An Incendiary Arc of Instability
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Here's a special guest column from contributing editor John Ross Schroeder.
Hamas' surprising victory in the Palestinian elections casts a giant shadow over the hoped-for road map to peace. It may even lead to a bloody conflict of massive proportions in the Middle East.
Harvard historian Niall Ferguson recently conceived the following apocalyptic scenario in reaction to Iranian calls for the forced removal of Israel from the Mideast. "The elements of a devastating conflict are taking form in the Middle East ... Are we living through the origins of the next World War?"
This chilling observation could just as easily be applied to the terrorist organization Hamas being voted into power in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
Western leaders seem to be waiting with bated breath trying to figure out what Hamas might do next. Media speculations run the gamut, from Gaza becoming a dangerous weaponry stronghold and a haven for other terrorist groups that wish to attack Israel, to a paradoxical "blessing in disguise" that will eventually lead to world peace.
At least in the short run, the leaders of Hamas show little willingness to depart from the intentions stated in their charter of 1988: "Israel will exist and will continue to exist until Islam will obliterate it .. ." (emphasis added). In a recent interview with The Sunday Telegraph (London), the group's most senior figure and cofounder of Hamas in 1987, Mahmoud Al-Zahar, stated: "We are not going to recognise Israel." He added, "We can reach out to them with a long-term hudna (truce)."
In an interview with The Times (London), he also said: "Sooner or later the European countries in particular are going to change their minds concerning their attitude [toward] Hamas." His view, however, of the United States is radically different. He stated: "I think nothing can be changed. In America there is a Christian Zionism. They believe that Jesus will return for the second 1,000 years ... The pressure on you [Europeans] to help the Israelis and to consider Hamas terrorist is American."
So we see that dividing the Western allies remains a central theme of Hamas' policy. The problem should be seen in the context of the encirclement of Israel by intransigent enemies. In fact the whole Mideast and its environs is experiencing a resurgence of Islamic radicalism. To the north, the Islamist-based Justice and Development Party got 357 seats in the 550-member Turkish parliament in 2002. And the Iranian-backed radical Islamic group Hezbollah and allied parties won 54 of 128 seats in the June 2005 Lebanese elections.
Southward in Egypt, in December 2005 the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood won 88 seats in the 454-seat Egyptian parliament, almost six times the number it previously held. To the east in Iraq, Islamist parties dominated December's elections for the 275-member Iraqi National Assembly. And in June 2005, Iranian hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the presidency with more than 60 percent of the vote.
Clearly in the last few years Islamic radicalism (in general terms mostly bitterly opposed to Israel and America) has been on the march, both politically and militarily. This represents a serious threat to world peace.
Many complex and even contradictory factors are at work. For instance, Hamas leaders are crucially dependent on the West, urging benefactor nations to continue their aid, while at the same time utterly rejecting pleas to amend their charter hatred of Israel. Yet practical dependence on Israel is still very much in evidence. So in the short term, no one can accurately predict the exact course of events. In the coming weeks we may see some sort of compromise truce or yet another bloody Intifada or possibly even a major war.
But we are mainly concerned with the long run of prophetic events. What will eventually happen is clearly set out in the Bible and our booklet The Middle East in Bible Prophecy. Request your free copy or download it at wnponline.org/litreq/. WNP