Seeking control of East Jerusalem
He has little to show frustrated Palestinians for the 10 years he has led the Palestinian Authority, but Mahmoud Abbas looked to change that on Dec. 29, 2014: He pressed the United Nations Security Council to pass a resolution leading to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and more.
The resolution—the second of its kind—set a strict timetable for negotiations and a one-year deadline to reach a peace deal, demanded Israel’s return to its pre-1967 borders by the end of 2017, called for the establishment of a state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, and petitioned for an end to settlement building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The resolution won only eight out of the nine Security Council votes needed.
“We didn’t fail,” Abbas told officials at a cultural conference in Ramallah. “[T]he UN Security Council failed us. We’ll go again to the Security Council, why not?” He pledged to “study this with our allies and especially Jordan … to submit the resolution again, a third time or even a fourth time.”
The day after the Security Council vote, Abbas signed 20 international conventions, including one regarding the International Criminal Court (icc). On January 6, the United Nations announced its acceptance of the Palestinian Authority’s request to join the icc, which will officially occur on April 1.
Recognition by the icc will allow Palestinians to pursue war crimes charges against Israel.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon called the move “legal warfare, which is not useful to peace.” Noting the Palestinian Authority’s troubling association with the internationally recognized terrorist organization Hamas, Nahshon warned that the PA might find itself as the defendant before the icc.
Be it via the Palestinian Authority and/or Hamas, Bible prophecy informs us that the Palestinians will violently gain control of East Jerusalem soon (Zechariah 14:2—this is explained in our free booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy). Mahmoud Abbas’s efforts are bringing the Middle East closer to that crisis.
Netanyahu asks for Europe’s help
“Israel is being attacked by the very same forces that attack Europe. Israel stands with Europe. Europe must stand with Israel,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated on January 8, just after terrorist attacks in France had left 17 people dead over a three-day period.
On January 11, Netanyahu participated in the biggest march in French history to honor the victims of the attacks. He joined about 40 world leaders and over 4 million people.
As Israel’s relationship with the United States grows cold, Netanyahu is looking to Europe for support. This call to Europe could lead to the fulfillment of Hosea 5:13, which prophesies of an alliance between Israel and Germany. But biblical prophecy says this alliance will not bring Israel the peace it seeks, but the opposite.
Taliban massacres in Afghanistan, Pakistan
Just weeks before the United States’ officially ended its combat mission in Afghanistan, a defiant Taliban sent a blood-soaked message mocking the last 13 years of war waged by the U.S.-led coalition against the terrorist group.
On December 13, the Taliban coordinated multiple attacks throughout Afghanistan: A suicide bomber detonated his explosives on a bus packed with soldiers, killing seven; and gunmen mowed down a Supreme Court judge as he went to work, killed 12 minesweepers, and murdered two American soldiers in an attack near Bagram Airbase.
The worst of the murders came three days later, across Afghanistan’s porous eastern border. Taliban militants stormed a school attended by children of some of the Pakistani soldiers at the Peshawar outpost. The gunmen went from classroom to classroom, murdering nine staff members and 132 children.
During the peak of the war in Afghanistan, about 100,000 U.S. soldiers were deployed, but that number is down to 10,600 and will be reduced by about half that number by the end of the year. But the Taliban is making it clear that the American military did not complete its mission.
For more information, read our January 2015 article “Buried in Afghanistan.”
Germany wants European army
One of Germany’s main governing coalition partners has declared it wants to be the “driving force in Europe of a parliamentary-controlled European army,” German-Foreign-Policy.com reported December 8. According to the report, military experts of the Social Democratic Party (spd) group in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, have produced a position paper calling for a European Union military academy and a permanent military headquarters.
The authors of the paper recognize Germany as an international powerhouse economically, but decry its foreign and military policies. These policies, said the spd’s defense policy spokesman Rainer Arnold, are “urgently in need of improvement.”
Germany already is independently involved in bilateral and multilateral projects with other European militaries. Brigades from national armies are joining with the Bundeswehr and coming under the command of the German Army. “Never before has a state renounced this elementary and integral part of its sovereignty,” wrote Die Welt’s political editor, Thorsten Jungholt.
The Germans also want to consolidate the defense industry. In an October 8 speech to the German Council on Foreign Relations, the German minister of the economy requested an EU armament industry based primarily in Germany, but stipulated that the main requirement is that the armament industry be independent of the United States.
Meanwhile, calls for an EU army continue by German politicians. German-Foreign-Policy reported in November that the government-affiliated German Institute for International and Security Affairs (swp) believes that America’s changing global role is a good reason for establishing an EU army (Nov. 3, 2014). In a paper published on the German Defense website, Claudia Major, deputy director of swp’s Security Policy Research Group, wrote that current “financial crisis” shows that “national sovereignty built on autonomy is illusory.” Because America is shifting its attention to Asia and Africa, Major argued, “the EU will need to assume more responsibility around the world.”
German Vice President of the European Parliament Alexander Graf Lambsdorff said that “only a European approach” to military issues can keep the “economic giant” that is Germany from remaining “a political dwarf, when it involves seriously defending Western values and interests.”
Germany’s dream of a European super-army controlled from Berlin and independent of America is now beginning to become a reality, and should startle Western policymakers. The last time Germany attempted to exert its influence upon the world, all did not go well.
Greek exit possible, euro dives,Germany unfazed
Fears of the “Grexit”—Greece’s exit from the eurozone—triggered a drop in the value of the euro to a nine-year low on January 5. But not everyone is panicking.
Since 2010, Greece has submitted to severe budget cuts in order to receive more than €100 billion (us$115.5 billion) in bailout funds from the eurozone, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. But some Greeks are increasingly expressing their resentment toward austerity. Greece’s anti-austerity party, Syriza, has surged in popularity. It is possible that Greece will choose to, or be pressured to, leave the eurozone.
Were Greece to leave the euro and default on its bailout debt, Germany—Greece’s biggest lender—could lose about €66 billion.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel no longer thinks a Grexit would be too risky for the 19-member eurozone after all, according to unnamed officials referenced by Der Spiegel.
It appears a Greek exit would benefit Germany in some ways.
If Greece leaves the eurozone, it could throw the currency bloc into turmoil as investors wonder if the euro project might disintegrate. If investors flee, the value of the euro would plummet relative to other currencies. A lower euro valuation makes European exports less expensive for foreigners, allowing European manufacturers to sell more products around the world. And the European country that is by far the largest manufacturer and exporter is Germany.
After Merkel’s alleged comment became public, Berlin said it hadn’t changed policy and that it still expects Greece to fulfill its obligations to the European Union.
Much of the reporting about the possible Grexit revolves around its economic effects. But the Trumpet notes that the most significant factor is not the billions of euros saved or lost, but the effect of the financial crisis on politics. The faltering eurozone could lead to a radical change in the political landscape of Europe.
With a friend like China, who needs the IMF?
Pariah nations facing economic turmoil no longer need to bow to Western demands in order to access loans and capital markets. Now they can instead turn to China.
Recent currency-swap deals between China and economically isolated nations like Russia, Argentina and Venezuela demonstrate that China is presenting itself as a viable alternative to the West and its International Monetary Fund (imf).
On December 20, Chinese authorities announced they would expand a $24 billion, three-year currency-swap deal Beijing had signed with Moscow in October. The deal allows Russia to borrow the Chinese yuan and lend its faltering ruble. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Russia possesses “the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation.” But he added, “If the Russian side needs, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity.”
China is eager to help Russia in part because it views its neighbor to the north as something of a kindred spirit. Jin Canrong, the associate dean of the School of International Studies at Renmin University in Beijing, said, “Many Chinese people still view Russia as the big brother, and the two countries are strategically important to each other” (Bloomberg News, Dec. 22, 2014). Back in May, the two nations signed the largest business transaction in human history—a 30-year, $400 billion gas deal. Other massive deals have followed.
China can afford to give such support because it is the world’s largest economy, according to the imf’s latest purchasing-power parity calculations. It has amassed $3.89 trillion worth of foreign exchange reserves, also the largest on the planet. Lending this type of aid to enemies of the West is a symbol of China’s power. It gives China an opportunity to practice “big-country diplomacy,” as President Xi Jingping said in November. China is eager to augment its political clout because it will help it challenge the West, particularly the United States.
China has similarly helped Argentina with $2.3 billion worth of currency-swap deals since October. The South American nation has been internationally isolated for reneging on its financial obligations in 2001, and it has found China an alternative to the imf. Economically sanctioned Venezuela has enjoyed $4 billion of credit from China since November.
Obviously, China is not in the charity business. In exchange for its assistance, it receives vital natural resources to feed its economy. By helping Russia and Venezuela, China gains cheap natural gas and crude oil.
But more significantly, helping pariah nations gives China critical alliances that will ultimately undermine the U.S. and even challenge a resurging Europe. For more information about where these developments are leading, read our January 2015 article “The Russia-China Axis Is Here.”
Japan insists on constitutional revision
Shinzo Abe was reelected as Japan’s prime minister on December 24 and reiterated his pledge to rewrite the country’s pacifist constitution. The issue of constitutional revision has divided the Japanese public, but more than 80 percent of the nation’s parliament now favors it. Constitutional revision, Abe said, is his most “cherished wish.”
Is it a noble wish? Japan’s pacifist constitution was written by American leaders just after World War ii. Japan had just committed some of the worst brutality in human history. The fanaticism was fueled largely by Japan’s belief that Emperor Hirohito was a god destined to rule the world. State Shinto became the national religion, promoting an ideology of Japanese racial superiority and the notion that Hirohito was a divinity.
After the war, America wanted to ensure that such fanaticism would not rise again, so it wrote the postwar constitution to include Article 9, a clause outlawing war as a means for Japan to settle international disputes. It also outlawed emperor worship and disbanded State Shinto.
Abe is part of the Shinto Association of Spiritual Leadership and the Nippon Kaigi. Besides working to scrap Article 9, these groups also want to blur the separation of religion and state and restore lost Japanese values. Last October, Abe became the first Japanese prime minister since World War ii to attend a ceremony at the Ise Shrine that celebrated the emperor’s divine ancestry. If Abe’s “cherished wish” comes true, it could revive the intoxicating combination of nationalism, Shinto myth and militarism among this great—and potentially dangerous—people.