Since the 1990s Israel’s politics have followed a general trend towards the right. The so called “peace process” championed by Israel’s left-leaning government of the time resulted in a worsening security situation which climaxed in the 2nd intifada in the early 2000s, and a new landscape of Israeli politics was born.
The 1990s moved Israeli public opinion towards retaining territories for security, in particular the strategically important mountains of Israel in the West Bank. These mountains provide a defence against any would-be attacker from the east, as they would find themselves fighting an uphill battle up from the Jordan Valley as soon as they cross the Israeli border. The West Bank also offers a buffer between Israel’s neighbours and Jerusalem, while otherwise it from being a border city easily within range of sniper fire. Without the West Bank Israel would also be just 15km at its thinnest point, at risk of being split into two should a conflict break out, and Israel’s main airport, Ben Gurion Airport would be within mortar fire range.
Not only has there been a shift in attitudes among the Israeli public in regard to security, Israel is a country where religion is on the rise. 68% of Israelis over the age of 60 describe themselves as secular, while for those between 18 and 30 it is just 37%.
The towns and cities within the West Bank include many key religious sites such as Hebron, Bethel, Shiloh and Shechem. Giving away territories such as the cave of Machpelah is unthinkable to the Religious Zionists, as well as any land that God has given to them.
These two movements came together today in a coalition to form Israel’s 37th government.
Netanyahu, who is secular, believes in the retaining the West Bank territory on security grounds. To form his coalition however, he has gone into government with religious parties, such as Religious Zionist headed by Bezalel Smotrich, and Otzma Yehudit headed by Itamar Ben-Gvir. These also believe in retaining the West Bank, but for religious reasons.
Bezalel Smotrich, who was born in an Israeli settlement, now lives in Kedumim, in a house that was built in the West Bank without Israeli governmental authorisation, ignoring the government’s restriction on settlement building. During Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, he was arrested during protests against the disengagement plan and held in jail for three weeks. It is clear that settlement growth is something Smotrich is truly passionate about – love it or hate it. Today Smotrich has been appointed Finance Minister, as well as a minister within the defence ministry overseeing West Bank settlement policy.
Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he would put West Bank settlement expansion at the top of the new government’s priority list and also legalize many illegally built settlements built against the previous government’s West Bank settlement polices. The new government has set aside 22 million shekels for the expansion of the Israeli settlements in Hebron, the city of the tomb of the patriarchs.
So with the new government sworn in we can expect an acceleration of the West Bank settlement expansion as this is one of the key points that unite the new coalition government. It seems likely Israel has just sworn in its most pro-settlement government to date.
As Christadelphians we are not involved in the politics of any country, but we believe that the most high rules in the kingdoms of men and he gives it to whomsoever he will. And so we watch the events in the world with even greater interest than those who are actually involved in these things, because we believe that the person directing these events is the almighty creator, who is all powerful, and will soon bring together events unlike anything this world has seen before.
The West Bank includes the majority of the mountains of Israel, as described in the Bible. Many latter day prophecies speak directly of these mountains, setting them apart from the rest of the land of Israel. And so the first fascinating detail is that both latter day prophecies and also the political world of our day both separate between the mountains of Israel, and the rest of the land of Israel. Not in all 6,000 years of the history of the world before recent times, has there been such a clear division separating the mountains of Israel from the rest of Israel – something we also find in prophecy speaking of this time.
Ezekiel refers to the mountains of Israel repeatedly:
“And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.”
“And thou shalt know that I am the LORD, and that I have heard all thy blasphemies which thou hast spoken against the mountains of Israel, saying, They are laid desolate, they are given us to consume.”
“But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come.”
“And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel;”
Until 1967 Israel was in existence, but they were not upon the mountains of Israel, as they were still controlled by Jordan, but in 1967 Israel took these mountains, as well as Jerusalem. Slowly Israel began to build settlements on these mountains, but now the Jewish population of the West Bank is nearing half a million and growing quickly. The new government in Israel will likely accelerate this growth bringing us closer to the situation described in Ezekiel 38, the time when the fury of God comes up in his face for the actions of the world against his people Israel – when that host comes against the mountains of Israel – at a time when they live in peace.
“After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.”
And so let us watch, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem – the true peace, when Christ rules from Jerusalem, and all Israel is saved.
This has been Paul Barnes joining you for this weeks Bible in the News.