Cease-Fire Tight Rope
© August 2003 by Asher Intrater
Israel and the Palestinians continue on a certain tightrope walk. One month of the three month "cease fire" (hudna) has come to an end. How can it be evaluated so far?
The Palestinians are complaining that the Israelis have not made any real concessions, and the Israelis are complaining that the Palestinians have not made any effort to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure. On the other hand, complaining is complaining. It's not killing.
Behind all the accusing comes a fact that the majority of both Palestinians and Israelis are aware of and very happy with: the number of killings, on both sides, has dropped dramatically over the past month, almost to nothing.
It's true that no effort has been made by the Palestinian authority to collect weapons. On the other hand, real effort has been made to lower the level of incitement toward terrorism, which in some ways is more the foundation of the terror than the weapons.
The Israelis are releasing a significant but moderate number of security prisoners, have pulled back in several towns where the Palestinians have been ready to take the responsibility for security, and have eased up on closures.
While, in many practical ways, this ceasefire seems to have virtually no chance to succeed, at this point it is working better than anything else has in the past three years. Abu Mazen is the best leader to arise to this date among the Palestinians, and is well appreciated by most Israelis. From the Israeli side the question is more whether his government can actually gain control over the forces of Arafat, Hamas and Jihad.
Note 1: Sometimes it seems to me that Israel gets caught up in details on issues, such as the security fence and prisoner release, and is not making the case for the bigger issues diplomatically, such as religious freedom, rights to ownership of the Holy Land, civil rights in Muslim countries, etc. The core of Islamic dogmatism and absolutism must be dealt with.
Note 2: It is a poor moral equivalence to make a parallel between the Palestinians "dismantling" the terrorist infrastructure and the Israelis "dismantling" settlements in the territories.
Note 3: The talk of returning to 67 borders misses two facts: One- that the 67 borders were between Israel and Jordan, not with a separate Palestinian state. Two - the 67 borders left Israel open to attack, and resulted in war.
Note 4: Between the time now and the time of the Second Coming of Yeshua, the Bible prophecies speak of a time of peace and prosperity and the building of a Temple. So I would suspect that sooner or later a time of peace will come. What is seen as wrong in Biblical prophecy is not that time of peace is not itself, but rather the ultimate breaking of that peace by foreign attack.
Note 5: The great war that immediately precedes the coming of the Messiah is pictured as a united attack of nations around the world, motivated by jealousy and resentment at Israel's success. It is not pictured as a local conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Not "Pushing the End"
The idea was that the people should concentrate more on studying, prayer and obeying the commandments, than on aggressively seeking an "end times scenario" like trying to rebuild the Temple mount or conquering all the lands promised to Moses and Joshua. (Compare Numbers 14:40-45, in the story of Hormah, or Yeshua's response in Matthew 26:52 or John 18:36).
The concept has a certain similarity to Yeshua's instructions to His disciples in Acts chapter 1. They asked Him if now was the time (in the first century) to "restore the kingdom to Israel." He responded that it was not for them to try to guess the times of the end, nor to force a political solution to the kingdom, but rather to be filled with the Holy Spirit and to preach the Good News of the kingdom of God to everyone in the whole world (with Israel always being the top priority), and then the end would come.
In other words, the spiritual and conceptual aspects of peace and God's kingdom and eternal life must be established in the hearts of people all around the world, before the final physical actualization of the kingdom on earth and in Jerusalem can take place. So it is today that so much of the world is influenced by Muslim fanaticism or Western decadence, that the full manifestation of the kingdom of God cannot yet take place.
In that same way, we need to realize that for the time being, only partial solutions to the Middle East conflict can be found. Pressing the apocalyptic agenda politically or militarily is premature on either side. Perhaps that is part of Sharon's "genius": He does not speak of utopian visions, just practical steps to lower the violence and attempts to return to some normalcy. For the time being it's probably the only way.
In the meantime, we should be active in sharing the Good News of forgiveness, eternal life and peace through Messiah Yeshua. Our job is to help people's hearts to be ready. God's kingdom will be manifest in the wake of that spiritual message. In other words, we need a paradigm shift, a change in concept, and a change in heart, in order to bring the real solution to the Middle East.