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The Cold War in the Middle East

Written by Prof Johan Malan.

The Middle East has a complex and dramatic history of full-scale wars and lower intensity terrorist wars, alternated by varying periods of cold war. Since the restoration of Israel in 1948 there was never really peace in the Middle East, and there is still no prospect for lasting peace before the Messiah comes. We should keep these realities in mind when praying for the peace of Jerusalem. We should pray that the anxiety which Israel experiences, with even more trouble which is awaiting them, will contribute towards their spiritual awakening and salvation. The Messiah alone is the guarantee for lasting peace in people’s hearts and also among peoples and nations in the world.

When we clearly understand the idea of a cold war we will realise why full-scale wars as well as terrorist wars are breaking out in Israel and the rest of the Middle East with regular intervals. According to Daniel Pipes in his article, Lion’s Den: The Middle Eastern Cold War (The Jerusalem Post,16th June 2009), knowledge of the cold war is the key to understanding the Middle East in the 21st century with its tense relationships. The cold war is busy escalating after the outcome of elections held in the United Sates, Israel and Iran.

Pipes says, “A cold war, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is ‘a conflict over ideological differences carried on by methods short of sustained overt military action and usually without breaking off diplomatic relations.’ Note the three elements in this definition: ideological differences, no actual fighting and not breaking off diplomatic relations… The classic instance of a cold war, of course, involved the United States and the Soviet Union between 1945 and 1991, a long-lasting and global standoff.”

A cold war is an extended deadlock in the conflict between the ideologies, interests and policies of two groups or countries without engaging in full-scale war. The tension caused by unresolved problems leads to an arms race which is driven by the real possibility of a future war.

The cold war in the Middle East emerges from deeply-rooted ideological differences between Zionism and Islam. The one group returned from the Diaspora to their ancient homeland and established the modern Jewish state, initially with Tel Aviv and later Jerusalem as their capital. The other group intends to replace modern Israel with a Palestinian state, also with Jerusalem as capital. The religious and political ideology of the one group is based upon the Old Testament of the Bible, and that of the other group upon the Koran. Basically, there are two incompatible religious ideologies which divide these peoples into two camps. The Jews want to rebuild their temple on the Temple Mount, but Islam has already built three mosques on that site. Both groups realise that compromise and long-lasting peace between them is impossible. For this reason they have, during the cold war, strongly committed themselves to arms build-up and other preparations for a major war between them. With a view to this possibility each group tries to secure for itself as much as possible support in the international community.

Since the cold war between Israel, the Palestinians and their many Muslim allies in the Middle East is so tense it often breaks out into an Islamic terrorist war and also full-scale wars against Israel. Islam has a strong religious incentive to engage in a cold war against its Christian and Jewish enemies, but commit themselves to building up enough weapons during the cold war for the next full-scale war.

In his book The great decep­tion – Philistine (1995, p. 100-101), Ramon Bennett says: “It was Mohammed himself who laid the foundation for Islam to build a history of making peace with an enemy in order to attack at a later, more opportune time. In 628, Mohammed made a peace treaty with the Kuraish tribe in Mecca in order for Moslems to worship at the Ka’abah. Two years later, when he had gained more followers and was considerably stronger, he abrogated the treaty and attacked the Kuraish people, slaughtering every male among them. This agreement between Mohammed and the infidels of Mecca is known as the Truce of Hudaybiyyah. This truce became a model and precedent in Islamic law for all agreements with infidels: never permanent… The truce is part of Islam’s long-term policy of war – it is an in­teg­ral facet of Islam’s drive to bring the world into complete subjection. According to Islamic law books, ‘war could be inter­rupted, when expedient, by an armistice or truce of limited dura­tion. It could not be terminated by a peace, but only by victory.’ When the enemy is too strong, as Israel has proven again and again, a truce may be made for a limited time. The enemy under­stands such a truce as peace, but [the] Arabs see peace as a weakness to exploit. The Israeli-PLO Peace Accord, therefore, is a tactical move in an overall plan.”

In the light of these facts it is obvious how futile the efforts by America, the UN, the European Parliament and Israel are to conclude lasting peace-pacts in the Middle East. The political and religious ideologies of Israel and the Palestinians are completely incompatible and cannot be accommodated in a mutually acceptable peace agreement within the framework of a two-state solution. The only option is to extend the cold war and hope that Israel’s enemies will hesitate to declare war. Israel must then be very strong militarily and will have to enjoy the continued support of America so that their enemies will think twice before attacking them.

It unfortunately seems that the days of the cold war in the Middle East are numbered as the scale is swinging in the favour of Islam. Israel increasingly loses international support and is also now pressurised by the US to withdraw from the West Bank, and specifically also from East Jerusalem, to make room for a Palestinian state. In the meantime Syria and Iran continue to amass tremendous amounts of arms – including nuclear arms – for a full-scale war against Israel. They also arm Hamas in the Palestinian territories and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran has, on various occasions, threatened to wage a war of annihilation against Israel. Now that the radical president Ahmadinejad of Iran has been re-elected for four years, the planned war against Israel becomes a real possibility on the short term.

The Bible refers to two big wars that will be waged in Israel in the end-time. The one is the Russo-Arab invasion of Israel, as described in Ezekiel 38 and 39. Iran is one of the countries mentioned by Ezekiel, which will join Russia in its effort to destroy the Jewish state, thus allowing the Palestinians to occupy and control the entire area. The Antichrist will probably emerge from this war as a peacemaker to defuse the military situation in the Middle East and the rest of the world by means of a temporary, false peace. All people will follow him as a prince of peace and that will be the beginning of a new world order of false peace and unity on earth.

The other big war is the battle of Armageddon which will break out at the end of the tribulation of seven years under the rule of the Antichrist. That will be an effort by the Antichrist and his world powers to defend his new world order against Jesus Christ and His heavenly army. But according to Revelation 19:19-21 and Zechariah 14:12-13 that will be the end of the Antichrist and his armies. Only then will the durable peace dawn on earth for which we all long. Then, there will not only be peace in Jerusalem and the Middle East, but all over the world.

The Bible gives various reasons for the true and universal peace that will prevail on earth during the millennial reign of Chris:

1.    There will only be one religion in the entire world, i.e. the Christian religion. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:9). All people will seek the Lord with one accord to pray for grace (Isa. 2:3; Zech. 8:21-22). The idols and false religions will be destroyed and no longer remembered (Zech. 13:2).

2.    The devil will be bound and sealed in a pit so that he should deceive the nations no more (Rev. 20:1-3). Because of this the nations will walk no more after the stubbornness of their evil heart, but seek and serve the Lord (Jer. 3:17).

3.    All nations will serve the Lord Jesus as King and Saviour, and because of this there will be no political and ideological differences that separate them. The Jews will realise that they have made a very big mistake by not accepting Jesus as Messiah and then all kneel down before Him in adoration and worship. Zechariah says, “They will look on Me whom they have pierced… and mourn for Him” (Zech. 12:10). A remnant from the Arabs and all other nations will do the same. Because of this, the present religious antagonism and cold wars between nations will be something of the past and be replaced by hearty, brotherly relations: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian will come into Egypt and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians will serve with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be one of three with Egypt and Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the [earth]” (Isa. 19:23-24).

4.    There will only be one political system for the whole world, i.e. a theocratic government with the Lord Jesus ruling as King from the restored throne of David in Jerusalem (Luke 1:32; Acts 15:16-17). He will be the King of kings (Rev. 19:16). John says, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, en He shall reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). There will be no hostility among nations and all forms of warfare will completely vanish: “They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4).

5.    Furthermore, there will be only economic system for the whole world. There will be no poverty and starvation and nature will, to its full potential, yield very large crops. Amos 9:13 says that the ploughman shall overtake the reaper. The harvest of the previous year will be so big that it will not yet be fully gathered when it is ploughing time again.

Apart from the vitally important message of salvation we should also, with a view to these future blessings, proclaim the Messiah with full assurance to all nations. There is no life or future outside of Him – neither any lasting peace, prosperity, safety nor true joy. Humanity in its depraved condition tries to make all sorts of compromises in an effort to secure peace among hostile nations and conflicting ideologies, but all in vain. We as Christians know the only workable solution and it is our mission to proclaim it with greater enthusiasm to all nations.

Israel must be introduced to the true Messiah and taught how to serve Him in spirit and truth. They should also be warned against deception. The same applies to the Palestinians and other Arabs. The message of the saving grave of Jesus Christ is also meant for them. But they should be warned against deception such as the emerging Palestinian theology in which Israel is denied its role in the fulfilment of biblical prophecies.

In other countries of the world people should also be taught to interpret the Bible literally and dispensational. The physical and spiritual restoration of Israel is one of the foundational principles of the literal understanding of the Bible. Al those who support, bless and evangelise Israel are ensured of the Lord’s greatest blessings upon themselves. Israel’s enemies by implication also reject the Bible and can expect big problems. Amillennial churches will also have to seriously reconsider their theology as they are prophetically deceived if they do not accept and proclaim the restoration of Israel and the coming millennial reign of peace on earth. They deprive themselves of great blessings if they do not bless Israel, recognise their major role in world history, and have no understanding of Israel’s future role as a source of blessings for the whole earth. Isaiah 27:6 says that Israel will fill the face of the world with fruit for the Lord, and Romans 11:12 refers to their saved state in the millennium when they will be a blessing to the world.

Regard the Word of the Lord seriously, interpret it literally, and bless His people Israel if you also wish to be blessed.