A Picture of Political Chaos
On July 10, 2000, his last day in Israel before the Camp David talks in Washington, security was heavy around Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Visitors to the Knesset building were spot-checked by patrolmen. Mr. Barak was surrounded by a double-circle of at least a dozen security guards.
As dangerous as the situation warranting these measures was, however, one television commentator said it was “child’s play” compared to what Barak could expect if he returned from the summit having conceded anything to the Palestinians.
What did Mr. Barak have to fear? It wasn’t the Palestinians or any foreign terrorists. It was his own countrymen.
After all, the last time someone was in Barak’s position, he was murdered. That was November of 1995, when Yitzhak Rabin, deeply involved in land-for-peace negotiations with the dispossessed Palestinians living on Israeli soil, was felled by the bullet of a religious Jew. (How is that for irony? There is a faction in Israel so zealous in their belief that their land was God-given, they are willing to break God’s commandment forbidding murder to meet their aims.) Barak’s bodyguards were a grim illustration that the demons of ideological division within Israel are running amok.
The prime minister had assumed power just 13 months before on the promise of brokering a “peace of the brave” with Israel’s Arab neighbors. But the deep rifts within the Israeli government were exposed when, as Barak headed to the U.S. for this, his first serious, detailed bargaining session with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, three of the right-wing political parties in his parliamentary coalition abandoned him. Their protest of his proposed concessions sucked dry his required majority of seats in the Knesset (Israel’s parliament), leaving him politically isolated. To make things worse, Arafat refused the peace deal, and when the defeated Barak returned home his own foreign minister resigned.
The picture grew gloomier after a September visit by Likud party leader Ariel Sharon to Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. Israeli Palestinians seized the chance to spark what has amounted to a low-intensity war over Israeli occupation that after two and a half months and over 300 deaths shows no sign of letting up.
Barak has been ripped in two between retaliating decisively—thus angering neighboring Arab countries and most of the world, inflaming already strong anti-Israel sentiment—and turning the other cheek, which itself animates the intifada by showing weakness of will and ceding control to the protesters. His present response has been somewhere in the middle, which, in the words of news analyst George Friedman, “achieves the worst of both worlds, violence coupled with increasing isolation” (www.stratfor.com, WorldView, Nov. 27, 2000).
Arafat, sensing his opponent’s indecisiveness, is working to unite the whole Arab world into an anti-Israel front. He is particularly intent on winning over Egypt, the closest thing Israel has to an ally among its neighbors. The Palestinians have everything to gain by escalating the violence, applying increasing pressure on a crippled Israel, waiting for its inevitable break. Many are committed to continued fighting, viewing this as nothing less than a noble, divinely ordered war for independence.
Barak cannot win. Nothing he could do would pacify all parties involved. And whatever the outcome of any peace talks, as his bodyguards in July showed, there are passionate enemies from within and without who are more than eager to spoil the deal.
After weeks of facing increasingly paralyzing opposition in the Knesset, the embattled prime minister finally launched his own political attack. Barak pre-empted his opponents on December 10 by resigning after completing only 17 months of his proscribed four years in office.
His move necessitates new national elections in February—in which he hopes, with fantastic optimism, to obtain a new mandate from his people and re-enter the peace talks with more support behind him. That’s right—in the face of so much failure, Barak and many of his people still bet that the peace process is the solution! Many other Israelis vehemently disagree.
The country’s political climate is irreparably poisonous and fractious—split among a host of conflicting parties and pressure groups, each arguing for different solutions. Its divisions almost make the U.S. look like a picture of unity by comparison.
A Fractious System
In Israel, the Knesset holds ultimate political power—its enactments cannot be vetoed or nullified by the president, prime minister or Israeli Supreme Court. Its 120 members are elected by the whole country, rather than by state or region, as in the U.S. But rather than vote for a particular person, people choose a political party, each of which posts its list of proposed Knesset candidates. The 120 seats are then filled based on proportional representation—the greater the percentage of the popular vote a party gets, the more seats that party occupies. Virtually any political grouping garnering more than 2 percent of the vote can send a representative to the Knesset.
With the nation’s populace as disparate and as religion-based as it is, this system has led to a headache-inducing cacophony of competing parties. The current Knesset has representatives from no less than 16 political parties. Just how diverse the resultant legislative body is can be partly ascertained simply from the fact that it does not meet on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, in deference to its Muslim, Jewish and Christian members.
The prime minister is chosen in the same election, but he is elected directly. The candidate who wins the popular vote must then form a coalition with other parties to achieve a 61-seat majority in the Knesset. The last several administrations have found this difficult to impossible, because the various parties have less and less common ground on which to build. And, as was proved both in Barak’s administration and in that of his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, when pressure mounts in Israel’s relationships with Palestinians and neighboring Arabs, the internal political faultlines begin to widen, making coalition building and maintenance even harder.
For the next several weeks, as Israel stumbles on with a bloody and broadening war on its own territory, its attention will be critically divided as it grapples with the messy politics of a new election. With emotions already riding high from the ongoing violence, this is sure to be a rancorous, fierce campaign. Promises from the candidates will surely be as lofty as the criticism and accusation will be bitter.
But no matter what the candidates promise or who wins, the man who takes office in February faces literally impossible odds—as he tries to unite his emotionally charged, divided countrymen, quell the rioting Palestinians, restore the confidence of neighboring enemies and win back the support of the rest of the world. Simply stated, accomplishing those goals would require statecraft beyond the talents of any of the contenders for Israel’s prime-ministership.
And yet—there is a way for Israel to gain the peace and security it is crying out for!
A House Divided
The Jews may not recognize the authority of Jesus Christ’s statement, but they should heed its wisdom: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25). They likewise should take to heart the truth recorded in Amos 3:3—“Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”
Internal division is fatal poison for any nation. People may call Israel’s boisterous democracy “spirited,” but what they see as healthy debate is in fact a quickly spreading, highly malignant cancer.
In the midst of present crises, could this fact be any more apparent?
Consider: The existence of this nation—a tiny, Western-style democracy surrounded by hostile, autocratic monarchies and republics, a Jewish population among Islamic peoples, a country founded on religion and convicted of its divinely granted, prized yet modest and arguably insecure land rights, a nation home to millions of Palestinians who desire a state of their own on this very soil—Israel’s very being—has always posed an inherent threat to its neighbors.
Are there not enough difficulties facing Israel already? It would behoove any people in such circumstances to walk wisely, circumspectly, to avoid missteps—certainly, to present to those outside of its borders a united front, if nothing else.
But Israel’s gaping chasms of political disunion are easily and accurately perceived by its many foes as being chinks in its armor. The more divided the country is, the more vulnerable it appears—to a number of peoples who are all too willing to hasten its demise.
What is the way out for Israel? Clearly, none of the methods it has tried have worked.
Peace talks have not worked. Not only was Rabin assassinated by one of his own people, the agreements he reached with Yasser Arafat were not honored. There has been evil on both sides, as hatred and misunderstanding have intensified. Barak’s efforts at negotiation have angered his own people and still failed to meet Palestinian demands.
Stonewalling has not worked. Netanyahu’s tough stance managed to stave off a major Middle East explosion during his tenure, but by no means did he bring about a stable and lasting security. Why the people who voted him out just a year and a half ago wish they could return him to office now, thinking that he would give them something different, something better than before, can perhaps only be explained as that they see him as merely the least bad of a precious few ugly options.
The fact is, none of these men can bring peace to Israel. The more they have talked about peace, the worse the situation has gotten.
It doesn’t matter who becomes prime minister or what strategies he employs—the Trumpet can state categorically and absolutely, as we have repeatedly, that his actions will fail to bring Israel the security and peace it is crying out for, and will serve to only further divide the State of Israel! Thinking otherwise is shamefully naive!—that is, barring one singular and highly unlikely course of action, the only course Israel’s new leader could take that would change the nation’s miserable fortunes:
To turn the people to God.
It has never been clearer: No negotiation, no peace contract, no military muscle can offer the security, protection and blessing Israel is in desperate, vital need of right now.
As the election campaign swings into gear, listen closely to the rhetoric, and its emptiness will scream out at you. That is because these leaders stubbornly refuse to acknowledge their incapabilities—even as they watch the obvious evidence rioting in their streets! Every solution presented by the politicians is nothing more than whitewash on an impossible situation!
The Prophet Ezekiel foretold of this precise political conundrum, in Ezekiel 13: “Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying, Peace; and there was no peace”—what Israeli politician, in or out of office for the past 20 years, hasn’t fit that description?—“and one built up a wall, and, lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar…” (v. 10)—they construct brilliant-sounding plans to bring Israel the security it sorely craves, but those plans are put together with nothing but untempered mortar—unsavory, foolish things amounting to mere whitewash!
What did Ezekiel say would happen? Because of these untruthful, shallow leaders, God responds, “Say unto them which daub it with untempered mortar, that it [their wall] shall fall” (v. 11). Their plans will be destroyed by none other than the great God!
Read the verses that follow, and it is clear that God Himself is angry with these leaders who are so confident in their own ability to bring about solutions to their people’s woes! Because they look to themselves and not to God, “It shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof: and ye shall know that I am the Lord. Thus will I accomplish my wrath upon the wall, and upon them that have daubed it with untempered mortar, and will say unto you, The wall is no more, neither they that daubed it” (vv. 14-15).
The Israeli leaders’ plans for peace—their shaky, hollow edifices of security—will fall! And they themselves—who keep seducing people with false promises of peace—will fall at the same time! “To wit, the prophets of Israel which prophesy concerning Jerusalem, and which see visions of peace for her, and there is no peace, saith the Lord God” (v. 16).
The great and intensifying problems from which Israel suffers are in direct measure to the degree to which they have looked to themselves for solutions.
In the face of so much indisputable evidence that these men do not have the answers—that they know not the way to peace (Isa. 59:8)—God only wants them to acknowledge their failure, repent of their stubbornness and humbly turn to Him for their protection!
The Stormy Wind
How will God strike Israel?
Notice the first means that God uses to rend their pitiful defensive wall: “Therefore thus saith the Lord God; I will even rend it with a stormy wind in my fury…” (Ezek. 13:13). God’s stormy wind comes before He sends the more severe punishments.
What is that prophesied stormy wind? You are experiencing it right now! It is the powerful warning message being delivered by God’s messenger, Gerald Flurry, supported by God’s faithful, true church!
If only Israel would respond to the stormy wind, there would be no need for the overflowing shower and the great hailstones that will follow (v. 13)—times of tremendous suffering which Israel will experience all too soon if they don’t repent before God now!
The message contained in this magazine is one of hope. Great hope for Israel! It represents a real chance to change the present course, to receive abundant mercy and to avoid the numbing punishments that God is about to reluctantly, but certainly, deliver. “Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11).
Can’t Israel recognize the dead end they face? Can’t they understand that they are tearing themselves apart before their enemies even have to? Can’t they see the imminence of their own destruction?
Is it not clear by now?
The only solution to the maelstrom of Israel’s problems is for the leadership to turn to God in deep repentance and to then lead the people to God. If the nation doesn’t repent, every proposed solution is guaranteed to fail—tearing the country apart from within and exposing it to further attack from every direction. Only by divine intervention, guidance, blessing and protection will Israel’s confusion and chaos end.