True peace has been forever elusive for the “holy city”—but the Bible shows that it won’t be like that forever!
Since the creation of the modern state of Israel on May 14, 1948, some 73 years ago, diplomats and politicians have sought to bring peace to Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Yet, during that time, the nation has seen numerous wars, acts of terrorism, and civil disobedience—resulting in much loss of life. Peace has been elusive.
It may not then be a surprise that the biblical psalmist encouraged us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, now as vital a need for this place as ever (Psalm 122:6). The irony, of course, is that the name of the city in the Hebrew language simply means “city of peace”—the city of peace needs us to pray for what is supposed to define it. What is going on?
The Abraham Accords, a diplomatic breakthrough negotiated during the administration of United States President Donald Trump, were named for the biblical patriarch Abraham. He was the father of two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, who were in turn the progenitors of the Arabic and Jewish peoples. These accords have allowed Israel to establish diplomatic relations and normalize ties with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, together with other Islamic countries throughout the Muslim world, for the first time since Israel’s inception in 1948.
Driven by a deep-seated hatred, much of the Arab and Islamic world has denied the right of the State of Israel to exist. Before the Abraham Accords, Israel had only been able to enter into peace accords with Jordan and Egypt. Other states have not yet established formal diplomatic relationships with Israel, but through the Abraham Accords, their acceptance of Israel’s presence in other ways conveys the same message. For instance, Saudi Arabia allows the Israeli national airline, El Al, overflight rights to reach the Persian Gulf countries. Recently, the UAE has made a US$1 billion investment in Israel’s Tamar offshore gas field. Technological partnerships with Arab financiers are blooming in Israel, while the beaches of the Gulf states have become popular for Israeli tourists.
But the Abraham Accords are not the only changes affecting Israel. Other changes in relationships are taking place between states in the area. As revolutionary as the Abraham Accords may be, they are part of a larger picture of shifting relationships. With the United States scaling down involvement in the area, Russia and China are seeking to fill the vacuum. This is causing a realignment of interests between the various states in the region.
Within Israel, a political stalemate appears to be continuing after its fourth election in two years. Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is struggling to gain enough support to form a new government, yet no other politician or political party appears to have any better chance. Netanyahu’s problems as leader of the Likud party reflect the seismic movements and realignments taking place throughout the Middle East, reminding us that the peace of Jerusalem depends on both internal and external factors. [Editor's Note: Since the time of this writing, the political situation in Israel has indeed evolved and Netanyahu has been ousted as Prime Minister by 49-year-old Yamina alliance leader Naftali Bennett. Bennett’s succession represents a coalition between the right-wing parties of Yamina and the centrist Yesh Atid party.]
The opposition parties in Israel are united by only one idea—to remove Netanyahu from the role of the nation’s prime minister. Observers have described the current impasse as “the politics of self identity” (“Israel is entering the era of cultural self identity politics,” Arutz Sheva, April 26, 2021). Why? Unlike the U.S. with its two major political parties, Israel’s most recent election saw ten political parties elected to its legislature, the Knesset. Voters made their choice not of a party best suited to lead a functioning government, but rather of the one that best represented their individual ethnic, religious, political, and social identities. Other nations experience this to varying degrees, but Israel leads the pack—potentially to its own destruction.
Those familiar with the Bible may notice that this situation sounds like a replay of another period in Israel’s history as set out in the biblical book of Judges. That book’s closing verse recounts a situation twice explained in previous chapters, and summarizes the entire book: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).
But “self-identity politics” is not just an internal Israeli problem. Throughout the Middle East, alliances are changing faster than a chameleon can adapt to its environment.
Thanks to President Biden, the U.S. is re-engaging Iran on its nuclear ambitions, a cause for alarm among the other Middle Eastern states as well as in Israel. News reports tie Israel to a number of strikes against the Iranian nuclear program, dating back to the Stuxnet virus in 2010 and more recently to the assassination of Iran’s leading Iranian nuclear expert in 2020. Most recently, an April 2021 incident at the Iranian enriching facility at Natanz crippled or destroyed many of its centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Israel has not accepted responsibility for these events, which have intensified Iran’s implacable desire to destroy Israel. But Israel is also clearly involved in actions against Iranian shipping that it claims delivers arms to Syria or to Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy in Lebanon. Israel has long openly targeted Iranian facilities and activities in Syria.
The climate for the Abraham Accords was bolstered when in 2016 Saudi Arabia broke diplomatic relations with Iran, concerned not only about Iranian nuclear ambitions but also its support of Houthi rebels in Yemen, on Saudi Arabia’s southern border. More recently, however, the Saudis have re-engaged in discussions with Iran. Will the Saudis succeed in befriending both Iran and its most hated enemy, Israel? Meanwhile, NATO member Turkey—a nation that has long supported a secularized or Westernized approach to Islam—is reaching out both to Iran as the leader of Shiite Islam and Saudi Arabia as the kingpin in the world of Sunni Islam. Will the former three-way split among secular, Sunni, and Shiite interests remain? Or will shifting alliances enable the smaller players to seek their own interests?
One way or another, peace in the Middle East proves to be elusive. Through His prophets, God warned ancient Israel to be wary of claims of peace (Jeremiah 4:10; 6:14; 8:11; Ezekiel 13:10). In the times of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Jerusalem faced an impending subjugation and eventual captivity by the Babylonian Empire. Today, someone might be called a “Jeremiah” for making repeated, fervent pleas—as Jeremiah fervently and repeatedly warned his nation to see past the allure of man-made peace treaties.
Peace, internally and externally, will come to Jerusalem and Israel in due course. But it will not come by human politics and diplomacy. Writing after the Babylonian captivity, the prophet Zechariah warned that Jerusalem will be “a very heavy stone” by which all nations who meddle in her affairs will be hurt (Zechariah 12:2–3).
The peace that the psalmist told us to pray for will not result from a humanly devised peace deal, but from living in harmony with the revealed will of God. That revealed will is set out within the pages of the Bible, which show that Jerusalem will be the center of world peace following the return of Jesus Christ. If you would like to know more about the amazing changes that are about to break out in this area, request our free booklet The Middle East in Prophecy. It’s yours for the asking.