Having returned from a visit to Israel back in March, I have a real appreciation for the difficult challenges that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faces on a daily basis. In this space I will highlight three significant barriers to peace in the Middle East:
1. National Security. Israel is a small, narrow country that finds itself under threat from a myriad of Arab nations. The tension is more than an undercurrent of discontent. Rather, it grows out of the widely-held view that Israel as a nation has no right to exist. Iranian President Makmoud Ahmadinejad has vowed to wipe Israel from the face of the earth. He reaffirms that vow at every opportunity. With Iran now bringing a nuclear power plant online, the threats from the nominally democratic regime strike an increasingly sober tone with Israeli residents. Political uprisings in the Middle East have underscored the very real threats and animosity which have come to characterize this intensely volatile situation. Add to that the constant misinformation regarding Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities and the very real possibility of an Egypt run by the Muslim Brotherhood, the key ingredients are coming together in a recipe for disaster.
2. Ambivalent Allies. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarek was considered an ally of Israel — not so much because of his friendship as his tolerance. During the course of his rule, Mubarek honored the terms of the 1979 peace accord with Israel, and the two nations co-existed with few incidents between them. The United States has long been considered Israel’s chief ally, providing military assistance, technology, and support for the Jewish state. Perhaps more than anything else, the US gave ear to the concerns of Israel, thereby giving legitimacy to her interests on the international stage. Since taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have sent mixed messages to the Israeli government — and have at times been openly critical of them. A statement by the President back in May left little room for misinterpretation. Obama called for renewed peace talks that would be dependent up Israel reverting to its pre-1967 borders, which an angry Netanyahu deemed ‘indefensible.’ Indeed, with a majority of Israeli citizens living in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the practicality of such an ambitious expectation proves nothing short of idealistic.
3. Left-wing Israelis. That’s right. The US is not the only nation with a sharply-divided populus. During my time in Israel I spent a few nights exploring the city of Jerusalem. I was somewhat startled to learn that during my stay in the Holy City, Palestinians on the West Bank had begun firing rockets into Beersheba, some 45 miles to the south. I don’t know about you, but 45 miles seems awfully close. But for the Israeli people, who live under constant threat of attack, such hostilities hardly draw their attention. One Saturday night around 9:30 p.m. — after Shabbat — I had the opportunity to see the city come alive, as shops and businesses opened, and people began to enjoy some time outdoors. Near the city center, a large crowd had assembled, and they were making lots of noise. As I came to discover, the rally, complete with banners and megaphones, was being held by young Israelis — most of them appearing to be between 18-30. They were protesting a recent shooting of a couple of Palestinians by an Israeli. These citizens were coming together to share their message — that Israel give all its land to the Palestinians, even if that meant losing their own homes.
As you can see, Israel has no shortage of enemies, both foreign and domestic. In light of the increasingly likely United Nations vote this week that, barring divine intervention, will almost certainly recognize a Palestinian state, the prospects for lasting peace in this region will only become more dim. Left to fend for itself amid a pool of viciously hateful enemies and an unsupportive American government, the stage will be set for an extremely uphill battle — but a battle that I believe Israel will ultimately win. Throughout its history the Jewish people have found themselves in seemingly impossible scenarios. Through a number of mighty wars, the Nazi-led holocaust, and almost daily terror attacks, Israel remains a strong people. That’s because they are still God’s people. Through the pages of time, God has demonstrated his great affection for the people of Israel. The challenges to its sovereignty may be worrisome to many, but I hold fast to the words of Scripture — and the reality that God will protect and restore His people yet again.
I urge you to join me in praying for Israel in these important next several days. Prayer is one of the best weapons in what is increasingly becoming an existential crisis for this nation. I’d rather stand beside Israel and be embarrassed for a while than betray her and be cursed forever.
IT’S YOUR TURN!
Realizing that we all come at this subject from a little different perspective, I’m curious: How do you see the Arabs push for a recognized Palestinian state?