Palestinian Elections: Historic or Prophetic?
Upon hearing the news that Mahmoud Abbas had won a landslide election to become the next Chairman of the Palestinian Authority, President Bush declared: "This is a historic day for the Palestinian people and for the people of the Middle East."
Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, echoed that theme, saying, "The moment is historic."
They're not kidding. Never before in the bloody history of the Holy Land have the Palestinians held free and fair elections, much less elected a candidate vowing to cut a peace deal with Israel as soon as possible.
The real question isn't whether Sunday's vote was historic, but whether it was prophetic.
Fans of the Left Behind series will recall that in the first chapter of the first book, Cameron "Buck" Williams witnesses the emergence of peace and prosperity in the Holy Land, followed by a Russian-Islamic attack on Israel, followed by God's supernatural judgment on his enemies, all prior to the Rapture. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins based this on Ezekiel 38-39, one of the most fascinating but least studied or understood series of end-times prophecies.
No one knows precisely when the dramatic events foretold in Ezekiel 38-39 will happen. But there is a plausible case that they could happen before the Rapture. If so, the next major event to watch for could very well be the emergence of a moderate Palestinian leader capable of reining in radical Islamic militants and engaging the Israelis in a true peace process.
Dr. LaHaye laid out such a case in great detail in a non-fiction book published in 1984 called, The Coming Peace in the Middle East. I lay out a fictional scenario in The Ezekiel Option, a new apocalyptic thriller to be published by Tyndale in August. Both books are based on our understanding that a sense of peace and prosperity in Israel are essential scriptural preconditions for the unfolding of Ezekiel 38-39. Here's why.
Ezekiel tells us that:
- Israel will once again be a country (Ezekiel 36, 37, 38:8, 38:14, 38:16, 38:18. 38:19, 39:4, 39:7, 39:9, , 39:12, 39:22, 39:23, 39:25, 39:29)
- The Jewish people will have been "gathered from many nations" (38:8, 39:27)
- Israel will be enjoying a degree of economic prosperity (38:12)
- Israelis will be living in "unwalled villages" (38:11)
- Israelis will be "living securely" (38:8, 38:11, 38:14)
- A dictator will rise in Russia, Russia will build an alliance with Iran and a coalition of radical Islamic countries, and then—when everything is in place—they will attempt to attack Israel (38-39)
What's remarkable is how many of these pre-conditions are already in place.
- Israel was reborn as a modern country in May of 1948 for the first time in more than 2,000 years.
- Over six million Jews now live in Israel, regathered from nations all around the world.
- Israel's economy is dramatically stronger than any of its immediate neighbors and poised for dramatic growth should the region continue to calm down. Her high-tech sector is the envy of the world. And Israel's stock market hit record highs in December.
- In sharp contrast to the days of ancient Jericho or ancient Jerusalem, the vast majority of Israelis today do live in "unwalled" cities and villages.
- The strength of Israel's military, her strategic alliance with the U.S., her peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the death of Yasser Arafat, and the dramatic reduction in suicide bombings over the past year mean Israel is living more securely today than at any time since its rebirth in 1948.
- What's more, a dictator actually is rising in Russia, even as Russia sells nuclear technology and conventional arms to Iran.
Which brings us back to Mahmoud Abbas.
Is he a Sadat or a Saddam? Is he willing and able to make peace with Israel, or Hell-bent on driving the Jews into the sea? Moreover, is he the tool God will use to complete Ezekiel's preconditions? Some prophecy scholars, for example, wonder if the security fence Israel is building through the West Bank prevents the "unwalled villages" precondition from being truly fulfilled. It's a fair question. Could Abbas and his security forces prove their willingness and capacity for stopping Palestinian suicide bombings and rocket attacks against Israel, thus making the security fence unnecessary? It's obviously too early to say, but we shouldn't rule out such a possibility.
Something historic and prophetic is underway in the Middle East.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas just won a mandate to make peace with Israel. I believe he is determined to succeed, or die trying. My Likudnik friends in Israel are understandably skeptical. For years, Mahmoud Abbas was the right-hand man to Yasser Arafat, the godfather of modern terrorism.
But let us not underestimate what has just happened.
- Several years ago, Abbas was the first high-ranking Palestinian official to renounce the use of violence to achieve Palestinian objectives
- Abbas vowed that making peace with Israel and ending Palestinian suffering were his top campaign priorities.
- He called Ariel Sharon a partner for peace.
- He has the backing of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who in December told fellow Arab leaders it is time to cut their own peace deals with Israel.
- He drove Marwan Barghouti, his biggest militant rival, out of the race.
- He prevented the militiants from blowing up the Palestinian elections.
- And having captured two-thirds of the vote, Abbas just won a landslide election in the West Bank and Gaza, and thus a powerful mandate to make peace.
That said, many questions remain. Among them: Can Abbas survive long enough to make peace? Can he prevent a Palestinian civil war? Will he negotiate with Sharon in good faith? How soon will Iran obtain nuclear weapons? And is Vladimir Putin the "prince" of which Ezekiel speaks? Stay tuned. The drama has just begun.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the New York Times best-selling author of The Last Jihad (about
the demise of Saddam Hussein) and The Last Days (about the demise of Yasser Arafat). His next novel, The Ezekiel
Option, comes out in August 2005, from Tyndale. An evangelical Christian from an Orthodox Jewish background, his
grandparents escaped from Russia. Joel has served as a senior advisor to Steve Forbes, Rush Limbaugh, former Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky.
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