New Hope in the Peace Process?
The pressure on an Israeli prime minister is crushing. Pressure to give in for the sake of peace.
Of course there is international pressure—and not just from Israel’s Islamic neighbors, countries whose populations collectively outnumber Israel’s Jewish citizens by over 60 to 1 and who overwhelmingly eye the Jews as unwelcome occupiers of Muslim land. Peoples and politicians on every continent pressure Israel over a litany of perceived errors by which it puts peace out of reach.
But there is also internal pressure.
Israel has had to fight to exist since the day of its birth. Generations of Israelis have aged and died in the shadow of violence, terrorism and war. Most are resigned to the deadening sense that their children’s lives will be plagued with more violence than their own. They want—they hope, with a hope ground thin and hollow—to live in peace.
Oh, how an Israeli prime minister would love to give it to them.
This pressure brought Yitzhak Rabin to shake hands with Yasser Arafat despite giving his word he’d never negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization. This pressure convinced Benjamin Netanyahu to cede the Golan Heights to Syria, a plan that, if enacted, would have smashed one of his own campaign promises. This pressure coerced Ehud Barak to offer much of eastern Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority after vowing to keep the city united under Jewish rule forever (New York Sun, June 29, 2004).
Looking at the climate in which Israel’s leader must govern, it’s easy to see why the men in that office have tended to take such risks. But that doesn’t change the reality that these risks have never paid off, producing only more violence and making the promise of peace that much more elusive.
Now the pressure is mounting on Ariel Sharon, Israel’s present prime minister. Since September 2000, just months before Sharon was elected, terrorists have launched over 500 suicide attacks against Israel, more than a hundred of which found their target—murdering a thousand Israelis. Sharon’s government has responded strongly, killing over 3,500 Palestinians, including several high-profile terrorist leaders.
But Sharon’s position has been shifting, as did those of his predecessors. Over the course of his term in office he has pushed increasingly daring measures to try to break the deadlock with the Palestinians: building a security wall to separate the Jews from the Arabs; releasing Arab prisoners from Israeli jails; proposing evacuations of Jewish settlements. (He’s had to fight hard for each proposal—being forced to piece together shifting political alliances within Israel’s parliament as other parties peel away from him, suffering through repeated no-confidence motions, having to increase his personal protection to avoid the fate of Rabin.)
In the last couple months, these efforts have become much more intense.
Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority, died in December. The Palestinians then hosted their first free elections. The newly elected president, Mahmoud Abbas, is telling terror groups to stop attacking Israel. Abbas and Sharon, who called this moment a possible “historic breakthrough,” have already met and agreed to a package of conciliatory actions. Attacks against Israel have noticeably dropped.
To many, the signs look good. Much of the world is hailing a new prospect for peace. Even a number of hardened Middle East observers are allowing themselves some cautious optimism.
Truly, for Sharon, the pressure is peaking: Don’t squander this moment. Give in for the sake of peace.
Here is the unhappy truth of the matter, according to Bible prophecy: Any sacrifices the prime minister makes will prove only to strengthen his enemies and weaken his country.
This is a pivotal moment for Israel. The more impatient Sharon gets—the more eager to make his mark on history—the more devastating it will be for the Jewish state.
These events are worthy of our closest scrutiny. They presage the fulfillment of a biblical prophecy the Trumpet has been informing its readers of for almost a decade—a prophecy of Israel becoming so desperate for an end to its woes that it runs for salvation into the arms of its greatest enemy.
Open-eyed honesty is required in order to evaluate the real odds of peace being the outcome of the present circumstances.
The Real Abbas
The renewed air of hope regarding the Middle East essentially swept in with the new Palestinian leadership. Whereas Arafat was a notorious terrorist who made no secret of his murderous intentions toward Israel, Abbas presents a much more believable image as a peacemaker. (When a president earns points for not being a terrorist, it’s a good indication of how desperate the situation is.)
But is Abbas really the reasonable partner that politicians and commentators—and many Israelis—are willing themselves to believe?
Looking at the situation in terms of pure negotiating power, Abbas is at a disadvantage. To constructively negotiate for peace or even the pretense of it, a leader must represent his people and have their backing to follow through on commitments made. Sure, Abbas can say the words and make the promises, but can he gain the support of his own people?
At its root, the task Abbas faces is impossible: to reconcile Palestinian aims with the peaceful, permanent existence of Israel. Even if he had the best of intentions, Abbas simply cannot maintain a leadership role unless he accommodates the spirit of the overwhelming majority of Palestinians who reject Israel’s existence.
As it turns out, evidence suggests that, despite his moderate persona, this is really not too hard for Abbas. “Abu Mazen [the popular name for Abbas among Palestinians] was an Arafat crony and comes from the Palestinian elite. He has consistently held the hardline anti-Israel agenda since his years as a student. His doctoral dissertation was a full-blown foray into Holocaust denial and aimed to prove that Zionism and Nazism are branches of the same tree. … Abu Mazen may wear a suit while Arafat wore fatigues but much of their world view is still the same—the destruction of Israel remains on the ‘to-do’ list” (Philadelphia Daily News, January 8; emphasis mine throughout).
Far from denouncing his terrorist predecessor, Abbas actually draws on Arafat’s legacy to gain extra authority. In his pre-election campaign speeches, he called for the same “right of return” that Arafat espoused, which, as the New York Sun termed it, is “code for the destruction of the Jewish state” (Dec. 31, 2004).
Abbas has received kudos for his attempts to coerce terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad into curbing their lethal violence. Many have been willing to dismiss his public anti-Israel rhetoric and expressions of solidarity with terrorists as mere politics. Some conservative observers, however, rather view the ceasefire he pulled off as mere politics. Why? Their conclusions are worthy of note.
Charles Krauthammer asks, “What of Abbas’s vaunted opposition to violence? On January 2 he tells Hamas terrorists firing rockets that maim and kill Jewish villagers within Israel, ‘This is not the time for this kind of act.’ This is an interesting ‘renunciation’ of terrorism: Not today, boys; perhaps later, when the time is right” (Washington Post, January 7).
Daniel Pipes comments, “Mr. Abbas shows tactical flexibility. Unlike Arafat, who could never let go of the terrorist tool that had brought him wealth, power and glory, Mr. Abbas sees the situation more cogently. If stopping the violence against Israel best serves his goal of eliminating the sovereign Jewish state, that is his program. He no more accepts what he so charmingly the other day called the ‘Zionist enemy’ than Arafat did (or Hamas, or Palestinian Islamic Jihad), but he is open to a multiplicity of means to destroy it” (New York Sun, January 11).
Is that assessment really true? Time will certainly tell. But a clue as to the answer has come in the method Abbas has taken to rein in the terrorists—not by cracking down on them, but by tempting them to become politicians.
On February 16, Abbas announced that, in the words of Stratfor, “he supports sharing national leadership with Hamas, jihad organizations, and public and democratic fronts if it can be arranged by election time”—speaking of the Palestinian legislative elections scheduled for July. Abbas voiced optimism that Hamas will actually hold the majority of seats in the Palestinian National Council, the Palestinian parliament in exile.
Hamas and other jihad groups openly base their existence on war against Israel. They are precisely the source of the problem.
It appears Abbas is sympathetic to their views. Even if he isn’t, their popularity puts strong pressure on him to accommodate them—even draw them into Palestinian politics, helping to transform these terrorist groups into genuine political parties.
The bottom line is, there will be no peace in the Middle East as long as there are groups agitating for Israel’s destruction. It should be self-evident that for a two-state peace to be an option, the Palestinians must accept the legitimacy of the Israeli state. This clearly has not happened.
No Real Change
Optimistic analysts and commentators suppose the Palestinians have simply become tired of using violence; they have realized Arafat’s strategy got them nowhere.
This naive impression was proven false in January’s municipal elections in the Gaza Strip. Voters sent a clear message, electing by overwhelming majorities several candidates from a new power party in Palestinian politics: Hamas.
With 80 percent voter turnout, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) received 75 out of 118 local council seats in Gaza. What does this mean? That this terrorist organization is softening its strategy—ready now to enact change in Israel through ballots rather than bombs? One Hamas leader explained the election result: “This means that the people believe in the armed resistance as the only option.” Considering Hamas’s history, this is not an unfair evaluation.
In January, leaders from Hamas and Hezbollah met in Beirut and reaffirmed their mutual commitment to continue the war against Israel, explicitly rejecting calls for a ceasefire. In a statement after the meeting, Hezbollah said the participants “agreed that the option of resistance and steadfastness was the only choice to confront the current situation” (Middle East Newsline, February 2).
It’s true that, following the ceasefire agreement signed by Sharon and Abbas on February 8, there have been fewer attacks against Israelis. But it is stupidity to assume this indicates a new commitment to peace. It would be more fair to interpret it as a time-out to regroup and prepare for the next round.
Before Hamas could ever be trusted, it would have to repent of its basic reason for being: to clear Israel off the map.
This is the bottom-line question that must be satisfactorily, thoroughly answered and that we must continually come back to—pessimistic as it may seem; repetitive and wearisome as it may be.
Hamas’s intentions are spelled out in its August 1988 charter. The land of Palestine, this foundational document states, belongs to Islam: “[N]o one can renounce it or part of it, or abandon it or part of it. … Nothing is loftier or deeper in nationalism than waging jihad against the enemy and confronting him when he sets foot on the land of the Muslims.” Later the charter says explicitly: “[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas]. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of [Hamas] is part of its faith, [and] the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their jihad. … There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by jihad.” You can be sure that such convictions don’t fade with an electoral landslide and new political power!
Hamas sets itself up as “the spearhead and the avant-garde” in the conflict with global Zionism. Its charter is filled with the vilest of anti-Semitism, accusing the Jews of being Nazi-like, heartless oppressors, and giving detailed accusations of how they are covertly trying to take over the world. “[T]hey stood behind World War i, so as to wipe out the Islamic caliphate,” the document asserts. And an even more twisted assertion: “They also stood behind World War ii, where they collected immense benefits from trading with war materials and prepared for the establishment of their state.”
This is the charter document for this organization! These are the elemental principles governing this fledgling, and explosively popular, political party.
Though socially active in helping the Palestinian people, Hamas, because of its institutionalized hatred and its commitment to using “martyrdom” as a political tool, represents the worst that Palestinians have to offer. In the past, it has voted against Israel principally with the blood of its suicide bombers.
Nevertheless, it appears that Israel, if it continues on the track it is traveling, will have to come to grips with Hamas—not as a target for assassinations but as a partner in politics.
That is a sure path to peace—in a fool’s world.
Walking Into a Trap
Yes, the pressure on Sharon is crushing. Pressure to give in and “make peace.” And Sharon, with determination, is doing just that.
After meeting with President Abbas in February, Sharon’s administration made a strong gesture of confidence in the new Palestinian government with a raft of concessions. It released 500 Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails; allowed a large handful of Palestinian terrorists who had been expelled from the West Bank to return to their homes; agreed to stop chasing fugitives who give up their weapons and pledge not to attack anymore; promised to stop assassinating terrorist leaders and bulldozing terrorists’ homes; and agreed to gradually hand over five West Bank towns to Palestinian control.
Also, within two weeks of the meeting, preparations for drawing down Israeli settlements proceeded in earnest. The cabinet voted 17-5 to, later this year, pull out all Israeli soldiers and the 8,200 settlers situated in 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip, as well as 500 settlers and attendant soldiers from the northern part of the West Bank—a plan Sharon has pushed for over a year. This will be Israel’s first complete territorial withdrawal since it turned over the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1982. Statements from Israeli officials have indicated that much larger evacuations from the West Bank will be forthcoming.
All this in exchange for practically nothing. All this with absolutely no retreat by Hamas and other such groups from their commitment to violence. Astonishing.
Will any of these sacrifices change the minds of those who seek Israel’s demise? Will the Palestinians now be more content to coexist with Israel?
If history is any guide, the answer is a resounding no.
Example: Israel first gave the Sinai to Egypt in 1957 after the Suez War; a decade later, that very soil became the launch point for an Egyptian attack on Israel. Another example: Previous releases of Arab prisoners—such as Sharon’s Jan. 26, 2004, deal to cough up 429 Hezbollah convicts—have not only validated the effectiveness of terrorist tactics, they have been proven to have put terrorists back into action. Another example: Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, rather than salving the relationship with Hezbollah, marked the beginning of more aggressive efforts by that terrorist group to infiltrate Israel; attacks increased; some say the withdrawal helped spark the Palestinian intifada a few months later by fueling hope that terrorism could persuade Israel to give up Gaza and the West Bank.
Not to say that there are no Palestinians who would sincerely accept a two-state solution. But think about it for a moment: How could any Arab engaged in, or even sympathetic to, Palestinian terrorism over the past several decades not interpret the handover of the Gaza Strip as a vindication of that approach? How could any Palestinian who has lost a friend or family member in the intifada—a “martyr” for the cause—not consider Sharon’s concessions a stirring victory?
More importantly, how could many of them not be emboldened to push for the next step in the elimination of the Jewish state?
So much of the world is pushing for Israel to seize the moment for peace. But the truth is, the enemies of Israel don’t seek peace. Rather than accepting the Jewish state, they are repositioning themselves to annihilate it. Any faith Sharon and the Israelis place in them, and any concessions they make to them, will prove shortly to have only endangered the Jews all the more.
In other words, the intifada is having its intended effect. The Jews don’t want to fight any longer. They are getting more desperate for an end to the problem at whatever cost.
That kind of thinking will destroy the nation!
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has written extensively on the biblically prophesied collapse of will in modern-day Israel. The nation that was born and sustained in a hostile climate by miraculous protection has since turned on the God who made possible its existence. Like the ancient, biblical nation of Israel, it has taken to trusting in men—even, to its own peril, enemy nations—rather than the all-powerful God.
This faithlessness is the cause for Israel’s trust in the impotent, vain and terribly misnamed peace process. It has obliged Israel to give up site after biblically significant site to the Palestinians. Ultimately, all of Israel’s hopes are pinned on a negotiation policy that has proved to be an utter catastrophe!
Read the chapter on “Israel’s Deadly Wound” in our booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy to understand the lethal trap Israel is walking into in the peace process.
All the concessions Israel makes will fail to bring peace. The situation will drag on, and Israelis will grow in despair. Despair will give way to recklessness.
As Israel’s sacrifices prove inadequate, the Jews will become so weak, so desperate, there will come a point—now very soon—that they will end up looking to Germany as a savior.
Biblical prophecy illuminates Israel’s deplorable posture. As Mr. Flurry has explained, the Bible refers to the present nation of Israel as “Judah” (hence the name Jew). Hosea 5:13 reveals the true nature of the peace process by calling it Judah’s “wound.” “When … Judah saw his wound, then went Ephraim to the Assyrian [the biblical name for modern Germany], and sent to king Jareb: yet could he not heal you, nor cure you of your wound.” Judah’s wound is incurable—and it takes the nation, by way of Britain, right into the waiting arms of Germany.
This move will prove to be suicidal. Bible prophecy spells out Israel’s demise at the hands of a European superpower.
Watch what happens in Israel. Watch Israel’s prime ministers continue to buckle under the pressure. And know, based on the sure word of Bible prophecy, that the pressure will increase beyond the breaking point—until the Jews learn that, to guarantee peace and security, they are only able to trust the great God.