Israel at 50: Obstacles To Peace
The American College Dictionary defines the word obstacle as “something that stands in the way of or obstructs progress.” In order to understand the Middle East Peace Process, we must investigate the facts surrounding the process as they relate to the obstacles to peace for the region. The forces obstructing the Peace Process between Israel and its neighbors are, in reality, Israel’s “peace partners”—its neighbors.
More than 2,500 years ago, the ancient Jewish prophets foretold that a similar scenario would unfold at the time of the end. They foretold events that are building toward the Lord’s return: There would be an alignment of nations that would come against the little State of Israel.
These nations, mentioned by the prophets of old, have risen to power over the last hundred years as obstacles to peace and are now in a position on the world stage to fulfill those prophecies of old.
The “Bully of Baghdad” has been in the news constantly since just prior to the Persian Gulf crisis in 1991. I had the unique experience of witnessing the 39 Scud missile attacks on Israel by Saddam Hussein. This provided me with a close look at the methods used by one of Israel’s enemies in an effort to wipe out the Jewish people.
Although Saddam failed in 1991, he has, with help from his Russian benefactors, been preparing to complete his goal by trimming back his military, increasing his stockpile of conventional weapons, and developing his biological and chemical weapons arsenal. In fact, he has achieved a level of biological and chemical armament that allows him to threaten the entire world.
This threat was manifested as Saddam moved the world to the brink of war when he recently repeated his violence of 1991. The United States moved warships and personnel to the Persian Gulf for a possible confrontation with this madman. In the last minutes before the war was to begin, an agreement was brokered between Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations, and Saddam, which at least put the conflict on hold.
The Chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Henry Shelton, said, “Weapons of mass destruction—and by this I mean the deadly nerve gases and the contagious diseases—are a serious threat not only to the countries of the region but also to the United States and coalition forces serving there today.”
As Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon reported in November 1997, Iraq, it can be assumed, has stockpiles of biological weapons, such as anthrax, botulinum toxin, and VX nerve agents. It is also believed that Iraq has a small force of Scud-type missiles capable of delivering these biological weapons. U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen has said that Saddam has more than 200 tons of VX nerve agents, enough to kill every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth. This information—along with Saddam’s statements about his desire to rid the Middle East of the Jewish people, made before and during the Gulf crisis—shows the dangers Israel faces from this “partner.”
During the Gulf War, Saddam closed each of his radio broadcasts to his people with the words, “Till we meet together in Jerusalem.” The meeting he was referring to was the coming together of the Arab peoples to take Jerusalem from the Jewish people, just as his hero, Nebuchadnezzar, had done approximately 600 years before the birth of Christ. Because Saddam believes he is the reincarnation of the former leader of Babylon, which is today the modern state of Iraq, he is convinced that he will accomplish the same result: capture Israel and remove the Jewish people from the land.
Saddam Hussein is prepared to battle the Jewish people. He would like to become the “pan-Arab” leader in the region, and he therefore feels he must solve the problem of the existence of the Jews on land previously owned and controlled by the Muslim people. Saddam’s desire to conquer Israel, as his ancient predecessor did, is definitely an obstacle to the peace so longed for in the region.
There has been no progress this year in the peace talks between Israel and Syria, which began during the administration of the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. One of the main reasons for this lack of movement is the hard-line stand of President Hafez al-Assad in his demand for Israel to return the Golan Heights to Syria before they even go to the negotiating table.
With no real efforts at the peace table, Syria has put itself in a position to use its military force to change the situation between itself and Israel. Russian technology and technicians have been used to upgrade the Syrian military hardware to the extent that Israeli intelligence reported that Syria is “ready for war.”
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai revealed that military intelligence reported Russia’s part in upgrading the Syrian tank force, expanding the range of its Scud missile fleet, and developing the Syrian biological and chemical warfare potential. He also reported that elite Syrian commando units were perched at the northeastern border of Israel with Syria, ready to make war.
Syria has refused to sign the Chemical Weapons Convention—an international treaty banning the production, sale, and use of chemical weapons—thus allowing the Damascus regime to keep inspectors away from its operations. This has allowed Syria to arm missiles, war planes, and artillery shells with the nerve gas Sarin, the deadly nerve gas used in a terrorist attack in the Tokyo subway in 1995. It has been learned that Syria’s Sarin gas is a “fairly advanced” chemical weapon, which the country developed in the 1970s and has “weaponized” more recently.
This arsenal, under the control of a dictator who leads an Arab nation bordering Israel on its northeastern corner, could be used to fuel a major war in the Middle East. Weapons in hand, President Assad continues to demand the Golan Heights from Israel for the purpose of establishing a peaceful existence between the two countries—or so Assad says.
Geography and a military threat set the Syrians in a position to obstruct the ultimate goal of peace between themselves and Israel. Assad’s hard line on the return of the Golan Heights and his readiness to make war only enhance the point: Syria is an obstacle to peace.
Persia, that ancient biblical enemy of the Jewish people, is the modern state of Iran. The hatred the Persians had for the Jewish people has carried over to the Iran of today. It is a well-known fact that Iran has been the source of monies and materials that have supplied terrorist organizations across the world with the munitions needed to carry out their missions against Israel. It is probably Iran’s financial backing that has helped the Sudan to set up its training centers for terrorists.
At the most recent Islamic conference, which took place in Teheran, Iran, the 38 Islamic leaders in attendance again called for the demise of the state of Israel. Rhetoric sounded forth in the conference hall also attacking the United States because of its relationship with Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently announced that Israel’s biggest threat in the Middle East is Iran, and that this Islamic republic will have nuclear potential within six months to a year. Technicians and technology from Russia, a former superpower, have been sold to this major enemy of the Jewish state. Iran’s capabilities have developed to the extent that Iran now has a long-range missile armed with a nuclear warhead that can reach Jerusalem.
Both Iran and Russia deny this report, but Israeli intelligence backs up every claim. Israel has received intelligence information that Iran has advanced in both its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs to the extent that they will have the ability to strike any part of Israel with a nuclear warhead within the next 6 to 18 months, according to Israeli Defense Minister Mordechai. These long-range missiles pose a strategic danger to Israel, as well as to the United States’ interests in the region.
An alarming factor in this story is that Iran, with massive aid from Russia, has progressed faster than previously thought. Even U.S. reports have named top Russian defense enterprises that reportedly have helped Iran and China build ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.
Hundreds of Russian scientists are openly in Iran building its “civilian” reactor located at Bushehr. Continued assertions by the Russians that the scientists are only assisting in the construction of a “nuclear power plant” do not appear to be true, in light of the facts.
The only reason for building a nuclear reactor in this scenario, as any student of current events should be able to discern, is to produce plutonium isotopes for bombs. This is especially important since the United States convinced Russia to agree not to restart any shut down reactors that produce weapons-grade plutonium when Vice President Al Gore was in Russia.
In addition to all of this activity, Iran staged its largest military maneuvers ever. More than 200,000 troops, using live ammunition, took part in war games just over a year ago. These exercises involved only ground forces and the air division of the Iranian military. On the heels of these events, Iran conducted naval maneuvers involving more than 50 warships. The 10-day naval war games were carried out in a 15,000-square-mile area by the Islamic Revolution Corps, Iran’s main fighting force. The exercises included three Russian submarines in service with the Iranian navy, along with scores of war planes, helicopters, and machine-gun-mounted speedboats.
These war games—on the ground, in the air, and at sea—were going on while the headlines in Israel read, “Iran Missile Program Nearly Complete.” These events help us to understand the so-called “Peace Process” in the Middle East. This is especially true with Iran, a country that rejects any peace possibility with Israel; therefore, Iran becomes a major obstacle to the desired peace in the Middle East.
The Russian Connection
The common element in this report of the nations as they prepare for their advance against Israel is Russia. It has been a driving force in the leadership of all these nations, as well as the supplier of military equipment and information in the quest for control of the Middle East.
The former Soviet Union supplied Iraq, Syria, and other countries mentioned in biblical prophecy with large quantities of advance weapons systems, mostly on credit, until 1989. In 1994, the Russians renewed their weapons sales to these enemies of Israel. This new Russian policy of supplying technology, manpower, and hardware to nations opposed to Israel’s existence is problematic for Israel. According to a security source, Russia is “willing to sell weapons anywhere in the world to anyone who is willing to pay.” This is motivated by the worsening economic situation in Russia.
Another factor in the equation is the nationalism prevalent among Russian leadership today. Nationalism is the ideology that says there will one day be a Russian Empire. Among the hindrances to this Russian nationalistic goal are the fall of the former Soviet Union, the presence of Jewish people in Russia, and the economic problems facing Russia.
The scenario of an international coalition led by Russia was prophesied by the ancient Jewish Prophets Ezekiel and Daniel more than 2,500 years ago. Daniel 11:40–45 introduces Syria (“king of the north”) and Egypt (“king of the south”) as forming a partnership to move against Israel in the end times. Daniel also mentions Libya and Ethiopia, along with “tidings out of the east [Iraq] and out of the north” (Dan. 11:43–44). Ezekiel takes up the story, adding the names of the other coalition members: Russia (Magog), Turkey (Meshech, Tubal, Gomer, and Togarmah), Iran (Persia), Ethiopia, and Libya.
With this coalition in place, the Russian Empire would be formed under a leadership that would use its combined military might to move against Israel. Political power, military might, and geographic location position Russia and its potential partners to fulfill the prophetic scenario in God’s Word.
This is just some of the mass of information pertaining to the political situation in the Middle East and among the nations that God included in His prewritten history in the Bible. These nations have come to power at “such a time as this” for the purpose of fulfilling God’s plan. They will act as obstacles to peace until the “Prince of Peace,” the Lord Jesus Christ, comes to establish true peace here on earth and into eternity.