Amongst the myriad events that took place on the world’s stage in the last quarter of 2004, two stand out as highly significant, both occurring within days of each other.

The first took place on Tuesday 9th November, when US citizens went to the polls and in a record turnout re-elected Republican George W Bush for four more years.

Analysts were predicting a close election, but President Bush was returned with a greater majority than previously. In a world of great uncertainty, with the threat of terrorism always on the agenda, and unfinished business in Iraq, the American people re-elected a leader with a proven track record in the fight against terrorism, rather than choosing the Democrat John Kerry, a man untested.

Political commentators are now saying that the Republican Party could be in power for a long time.

This verdict of the American people followed a similar pattern to the Australian political scene, where to the surprise of many political commentators (but not perhaps of the coalition strategists) John Howard was returned to office with an increased majority and control of the Upper House.

Once again the proven abilities of a leader to deal with the issues of the day appealed to the Australian electorate.

Eyes are now focused on the UK elections to be held next year.

Will the third member of this most interesting troika, Tony Blair, be returned to power, and thus strengthen this very powerful alliance of Tarshish powers?

In the past four years President Bush has gone out of his way to promote strong ties with both the UK and Australia. Both these nations were foremost in giving unqualified support to the US in its fight against terrorism and the war in Iraq, despite opposition from many of the world’s powers. The US is the only world superpower and, one could argue, could get along quite well without the support of the UK or Australia. George Bush, however, has seen the value in fostering this alliance and we would expect, from our understanding of Bible prophecy, that such an alliance will prosper in order to play its part in the time of the end.

The re-election of President Bush is thus highly significant in these last times and we look to further developments with great interest.

The second highly significant event occurred just two days after the American Presidential elections—the death of Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority, at the age of 75. Yasser Arafat claimed to have been born in Jerusalem, but in fact he was born in Cairo in 1929. In 1958 he, together with other Palestinians, secretly formed the Fatah terrorist organization, and in 1969 he became chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

As head of the PLO, Yasser Arafat was responsible, over the past thirty-five years, for many acts of violence against Israel and the Jews worldwide. Amongst the many acts of violence against the Jews, perhaps the 1972 massacre of eleven Israeli athletes, at the Munich Olympics in 1972, stand out in people’s memories.

In recent times Yasser Arafat, as chairman of the PA, has of course been directly related to the second intifada which broke out after the collapse of the Camp David peace talks in 2000. This intifada has brought about the deaths of more than 1000 Israelis in Palestinian attacks, and more than 3000 Palestinians in Israeli reprisals.

Yasser Arafat was considered by both the US and Israel as a thorn in the side of any possible peace talks, and both the US and Israel refused to deal with him in any discussions.

And now this man associated with so much terror and violence in the Middle East has gone, and the question is being asked, “where to from here?”

World leaders are hopeful that with the departure of Yasser Arafat perhaps a new chapter in the Middle East peace process can be launched. The Palestinian Authority is in the process of choosing a new chairman/president, and the front-runner at this stage is Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

Abu Mazen is considered to be more of a moderate by both the US and Israel, and someone that they can talk to.

On the Israeli side, dramatic movements are taking place. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is planning a national unity government with the Labour Party, in an endeavour to put together a long-term peace deal with the Palestinians. He has invited Labour opposition leader, Shimon Peres, to join forces with him and thus form a large parliamentary majority.

The significance of the death of Yasser Arafat can not be over-emphasised. The Weekend Australian (December 4–5, 2004) put it this way:

“The significance of the long-expected new turn in Israeli political alliance-making is clear: with the regional context fluid, the chance for a wide-ranging agreement with the Palestinians is better than at any time since the collapse of the last negotiations in 2000.

The formation of a dominant mainstream coalition including the widely respected Mr Peres should help clear the decks for Israel to seek a breakthrough towards a regional agreement that seemed impossible just weeks ago.”

Other Related Middle East Developments

The involvement of France in the last days of Yasser Arafat has not gone unnoticed. The role of France was really unique as French President Jacques Chirac sent an aircraft to take Arafat to Paris, where he was under special medical care for about two weeks. After Arafat’s death President Chirac personally came down to the hospital to pay his last respects and then France made full arrangements for sending the dead body of Arafat to Cairo for a state funeral. France also sent its Prime Minister and other high officials to accompany the dead body.

President Chirac said the following concerning the death of Arafat:

“With him disappeared a man of courage and conviction who for 40 years incarnated the Palestinian fight for recognition of their national rights” (The Daily Star, November 18, 2004).

The Daily Star went on to say that France should have a special place in the hearts of the Palestinian people.

It is well recognised and accepted that Yasser Arafat, although claiming to be born in Jerusalem, was actually born in Cairo as stated above. Despite this fact, however, the French doctors in issuing Arafat’s death certificate stated that his place of birth was Jerusalem.

The French authorities must have known that such a blatant misrepresentation of facts would only create tensions with the Israelis, particularly when it was known that Arafat wanted to be buried in Jerusalem and the Israelis had flatly refused such a request.

The role of France (Gomer) as an antagonist against Israel in the time of the end is documented in Ezekiel 38, but even now the colours of France are becoming evident. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in this country, and it will only be a matter of time until France and the other European powers will turn right against God’s chosen people.

Of course, many nations have their eyes focused on the Middle East because of its strategic importance in this area. Consider the following words from The Australian (October 28, 2004) under the heading:

Mid-East Power to Grow as oil Surges

“Soaring global energy demand will leave the West increasingly in thrall to the Middle East, the world’s energy watchdog has warned… By 2030 the oil cartel’s Middle Eastern members would provide half of the world’s supplies of crude oil, the agency said in its annual assessment in the World Energy Outlook.”

Amongst the Middle East powers that are currently flexing their muscles, Iran is causing great concern. In recent times Iran has been conducting uranium enrichment activities, obviously as part of their planning for nuclear weapons. Naturally this was causing great concern, and the UN nuclear monitoring agency was all set to refer the Iranian activity to the UN security council for possible sanctions. However, in the last week, Iran agreed with Britain, France and Germany, to suspend its enrichment programme. Many world leaders, however, are convinced that this is only a temporary suspension and that sooner or later this matter will once again come to a head. Iran (Persia) is also named in Ezekiel 38 as an antagonist to Israel, and one wonders what lies in the future for this nation.

The United States would naturally have grave concerns about the Iranian nuclear programme. Perhaps the US secretly hopes that Israel will do something to rid them of this problem. In 1981 it was the Iraqis who developed a nuclear reactor only to see it destroyed in a lightning Israeli bombing raid. The Israelis, no doubt, would not hesitate to destroy an Iranian capability if such were developed.

An article in The Weekend Australian (December 4–5, 2004) made interesting reading.

“Asked whether the US could allow Iran to become another North Korea, which is believed to have nuclear weapons, Mr Rumsfeld (US Defence Secretary) said: ‘The Iranians are making a lot of mistakes, let me just put it that way.’”

Asked about the likelihood the US would have to confront militarily, Mr Rumsfeld said: “I guess those are calls for the President… or for other leaders of other countries to make” (our emphasis). Is this a veiled reference to possible Israeli action?

The Weekend Australian went on to say, “In Iran yesterday, about 200 volunteers for suicide operations gathered… chanting ‘death to America’ and ‘death to Israel’… The crowd included masked women who had pledged to die in suicide bombings.”

There is no love lost between Israel and the Iranians, and this antagonism will one day boil over into the confrontation predicted in the Bible.

Russia still struts the world’s stage

“Increasingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin walks alone. He has alarmed the West with authoritarian policies at home: he announced last week that Russia was developing new nuclear missiles. Now he has embraced the official outcome of a Ukrainian election that Western observers say was rigged” (The Australian Financial Review, November 26, 2004).

The recent Ukrainian election gave voters the choice of keeping traditional ties with Russia or moving towards the West and a European Union that has expanded up to their border. The Kremlin sees Ukraine as part of a strategic buffer zone, and invested millions of dollars to help the pro-Russian Yanukovich defeat the Western-leaning candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Russia is no longer the great power that she used to be, but this has not stopped President Putin flexing his muscles and making sure that Russia is not treated as a ‘has-been’. Increasingly, President Putin is transforming Russia into more of the autocratic state that Russians were used to under the Czars and the Communists. The parliament is openly manipulated by the Kremlin and regional governors are likely soon to be no longer elected but chosen directly by Putin.

The media is tightly controlled by the government, and any business leaders that attempt to challenge the government are treated harshly and in some cases thrown into prison. The recent boast by President Putin that Russia was developing new nuclear missiles that no other nation would have for years is all part of Putin’s drive to re-establish the importance of Russia on the world scene.

This drive for importance will ultimately flow over into the invasion by Russia of the Middle East, together with the European powers at her side.

With such interesting developments taking place we should all have our lamps trimmed awaiting the coming of the Bridegroom.