On Dec. 23, 2016, the United States government chose to abstain in a vote on a United Nations Security Council resolution that condemned Israeli settlements in “Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem.” The resolution, which passed in a 14-0 vote, stated that Israel’s settlement activity constituted a “flagrant violation” of international law and had “no legal validity.”
The vote was denounced immediately by Israel. A senior Israeli official accused the Obama administration of abandoning the Jewish state by its refusal to block the resolution through its veto authority, as America had done with numerous prior resolutions.
However, the Palestinian National Authority (PA) was pleased by the results of the vote. General Secretary of the Palestine National Initiative Mustafa Barghouti stated, “This is a victory for the people and for the cause, and it opens doors wide for the demand of sanctions on settlements” (CNN, Dec. 24, 2016).
Reaction by many U.S. Republicans, Democrats and various Jewish leaders was sharply critical of the U.S. action. On Dec. 24 Donald Trump, then president-elect, tweeted, “The big loss yesterday for Israel in the United Nations will make it much harder to negotiate peace.”
Outgoing Secretary of State John Kerry explained in a speech on Dec. 28 that the Obama administration believed settlements were an obstacle to peace. He stated that a moratorium on Israeli settlement growth on the West Bank would make it easier for Palestinian negotiators to reach a compromise position. However, Israel had previously tested that theory in November 2009 when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu imposed a 10-month freeze on new housing construction. The result was that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas remained inflexible and refused to negotiate.
While the acrimony over the UN resolution indicates that conflict rather than peace will continue in the immediate days and years ahead, what does Bible prophecy explain will ultimately take place? What’s ahead for Israel?
Before answering these questions let’s review important facts about the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Why the Palestinian-Israeli conflict?
A century ago this year, in the Balfour Declaration of November 1917, Great Britain became the first world power to endorse the establishment in the Holy Land of a “national home for the Jewish people.” After a long series of events that followed, Israel declared its independence in 1948. Since then the tiny nation, comparable in size to New Jersey (the fifth-smallest U.S. state), has been under steady assault and intense pressure by hostile neighbors and other foreign powers.
The core problem regarding tensions between Israelis and Arabs is that it’s widely held among Muslims that Jews have no legitimate claim to the Holy Land. Sharia (Islamic law) states that non-Muslims, including Jews, are not permitted to have rule over what is considered Muslim territory. So to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” is categorically impossible.
To illustrate this point, Hamas, the militant fundamentalist Islamic organization that rules Gaza, states in its charter that “the Islamic Resistance Movement regards Palestine as an Islamic Waqf [an inalienable religious endowment] consecrated for future generations until Judgment Day.” Also, Abbas, head of the PA government over the West Bank, stated on Egypt’s Dream2 TV on Oct. 23, 2011, “I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I will never recognize the Jewishness of the state, or a ‘Jewish state’” (emphasis added throughout).
So exactly how is Israel to make peace in a “two-state” solution when leaders of the other would-be state deny Israel’s right to exist?
While Muslims claim the Holy Land and Jerusalem as their own, this is clearly contradicted by history. Jerusalem was in fact made the capital of the Jewish people by King David in about 1000 B.C., some 16 centuries before Muhammad began the religion of Islam after receiving his first supposed revelation in 610 A.D. Archaeological evidence abundantly testifies to the long Jewish presence in Jerusalem way before Islam’s founding.
What about the Palestinians?
The ancestors of what are today called Palestinians never actually occupied Jerusalem until it was taken from the Crusaders in Saladin’s wars of conquest in 1187 A.D.—more than 2,000 years after David made it Israel’s capital. Additionally, there has never been a “Palestinian” people owning a land of “Palestine.” For centuries leading up to the end of World War I, the Holy Land was part of the Ottoman Empire, ruled from Turkey. From 1920 to 1948 it was administered by Britain as part of a League of Nations mandate and called “Palestine”—named after the ancient Roman Empire’s designation for the area.
Additionally, at no time was Jerusalem ever the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity. Even when the Jordanians occupied much of Jerusalem and the surrounding area from 1948 to 1967, they never sought to make it a Muslim capital. Furthermore, prior to the Six-Day War of 1967, the Arabs in the West Bank were considered Jordanians and those in Gaza were considered Egyptians because Jordan and Egypt ruled those territories.
In light of all this, it’s not difficult to understand why a peaceful resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has remained out of reach. Although the recent UN resolution condemned Israel’s building of “settlements” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the underlying problem is Israel’s right to govern the Holy Land. Again, this is considered totally unacceptable to most Muslims.
In this regard, how does Israel actually govern as a Jewish state—compared to all its neighboring Arab states? Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East where all citizens, including its Arab inhabitants, enjoy full legal rights. Israel has Arab government officials, Arab judges and an Arab supreme court justice. It is one of very few countries in the Middle East where Arab women have the right to vote and have legal standing equal to men. Arab citizens of Israel generally have more rights than the Arab inhabitants of most Arab countries!
In contrast, while the term of PA President Abbas actually ended in 2009, he has refused to authorize elections since it could result in him being removed from power. He simply refuses to leave office. Moreover, Hamas, having won elections in Gaza in 2006, has not allowed voting since that time. So which of these undemocratic government entities should Israel sit down with to negotiate “peace”—especially since both have long supported and actively engaged in terrorism?
As an interesting note about the contrast in governing methods between Israel and surrounding Arab states, much has been made of the Arab refugees who fled the land of Israel in the 1948 and 1967 wars. However, little is ever mentioned about the similar number of Jewish refugees forced to leave everything behind in Arab countries, who were welcomed to Israel. Additionally, Palestinian refugees have never been welcomed into the fellow Arab nations to which they fled, nor have they been given basic citizenship rights in these nations.
As a result of all this, the Palestinians and allied Arab and Muslim countries have perpetuated the contentious situation rather than acting in good faith to resolve it. For example, Israel discovered in December 2000 following the Camp David II Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that even proposing trading “land for peace” does not work. In this instance Israel had offered to surrender 95 percent or more of the land the Palestinians demanded, only to be completely rebuffed.
To further aggravate circumstances, Arab land sales to Israelis in Palestinian Authority-controlled territories are outlawed and can be punishable by death. This feeds into the narrative, threatened repeatedly by Arab political leaders, that any future “Palestinian” state will be Jew-free—i.e., ethnically cleansed of Jews and other non-Muslims.
In addition, intransigence against any peace settlement with Israel was obvious on a grand scale when Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula in 1982 and the Gaza Strip in 2005. Terrorist attacks against Israel didn’t stop as a result of these unilateral “land for peace” Israeli withdrawals, but in fact intensified.
Such steps accomplished nothing because, again, the issue is Israel’s very existence. This is made clear in both the Palestinian National Covenant and the Hamas Charter, which call for violent jihad until Israel is no more.
For example, Article 9 of the Palestinian Covenant (1968) states: “Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it.”
While Palestinian National Authority leaders disavow this and similar articles in discussions with Western leaders, the troubling fact remains that the legally required vote to remove these official positions has never been taken—leaving them still part of the Palestinian Covenant.
Also, Article 13 of the Hamas Charter states: “So-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad [armed struggle against unbelievers]. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”
Furthermore, Article 15 states: “When our enemies usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad.”
While this is a grim scenario regarding any chance for peace under current circumstances, what does the Bible tell us will occur in the future? What is to become of the state of Israel? Although there will continue to be tension and outbreaks of terrorism and violence in the region, Scripture reveals that a major military peril will come from an unexpected source.
What does Bible prophecy indicate about the future?
Bible prophecy explains that in the years ahead, a reincarnation of the ancient Roman Empire will arise in Europe. Revelation 17 explains that an end-time coalition of 10 leaders of nations or groups of nations will emerge in Europe led by a tyrant known in biblical language as “the Beast.” This powerful leader is also described in Daniel 11 as the last in a succession of rulers designated as “the king of the North.”
Various prophecies tell us that, in response to an action or attack precipitated from what Scripture describes as a final “king of the South”—likely a coming leader who will unite much of the Muslim world—this restored Roman Empire will “at the time of the end” launch an invasion into North Africa and the Middle East (Daniel 11:40 Daniel 11:40And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.
American King James Version×).
Daniel’s prophecy reveals that many nations in that area will then be totally overrun and subjugated by the Beast’s military forces. This includes Arab countries as well as modern-day Israel, which will be vanquished just as Judea was conquered around 2,000 years ago by the ancient Roman Empire (verse 41). How all this will come about we don’t yet know, but tremendous geopolitical changes will take place in the future. These could very well result in having the shield of protection that the United States has always provided Israel utterly removed.
Jesus Christ prophesied that at the end of this age, Jerusalem and its environs will undergo horrible, destructive times. The city will be “surrounded by armies” during these coming “days of vengeance” (Luke 21:20-22 Luke 21:20-22 20 And when you shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is near.
21 Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the middle of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto.
22 For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
American King James Version×). There will be “great distress” in the land, and people will be forced into captivity and slavery as Jerusalem is “trampled by Gentiles”—non-Israelites (Luke 21:23-24 Luke 21:23-24 23 But woe to them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath on this people. 24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
American King James Version×). The prophet Daniel described this dreadful period as “a time of trouble”—the worst in all of world history (Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×). Jesus said the same, calling this period the time of “great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21 Matthew 24:21For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.
American King James Version×).
Various prophecies reveal the length of the occupation of Israel and the region. An angel disclosed to Daniel that it will be “a time, times and half a time”—3½ years (Daniel 12:7 Daniel 12:7And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was on the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by him that lives for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
American King James Version×; see also Revelation 11:2 Revelation 11:2But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given to the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months.
American King James Version×). Prophecy indicates that besides the “children of Judah,” other modern-day descendants of the ancient house of Israel—including the United States, Britain and other countries—will suffer total humiliation and national defeat as a result of their sins (Hosea 5:5 Hosea 5:5And the pride of Israel does testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity: Judah also shall fall with them.
American King James Version×). But the Bible focuses significant attention on Jerusalem. It will be the epicenter of a supreme battle for global domination (Zechariah 14:1-2 Zechariah 14:1-2 1 Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
American King James Version×).
As the conflict worsens, humanity will find itself on the razor edge of total annihilation. But then, the Eternal God will intervene in global events suddenly and mightily (Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
American King James Version×). Jesus Christ will return from heaven with a massive angelic army, joined by His resurrected followers, to save humanity. The Bible reveals that at His second coming the world’s great armies will break off their attacks against one another and will instead concentrate their destructive energies against Jesus Christ in a final cataclysmic battle for world domination.
The result will be what the Bible calls “the battle of that great day of God Almighty,” often incorrectly described as the battle of Armageddon—that being the place where armies will gather just before (Revelation 16:14-16 Revelation 16:14-16 14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
American King James Version×). Jesus will stop the monstrous destruction and suffering inflicted on the world by the Beast and his allies. He will utterly annihilate their armies and will deliver Jerusalem and the surrounding areas from his control (Joel 3:9-15 Joel 3:9-15 9 Proclaim you this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: 10 Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. 11 Assemble yourselves, and come, all you heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: thither cause your mighty ones to come down, O LORD. 12 Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. 13 Put you in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. 14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision. 15 The sun and the moon shall be darkened, and the stars shall withdraw their shining.
American King James Version×; Zechariah 14:1-4 Zechariah 14:1-4 1 Behold, the day of the LORD comes, and your spoil shall be divided in the middle of you. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. 4 And his feet shall stand in that day on the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall split in the middle thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
American King James Version×).
Israel will dwell safely
The Jewish people will at last recognize Jesus Christ as the Messiah—and will deeply mourn and repent, then being given God’s Spirit (Zechariah 12:10-14 Zechariah 12:10-14 10 And I will pour on the house of David, and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
12 And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;
13 The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
14 All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
American King James Version×).
Moreover, Christ will gather the remnants of all the 12 tribes of Israel to the Promised Land from captivity and slavery and will establish God’s government over the entire earth (Jeremiah 23:3-8 Jeremiah 23:3-8 3 And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
4 And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, said the LORD.
5 Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
6 In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
7 Therefore, behold, the days come, said the LORD, that they shall no more say, The LORD lives, which brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt;
8 But, The LORD lives, which brought up and which led the seed of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries where I had driven them; and they shall dwell in their own land.
American King James Version×; Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
American King James Version×). Jerusalem will become His global headquarters and will serve as a brilliant example of truth and righteousness (Jeremiah 3:17 Jeremiah 3:17At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the LORD; and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart.
American King James Version×; Zechariah 8:3 Zechariah 8:3Thus said the LORD; I am returned to Zion, and will dwell in the middle of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.
American King James Version×).
The prophet Zechariah reveals that eventually people of all nations “shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord” (Zechariah 8:22 Zechariah 8:22Yes, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
American King James Version×). Also remarkably, “In those days, ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zechariah 8:23 Zechariah 8:23Thus said the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
American King James Version×). Besides that, God prophesied through Jeremiah the joyful condition of the Jews and their brother nations during that coming, amazing period: “In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely” (Jeremiah 23:6 Jeremiah 23:6In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.
American King James Version×).
But between now and then, before all these breathtaking events transpire, God foretells that we will see intense conflict and great sorrow in Israel and neighboring countries and throughout the entire world: “And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it” (Zechariah 12:3 Zechariah 12:3And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
American King James Version×).
Nevertheless, following that terrible time, Jesus Christ will establish true peace in Israel and all nations. Let us look forward to and pray for the fulfillment of that wonderful day!