by Tom Olago
The potential signing of a Middle East peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians – and by extension the Arab world- would be a highly significant event on God’s prophetic calendar.
In this regard, it would almost seem like there is currently some invisible hand influencing the urgency and pressure towards a Middle East peace deal.
On Friday the 3rd of June, the French hosted a meeting of almost 30 foreign ministers, including Secretary of State John F. Kerry, to seek international consensus on a way to move talks forward. Ironically, the primary actors – Israel and Palestine – were not invited.
This fact appears to be a glaring warning to both sides that international frustration at the lack of progress with peace talks has reached a boiling point. Some analysts fear that this could be the beginning of an imposed or ‘arm-twisted ‘peace upon the parties rather than the parties themselves coming to mutually agreeable terms.
Such a final treaty could actually be signed as soon as November 2016, based on timetable projections, in what observers consider would involve a UN resolution backed by international law compelling Israel and the Palestinians to abide by it.
Easier said than done – after all, there are reasons why similar initiatives have failed repeatedly over the years. One major sticking point has always been the control of Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepts the two-state solution in principle, but adamantly refuses to re-divide Jerusalem or relinquish Israeli sovereignty over it.
On the other hand, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas insists that a peace treaty must involve Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
Another bone of contention is the proposal to have Israel withdrawing from all the lands it had captured during the 1967 war, including East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. The land for peace exchange serves as the foundation of the Arab League’s peace plan, which was launched in 2002.
That Arab Peace Initiative called for a two-state solution based on an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines and making East Jerusalem the Palestinian capital in return for “normal relations in the context of a comprehensive peace with Israel.”
That outcome would be a dream come true for the Palestinians – in their eyes a great source of joy and vindication over the hated Jewish people.
But Israel will have none of it, instead laying claim to their own historic ownership of Jerusalem and the need to ensure their own security by retaining militarily strategic lands captured in the 1967 six-day war.
Based on a recent jns.org report, one Likud minister asked Netanyahu what he would do if Arab states were not willing to revise the initiative. “If the Arab states grasp the fact that they need to revise the Arab League proposal according to the changes Israel demands, then we can talk,” Netanyahu replied. “But if they bring the proposal from 2002 and define it as ‘take it or leave it,’ we’ll choose to leave it.”
Given this long-standing impasse, is there any reason to be optimistic about the chances of a permanent and mutually acceptable truce this time around?
Possibly. One reason is that this time around there will be a presidential election in the U.S. The Obama administration has made clear it supports Israel giving up land for peace but under ‘the right conditions’.
One ‘right condition’ might just include Obama wanting to leave behind a legacy of helping push the peace process forward – or better still, help seal the deal – as one of his last acts in office.
Another potential scenario is that diplomats will go beyond Israeli-Palestinian issues and make it part of a much larger Arab-Israeli peace, encompassing both Palestinians and the Arab League. The allure of peace with the entire Arab world may just be the one thing that would tempt Israel to cross red lines it has vowed never to cross.
The Biblical viewpoint adhered to by many eschatologists predicts a final “peace covenant” based on Daniel 9:27: “And he (the “prince that shall come”; AntiChrist) shall confirm the covenant with many”, to which Israel would be a signatory.
The idea of “confirming” suggests guaranteeing or enforcing an existing treaty, one that has already been put forward – such as the Arab Peace Plan. The idea that it involves “many” suggests such a treaty would be much more comprehensive than just the Palestinians. The Arab League represents over 22 countries and would certainly qualify as “many”.
The prophet Daniel details several other elements to this treaty, one of them being that it will be for seven years. One analysis of the Bible narrative states that Daniel had a vision from God that foresaw a period of 70 weeks of years in Israel’s future history.
After 69 weeks the Messiah is killed, “but not for Himself”. Daniel’s prophecy then goes into hibernation and the clock stops. It is said that almost 2000 years have gone by and yet there is still one unfulfilled week seven years – determined or allotted to Daniel’s people (the Jews) and the Holy city (Jerusalem) before the end comes.
According to another common interpretation of Bible prophecy, the countdown of the final week of years will resume when the Antichrist signs a seven-year peace agreement or covenant with Israel. From that point, there are exactly seven years left before the end of the great Tribulation and the end of the world.
This will be the time known as Daniel’s 70th week, which is also described at great length in the Book of Revelation. Will the upcoming treaty currently in the works involve a seven-year timetable?
Whatever the exact timing, Scripture reveals that the eventual peace treaty that is signed will only be a temporary peace, leading to the deadliest time on earth that man has ever known.
According to Jesus Own words, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matthew 24.21)
Is the recent French-led initiative going to culminate in the Biblically prophesied peace treaty? Potentially – but no matter what form the final treaty will take, it is noteworthy that PA Chairman Abbas wants a specific time frame for implementation. This could well be a reason for the seven-year time-bound scenario.
One concession that Israel would almost certainly push for as part of any final agreement would be to achieve their long-held desire to build the Third Temple. The Temple must also be rebuilt as the AntiChrist will desecrate it at some point during the Great Tribulation period (II Thessalonians 2:4).
The challenge is how that could possibly be done in a manner that would be acceptable to the predominantly Muslim Arab world. Muslims consider the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque – both of which sit on the Temple Mount area – as highly sacred to Islam.
In a recent Times of Israel article, Sue Surkes quotes Israel Chief Rabbi David Lau on this. Lau said he would like to see the Jewish temple rebuilt on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and that there was no need to remove any of the Muslim shrines on the Temple Mount, where there was plenty of room for “Jews, Christians, Muslims, everyone,” he told the Knesset Channel.
In addition, there is a potentially significant political change in Israel that would further favor a push towards rebuilding the Third Temple on the Temple Mount. As Adam Berkowitz recently reported in an article for breakingisraelnews.com:
“An unlikely series of events has brought Temple Mount rights activist Rabbi Yehuda Glick to the position of Likud’s newest member of Knesset. American-born Glick will bring a powerful voice to the Israeli government that may help move Israel towards a new era of serving God and bringing the Temple Mount to its proper place as a house of prayer for all nations. Indeed, his role may even have been foreseen by the Bible”.
Berkowitz’s view is that Yehudah Glick’s devotion to Jerusalem and his unlikely Knesset appointment carry all the signs of fulfilled prophecy: “It is not every day that a headline can so closely resemble a Biblical verse. In this case, the new Likud appointment comes straight from the book of Zechariah (Chapter 12 Vs 5)”.
However, the lingering million-dollar question is: what happens if either or both parties reject the peace accord?
If the Palestinians and the Arab world were to reject it, they may very well initiate a war as a final solution or last resort – arguing that endless years of talks have achieved nothing and that even persistent high-profile international mediation has proved useless.
Could we see a war against Israel, sparked by global frustration and aimed at forcing them to hand over the pre-1967 lands if they will not concede them at the negotiating table?
Obama may also be eager to grasp at the opportunity to stamp a powerful and lasting presidential legacy on his way out of the White House, by choosing not to veto a plan to force Israel to sign a peace treaty.
Could it be that the gathering of a confederation of nations against Israel, as prophesied in Psalms 83, will finally take place because a well-crafted peace treaty falls through? So much so, that the anti-Israel nations would go so far as to attempt to destroy Israel completely?
Psalms 83:4 says “They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance”. Perhaps only after failing to defeat Israel (as insinuated in the rest of the Psalm) would the final seven-year treaty be signed – probably in a revised form.
The Jews, however, may find that the proposed peace treaty asks too much from them in exchange for too little. In which case, they may opt for the ‘Samson Option’ – choosing to defend Israel even at the cost of bringing down the entire world in a 3rd world war.
Israel may calculate that the world has never gone to war against her simply because it cannot afford to – and that they would not be the first ones to blink in the event that tensions escalate to the boiling point.
In an alternative scenario, knowing how keen Obama is to seal a Middle East peace deal even if it would be to Israels disadvantage – the UN may push for a deal while Obama still has the power to help push it through by November 2016. After all, theres no telling how much a Clinton or Trump presidency might complicate things in 2017.
It is also likely that a third-party, considered to be ‘neutral’ – such as the U.N or perhaps NATO – would enforce such an agreement and provide the security required for its perceived success.
When would the timing of the peace treaty be? In Matthew 24: 30-36, Jesus said that the generation that saw the rebirth of Israel as a nation in the end times would not pass, “till all these things be fulfilled” including the events immediately preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ.
The question then arises how long a generation would be. Scholars originally considered it to be 40 years, but time has since disproved that theory.
According to khouse.org, a generation as described in the Bible begins at conception and ends at death (Genesis 17:6-9; Psalms 22:30; Jeremiah 1:4,5; Acts 13:36; Joshua 24:29-31). Consequently, the average lifespan of a group of people living at about the same time constitutes the length of that generation.
The article concluded this to be 70-80 years based on Psalm 90. On that basis, counting 70 to 80 years from the date of the birth of Israel in 1948 would propel us to 2018 – 2028, providing a ten-year time frame within which the last seven years prior to the return of Christ could run.
Does that mean that no peace treaty is possible prophetically before 2018? That would depend on whose definition of a generation is more accurate.
Other experts are persuaded that a generation actually lasts 40-70 years, in which case the peace treaty deadline could be May 14, 2018 – making 2016 to 2017 a distinct possibility for a peace settlement timeframe.
For Christians, regardless of the exact timing, the imminence of a Middle East peace treaty is all exciting, and pregnant with spiritual significance: The Antichrist is about to be revealed. The Third Temple will be rebuilt soon. Jesus is coming back again.
And no matter whether we hold the pre-Tribulation, mid-Tribulation or Post-Tribulation view, it won’t be long before the believer in Christ will start to begin an eternity with God in a sin-free, perfect paradise called the New Heaven and the new Earth(Revelation 21:1).