivors he has known and admired, added that “the Holocaust must never be allowed to become simply a fact of history. … The lessons of the Holocaust are searingly relevant to this day … though they may adopt new lies and new disguises, new words used to mark others as enemies.”

At the end of the ceremony each of the 46 leaders mounted the stage to lay memorial wreaths—a sombre ceremony that dramatically demonstrated both the unprecedented global powerhouse gathered in that place, as well as their shared sense of purpose—the day’s message was spelled out clearly.  “Never Again Is Now,” the words blazed in big letters on the screen. “Now Is the Time to Fight Back.”

Some in Israel were dismayed that after making this stand against anti-Semitism and show of support for the Jewish people and Israel, many of the leaders went off to show their even handedness by visiting PA areas and shaking hands with PA leader Mahmoud Abbas. Israel today published an article saying Jews told the foreign rulers ‘You are mocking the Holocaust’ and asking ‘How can they claim to stand against antisemitism, and then shake hands with a Holocaust-denier?’ drawing attention to the fact that Abbas published a thesis denying the extent (not the fact) of the holocaust titled “The Connection Between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement 1933-1945.”  Yes, Abbas is literally a doctor of historical revisionism and antisemitism.’

Palestinians opposed the Jerusalem event claiming their suffering under Israel was equal to Jewish suffering under Nazis.  Before it took place Yahya Rabah, a regular columnist for the PA-controlled Al-Hayat Al Jadida suggested disrupting it by a terror attack: “One shot will disrupt the ceremony and one dead body will cancel the ceremony.”  Before calling for murder, Rabah criticized the international community for recognizing that the “Jews’ Holocaust is terrible” while accepting as “insignificant” what he called the “Palestinian Holocaust by Israel that still continues.”  To equate what happened to the Jews under the Nazis with Palestinian suffering under Israel is a constant piece of propaganda which is grotesque and offensive.

At the Holocaust Memorial event in Jerusalem the assembled leaders said ‘Never again’ concerning the holocaust.  This is a noble sentiment since the Holocaust was the most awful event in history, the deliberate murder of six million Jews just because they were Jewish.  Anyone with an ounce of humanity must agree with the sentiment that this should never happen again.  

But as the world turns against Israel and the Jewish people we see signs that it could happen again.  Today anti-Semitism is growing around the world, sometimes from far right extremists, but more often fuelled by the anti-Zionism of the far left and radical Islam, which calls for the elimination of the State of Israel.  Much of this comes from a Palestinian source, where children and the population are educated to hate and wish to kill Jews and destroy Israel. Their sympathisers in Europe and America, especially radical left wingers in the UK Labour Party and US Democrat Party end up with the same anti-Israel and anti-Semitic spirit.  

The Bible warns of the time of Jacob’s trouble, as spoken of for the last days of this age by Jeremiah the prophet:  ‘We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask now, and see, whether a man is ever in labour with child? So why do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labour, and all faces turned pale? Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.’  Jeremiah 30.5-7

Israel’s salvation will come through the return of the Messiah Yeshua to save Israel and set up the Messianic kingdom from Jerusalem. Meanwhile Christians should comfort and stand by Israel and bless its people.

For more on this subject go to https://messiahfactor.com/god-and-the-holocaust/ and https://messiahfactor.com/who-killed-jesus/ 

Tony Pearce

Tony Pearce

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