Egypt: Israel and a Prophet’s Words
There was a time when Herbert Armstrong could say that he had met more world leaders in a given year than then U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger at the height of his shuttle diplomacy. As Mr. Armstrong once wrote, “It seems Secretary Kissinger and I are very frequently crossing paths—especially in the Middle East, between Cairo and Tel Aviv. Ours are the only two planes, so far as I know, that ever fly from Cairo to Tel Aviv, or from Tel Aviv to Cairo” (co-worker letter, Nov. 18, 1974).
Among the many world leaders Herbert Armstrong met, there are two who remain in presidential office to this day. As it happens, one is in Cairo, the other in Tel Aviv—Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and Shimon Peres of Israel.
It seems obvious that President Mubarak is slated for replacement in the Egyptian presidency within the near future. That will leave one remaining active elder statesman on the world scene who has any memory of meeting with that “ambassador for world peace, without portfolio,” Herbert W. Armstrong.
Is there any significance to this?
Well, before seeking to answer that, it’s interesting to track back in time and consider the close relationship Herbert Armstrong had with the leaders of Egypt and Israel, two countries that figure strongly in current events today, and are integral to the ongoing fulfillment of events prophesied in Scripture to occur in the Middle East leading to Jesus Christ’s return.
Writing in the February 1982 edition of the Plain Truth magazine, Herbert Armstrong commented:
Somewhat more than a year ago, in October, I had personal visits with both Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt. Last October 6, on the eighth anniversary of the Yom Kippur war initiated by Mr. Sadat, the whole world was shocked by the assassination of Anwar Sadat. … I had expected to have another private meeting with the Egyptian president this past November.
I did have the private meeting with the Egyptian president on November 21 last—but with the new president, Hosni Mubarak, in his palace in Cairo. President Mubarak … is now a very important world leader in the explosive Middle East.
Mr. Armstrong then referred to “Egypt’s role in the peace process started in the Camp David meetings with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter” and explained that the key issue discussed with Mr. Mubarak was the question of negotiations for Israel’s right to exist in peace within secure borders, the core issues of what is called “the Middle East peace process.” It’s the same key issue at the heart of the same peace process today.
Mr. Armstrong explained: “I said plainly to President Mubarak, the peace negotiations are not going to bring peace. Only the intervention of God Almighty Himself, and establishment of the Kingdom of God—a one-nation rule over all nations—can bring us peace. Hosni Mubarak agreed. But we both agreed that efforts of national leaders toward peace should be carried on. We should do what we can. But it will require the supernatural power of the great God to do what we humans cannot do for ourselves” (ibid.).
Does President Mubarak have any conscious memory of those prophetic words of Herbert Armstrong? Perhaps, perceiving the forked tongue of an American administration once again prepared to unceremoniously dump one whom it has cultivated as an ally for decades, the president can see the folly of placing trust in man. Soon he will have time to reflect, be it under house arrest or in exile away from his beloved home nation.
To the north, the stress of the impending change of leadership in Egypt is being felt in Tel Aviv. Israel’s leaders know that without doubt—despite Cairo’s public statements against their nation over the years—in reality it has been Mubarak’s iron fist that has secured their southern border to date.
Now that is all about to change.
Within Israel, one aging leader links back to Herbert Armstrong’s diplomacy for Middle Eastern and world peace—President Shimon Peres.
Stanley Rader, former legal counsel to Herbert Armstrong, recorded in 1980, “At one time, during a four-year period, Mr. Armstrong and I made about 50 trips to Israel, meeting with Prime Ministers Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin, and with Moshe Dyan, Defense Minister Shimon Peres and dozens of cabinet members, legislators, military men and leaders of industry and academia” (Against the Gates of Hell).
The first overseas trip Herbert Armstrong made following recovery from congestive heart failure in August 1977 was to the nation of Israel. He described it thus: “I have just returned from my first trip abroad since my severe illness. This was another visit to Jerusalem. I had a very busy and eventful four days in this city soon to become the world capital” (Plain Truth subscriber letter, Dec. 27, 1978).
Of that visit, Mr. Armstrong later wrote of one particular day’s activity: “Tuesday was a very busy day. There were several meetings at the Knesset—with Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, Shimon Peres, chairman of Israel’s leading Labor Party, and the speaker of the Knesset, Itzhak Shamir. Then a visit at the president’s residence, with the president of Israel, Itzhak Navon.
“All in top offices in Israel were enthusiastic about starting another decade of mutual cooperation and friendship” (Good News, February 1979).
During the ensuing seven years, Mr. Armstrong was to visit the Middle East on numerous further occasions, continuing to develop close friendships with some of its leaders. He had contact with Peres on a number of these occasions, one meeting being captured on video and later used as a cameo in the Church’s 1985 Behind the Work production.
Of that particular meeting, Mr. Armstrong wrote (member and co-worker letter, May 16, 1985):
Keep your eyes on the Middle East, for the final world crisis will center on that area. While we were there, U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz was also there …. Secretary Shultz was in Cairo, Jerusalem and Amman working for a new breakthrough in the Middle Eastern strife and especially the question of the West Bank in Palestine.
In Jerusalem, I had a personal meeting with Prime Minister Shimon Peres. He had a meeting a couple days before with Secretary Shultz. I asked him how he viewed the Middle East question as of the moment. He replied, “I am very hopeful we may have a breakthrough soon.”
President Peres has waited another 24 years for that breakthrough. Given his longevity within the “peace process,” he is perhaps the most uniquely experienced and respected by all who have been involved since the Camp David talks. He is thus one of the most concerned when observing the breakdown of order in Israel’s southern neighbor, Egypt.
As the Jerusalem Post recently reported, “President Shimon Peres has not abandoned his old friend, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. ‘We always have had and will have great respect for President Mubarak,’ Peres [said]. …
“‘Not everything he did was right, but he did do one thing for which all of us are thankful. He was the peacekeeper of the Middle East’” (January 31).
In addition to regarding Mubarak as an “old friend,” Peres has over the years developed close ties with two of the parties most directly interested in shaping initiatives to bring stability to the strategically important Middle East in their own interests—the Vatican and Germany.
During his first year as Israel’s president, Peres visited Pope Benedict in April 2006, issuing a formal invitation to the pope to visit Israel. He followed up with a June meeting in 2007. In December 2008, a papal delegation met with Peres in his Tel Aviv residence to negotiate terms for a visit by Benedict the following year.
In May 2009, Pope Benedict visited Israel, engaging in a high-profile tour of sites of significance to Rome. Then in August 2010, Peres was received in audience at Castelgandolfo, the papal summer residence, by Pope Benedict xvi.
During that visit, the octogenarian head of state told an interviewer on the First Channel of Italy’s public television (rai): “The relations between the Vatican and the Jewish state are the best since the times of Jesus Christ, and have never been so good in 2,000 years of history. … The reigning pontiff wishes to have a sincere dialogue with us, as we wish to have with the Vatican.”
From this it seems that the scene is set for more direct involvement by the Vatican in peace negotiations in the Middle East.
So, what of Germany?
On the side of the current German administration, Chancellor Merkel recently declared that Germany’s relations with Israel have “no parallel with any other country to which Germany has ties.” The chancellor made the statement during a working lunch hosted by Shimon Peres in her honor during the recent annual joint cabinet session held in Tel Aviv between the two nations. “Merkel, considered one of Israel’s closest allies in Europe, declared that ‘the security of Israel is not just a two-state issue, but a global issue. We have to make certain that the security of Israel in secure borders is assured’” (Jerusalem Post, February 2).
For his part, the Israeli president was most effusive in praising the chancellor, calling her one of the “most outstanding politicians of our time,” particularly for her handling of Europe’s economic crisis. “As a prime minister, whose strength in the world is appreciated, you see things as they really are,” he said. As Bild noted, “So much praise is rare—especially among politicians” (February 2).
A couple days earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “We are allies, Israel and Germany, and we have a great desire, on both sides, to strengthen our relationship and our bilateral cooperation. We also have the strong desire to advance peace and security in our region. Chancellor Merkel and I spoke at length about several ideas in this regard. We know that we are in a very stormy and unstable period, and we would like to advance stability, peace and security” (jta, January 31).
Chancellor Merkel replied, “We have similar values, which makes it very easy for us to cooperate.” How relations between these two nations have changed over the past 70 years! Or have they really?
Today, under this great impression of mutual friendliness, it seems both the Vatican and Germany are well placed to step up their direct involvement in the Mideast peace process. Even more so with a rather inert administration in Washington diverted from focusing clearly on the peace process as it tries to find a way out of its unsolvable debt crisis, let alone juggle other massive foreign-policy challenges that have arisen in the wake of its continuing political ineptitude.
So where is all this leading?
Your Bible prophesies that powerful leaders from Rome and Berlin will join forces in a Middle East peace process. This will consummate in the deployment of an international military force that shall surround Jerusalem to enforce their version of peace. This will be a dramatic sign of the imminence of the return of Jesus Christ to enforce true peace, from Jerusalem, across the whole world (Luke 21:20).
Whether they realize it or not, the two remaining elder statesmen who heard the true gospel message prophesied from the lips of Herbert Armstrong did receive a powerful advance warning of its imminent reality! A reality of which the current roiling Middle East disruption is a sign in itself of its very imminence!
As Hosni Mubarak contemplates the loss of his leadership of Egypt, as he reflects on the duplicity of American foreign policy—even as the shah of Iran surely must have so reflected when Washington abandoned him to his fate in 1979—we wonder if he may recall in his twilight years the prophetic words of Herbert Armstrong: “I said to President Mubarak in Cairo, we humans cannot bring peace by our own efforts. But God will intervene, send Christ in all the supreme power and glory of the Creator God, to set up the Kingdom of God, the super-divine nation to rule all nations with God’s way of life. And that will cause world peace, contentment, happiness, joy, and bring us eternal life!” (Plain Truth, op. cit.).
Events in Egypt are hastening progress toward that day. In the meantime, President Peres, it seems, will soon be the only statesman remaining active on the world scene who has heard those prophetic words out of the mouth of a true man of God. As Peres works to develop dialogue with Rome and Berlin, seeking their aid for peace in the Middle East, perhaps some future event will lead him to hear those words ring again in his ears.
One thing is now sure. Events in the Middle East will continue to develop to the point where they will ultimately affect every individual on the planet!