During his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised that he would not wait until the last year of his administration to try for peace in the Middle East—as President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush had done. Obama said that he would begin working on peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis in the first year of his administration.
Peace in the Middle East
By Irvin Baxter
The President has certainly kept his word. Two days after his inauguration, he appointed former Senator George Mitchell as his special peace envoy to the Middle East. Most of the world saw this as a stroke of genius. Mitchell was the man who negotiated the peace between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland when everyone else had failed. Now he was asked to work his magic in the Middle East.
Mitchell shuttled back and forth to Israel. He met with one side and then the other. He met both openly and secretly. Meetings were held between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as with President Abbas of the Palestinians. Consultations were held with Egyptian President Mubarak along with King Abdullah II of Jordan.
Apparently, the conclusion was reached by the Obama administration that peace would require Israel to return to pre-1967 borders except for certain land swaps to accommodate Israeli population centers built beyond 1967 lines. The message was delivered to Israel in no uncertain terms by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, by Obama and by George Mitchell: “Quit building in the settlements beyond the green line including in East Jerusalem.” The implication was obvious…at the end of the day, Israel was going to be expected to surrender the West Bank (Judea-Samaria) and East Jerusalem.
However, the Obama-Clinton-Mitchell trio had badly miscalculated two factors. They underestimated the resolve and the diplomatic skill of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, and they badly misjudged the strong support still enjoyed by Israel in the US Congress. In the end, Netanyahu received thirty standing ovations during his speech to the joint session of Congress, and it was Obama that had to capitulate on his demand that negotiations begin on the basis of pre-1967 borders.
As a result, after all the efforts expended, absolutely no progress has been made toward a Palestinian-Israeli peace agreement during the first two years of the Obama presidency. As a matter of fact, things may be worse now than they were when the Obama administration took power. On May 13, 2011, Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell resigned from his post. Failure.
Why are talks stalled?
The simple fact is that the position of the Israelis and the position of the Palestinians are irreconcilable.
The Palestinians have hardened their demands for a Palestinian state along pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as their capital.
The Israelis say that UN Resolution 242 did not call for Israel to return to pre-1967 borders. It called for defensible borders to be negotiated between the two parties. Israel says that pre-1967 borders are not defensible borders since they would leave Israel only nine miles wide at the waist. Furthermore, Israel contends that Jerusalem has never been the capital of a Palestinian state or of any other state except for Israel and that it was the capital of Israel for 1,000 years.
Neither side has been willing to budge on their demands. Israel holds the upper hand militarily, and the Palestinians know it. Consequently, Abbas has renounced the use of force as a Palestinian tactic acknowledging that it is counterproductive.
The Palestinians enjoy the support of a majority of the international community, and the Israelis know it. However, Israel is presently protected from action by the international community because of America’s willingness to use its veto on the UN Security Council to block resolutions that are detrimental to Israel.
Yet, Israel no longer feels totally confident of US support. The Obama administration’s tilt toward the Arab positions has left many in Israel very nervous.
Appealing to the UN
Since the Palestinians are determined to have the entire West Bank in their state, and since they insist on East Jerusalem as their capital, and since Israel will never agree to those terms, Palestinians have decided to appeal to the United Nations where it enjoys popular support for its aspirations.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad stated in 2009 that Palestinians would be ready to govern themselves by September of 2011. The Palestinian Authority stated then that, if negotiations were not successful in reaching a peace agreement by 2011, Palestinians would ask the UN for recognition.
The moment of truth is just ahead. The Palestinians have just announced they will request recognition of a Palestinian state within 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as their capital when the UN convenes in September.
The United States has already announced that it will veto the Palestinian application for UN membership when it comes before the UN Security Council, which must approve the application for membership. Consequently, it appears that Palestinian aspirations for recognition of statehood by the UN are dead for this year.
In the face of opposition from Israel and the threat of a US veto, the Palestinians have signaled they might opt for a more limited upgrade to “non-member state” status. Recognition as a non-member state only requires majority approval in the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes. The Palestinians say they already have 117 votes in the General Assembly, which is more than a majority.
Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestinians with Israel, prepared a position paper for the Arab League that expressed fear that going for full membership in the UN might draw sanctions from the United States as well as an attempt to impose a solution that would include recognition of Israel “as a Jewish state”. The US Congress has threatened to cut off all funding to the Palestinians if they forsake negotiations with Israel in favor of unilateral action at the United Nations.
What do the prophecies say will happen?
The Bible does foretell that a peace agreement will be reached. This agreement is referred to in scripture as the “confirmation of the covenant”, speaking of the Abrahamic Covenant that God made with Abraham concerning the land of Israel (Genesis 15:18).
This agreement between Israel and the Palestinians will be approved by the international community. It will place the West Bank (Judea-Samaria) under Palestinian control, allowing Jews living there to retain their homes while living as a Jewish minority in the newly formed Palestinian state.
The accord will provide for the Temple Mount to be shared by Muslims and Jews. It will also pave the way for Israel’s temple to be built on the Temple Mount without disturbing the Dome of the Rock or the Al Aqsa Mosque. This sharing arrangement will be supervised and enforced by the international community.
Scriptures are not clear as to whether this peace arrangement will be achieved by negotiations or whether it will be imposed by the world community. But, it is certain that a peace agreement is coming.
Will the peace last?
According to the prophecies, the peace agreement will hold for three and one-half years, but two potential sources of tension will boil beneath the surface.
The Jews, who chose to remain in Judea-Samaria under the new Palestinian government, will find themselves under pressure and in continual conflict since the Palestinians hate them and won’t want them there.
World attention will be riveted upon the Temple Mount in Jerusalem as the first Jewish temple in 2,000 years is being built. After its completion, global fascination will turn to anger as the religious Jews make the decision to reinstitute the daily animal sacrifices as mandated by God in the Old Testament scriptures.
The outrage of the animal rights activists will be so heated that the world community and its new leader will feel compelled to act. The world leader will rule that the sacrifices must be suspended, explaining that they are no longer needed. It even appears from scripture that the world leader at this time will claim to be the messiah.
The Bible says that something about this action will ignite the Palestinians in the West Bank and they will launch horrible attacks against the Jews who chose to remain in the area. Those who don’t immediately flee will be slaughtered. Jesus said, “Then shall be great tribulation such as has never been before.”
This outbreak of violence will cause the world leader to institute far-reaching security measures in an attempt to control the situation. For the next three and one-half years, the power of the global government will increase until every citizen will live under constant surveillance. Those who do not agree with the new global leader and his philosophies will be labeled as political or religious terrorists and will be persecuted, and some will even be killed.
As the newly established system of global governance gains momentum, all nations who refuse to bow the knee to this global authority will be considered “pariah nations.” Israel will be one of the main dissenters.
All of the latent anti-Semitism that has boiled beneath the surface since the days of Nazi Germany will erupt against the non-conformity of the state of Israel.
Finally, the UN will decide it’s time to bring Israel into obedience to the world community. Some issue will arise that the international community will exploit to build sentiment for the invasion of the Holy Land. It could be the world community’s demand that Israel surrender her nuclear weaponry, or some other issue might arise.
Whatever the case, the Bible prophesies that the world community will invade Israel. Zechariah 14:2 says it this way:
For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
When the forces of the international community come against Israel, the little nation will fight with all its might. However, the forces of the world community will be overwhelming. Little by little, Israel will be outgunned by the world forces. It will appear that Israel’s days are numbered. It will appear that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was right all the time when he said that Israel would be wiped off the map.
As Israel makes her last defense of Jerusalem, she will realize that all hope is lost unless there should be divine intervention. Zechariah 14:3-4 tells us what will happen next:
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
Verse 9 records how events end up: “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.”