This article addresses, amongst other matters, the crisis existing in Israel and the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinian extremists. Events have moved very rapidly in that area since this article was written and readers will be aware of this fact. Nevertheless the Biblical perspective is still highly relevant and we can take courage that the Most High does indeed rule in the Kingdom of Men.

Now that the Iraq war is over, the USA is stepping up its efforts to re-activate peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians which have stalled in recent months. George W Bush, who came to the Presidency stating that he was not going to follow the footsteps of his predecessor, Bill Clinton, in being personally involved in the peace talks, has found that try as he might, he cannot avoid the issue.

In May, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, flew to the Middle East to ‘jump-start’ the so called ‘road map’ to peace. The Road Map drafted by the US, the UN, the EU, and Russia, calls for the establishing of a Palestinian State by 2005. The commitment to a Palestinian State by 2005 is by far the most explicit commitment ever made by the US to the Palestinians, and illustrates how involved the US has become in trying to solve this perplexing problem. The Palestinians announced their backing for the Road Map plan and appointed a new PM, Mahmoud Abbas, to negotiate with Israel’s PM Ariel Sharon.

Ironically, Mr Abbas is considered by the US as a more moderate Palestinian than the discredited Yasser Arafat, but even Mr Abbas cannot at this stage rein in the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups who have been responsible for many of the suicide attacks. In 93 suicide attacks since the latest Palestinian uprising began in September 2000, 375 bystanders have been killed.

So where to from here? The Road Map to peace consists of three stages, with a supposed prescription for ending violence quickly and setting up a Palestinian State by 2005.

The plan calls for negotiations between the provisional state of Palestine and Israel over the toughest issues in the third and final stage leading to full Palestinian statehood.

But Israel has fifteen objections to the plan, the principal one being that the Palestinians bring an end to all violence. Israel has demanded that before anything else is done under the plan, all Palestinian attacks must cease.

Surely this is a reasonable ask, but the US is so anxious for the peace talks to get underway that their officials are working with their Israeli counterparts on a form of words Mr Sharon could use to signal his support for the road map to peace, with reservations, as a way of breaking the current impasse.

Whether Mr Sharon is prepared to signal support for the Road Map remains to be seen, but one of Israel’s other major objections is the Road Map’s pledge to address the “right of return” to Israel for Palestinians who fled after the 1948 Israeli-Arab war. Israel has stated, however, that if that right was allowed it would leave Jews a minority in their own country. They have thus demanded that as a condition for movement in the peace talks, the Palestinians drop this cornerstone of their policy. It can thus be seen that the Road Map to peace has many obstacles in its course.

The US and Britain are firmly entrenched in controlling and running Iraq, while elsewhere the US is stepping up its pressure on Syria and Iran to ‘toe the line’ or else incur the wrath of the world’s current and only Super Power. It is in the US longterm interests to bring about a speedy solution to the festering Palestinian-Israeli sore and thus complete the US (and Britain’s) dominating influence throughout the Middle East. This is what we would expect to see developing from our understanding of Ezekiel 38, and it is fascinating to observe the political and military manoeuvring in this vital area.

In the midst of all these machinations, it is fascinating to read of the time when there will be a “return” of Palestinians and indeed of all the world under Yahweh’s ‘road map’ for peace.

The prophets revealed centuries ago that in the economy of God there will come a time when not just the Palestinians but the whole world will “return” to Yahweh in a spiritual sense, when Yahweh intervenes and returns to bring about world peace.

Acts 15:15–18 “And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things. Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”

The land unquestionably belongs to Israel, and there will come a time when Israel’s neighbours shall live in peace with the nation they once hated.

We know that any peace deal brokered by the US will be shattered by Armageddon. But after this Yahweh’s ‘road map’ will bring lasting peace to this troubled area.

Isaiah 19:23–25 “In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: whom Yahweh of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.”

And in that day may it be our great privilege and blessing to be amongst the redeemed who shall “come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:10).

The Most High Rules in the Kingdom of Men

We are probably all aware that the recent war in Iraq saw a dramatic shift in allegiances amongst the major world powers.

Along with the US and Britain, France and Germany are the other two major NATO powers. And up until recently these four powers have acted fairly well in concert with each other. But the war in Iraq saw a real fallout amongst the four. Britain suppported the US all the way, whereas France and Germany took the opposite approach and sided very strongly with Russia in their total opposition. Britain particularly found herself on the opposite side of the fence to her EU neighbours. So whilst on one hand Britain came out victorious, and Tony Blair’s decision to back George W Bush was vindicated, the gap between Britain and her EU neighbours has been widened.

Tony Blair had previously made no secret of his desire to bring Britain more to the forefront of European affairs, and he would love to see the UK more involved in the EU. But it would appear that the ‘fallout’ over Iraq is such that the wedge between them is of such force that ever closer involvement may be a thing of the past.

We have always expected to see a widening of the gap between predominantly Protestant Britain and predominantly Catholic Europe, as the nations align themselves for the final showdown portrayed in Ezekiel 38. At the time of the end Britain will have no place in Europe but will be amongst the merchants of Tarshish opposing the invasion by Gog and his European allies.

In the light of this it was extremely interesting to see an article in The Australian Financial Review of 8/5/03 to the title, “Blair wins the war, but loses long-running battle of euro”.

“While Tony Blair has been worrying about an allied victory in Iraq, he has apparently been defeated in a domestic battle which has been raging ever since Labour came to power in 1997— whether or not Britain should join the euro.

A formal announcement on whether the Blair government will hold a referendum on the issue is due within the month.

But the only real remaining question is whether the pro-euro Blair will run up the white flag, by ruling out a vote before the next general election due in 2005, or leave himself the opportunity to regroup and fight another day by saying that the time is now not right, but he might have another look at the issue next year when the current levels of economic uncertainty abate.

The euro issue fires up Britain’s economic and political elites like few others, and with the Iraq war out of the way, commentators are now preoccupied with speculating about the terms of Blair’s euro capitulation.”

So the disenchantment of many Britons with Europe has been heightened by events surrounding Iraq, to the extent that adopting the Euro may now be a lost cause.

It is very significant that Tony Blair’s heir apparent, Chancellor Gordon Brown, is against adopting the Euro, and he would not be the only member who would think this way.

What a fascinating scenario we see developing on the world stage.

As the prophet Daniel revealed centuries ago, “the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will…” (Daniel 4:17). And the apostle Paul elucidated further, He “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). Man proposes but God disposes, and we do well to remember that in the end the will of God shall prevail amongst national alignments.

With the UK now drifting apart from Europe and becoming more firmly allied with the US, it is also very interesting to notice Australia’s elevated prestige in the eyes of the US resulting from the war in Iraq.The Australian Financial Review, 5/5/03, put it this way.

“A week after Anzac Day, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Helen Clark was having her hand kissed by France’s President Jacques Chirac, while Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard was flying off to spend a few friendly and private days on US President George Bush’s ranch in Texas. Howard’s visit reflects the close relationship between Australia and the United States, reinforced after Australia’s support for America’s Iraq campaign, while Clark’s visit shows the different path New Zealand has followed after practically confirming that the ANZUS alliance is now only A-US.

While New Zealand’s Labour government, bathing in anti-American prejudice, prefers to be courted by France, Australia was described by Bush in his Battle of the Coral Sea Commemoration Message at the weekend as ‘our closest ally’.”

The Tarshish powers are certainly consolidating, and it is our great privilege to see the hand of God working amongst the nations. May we use such privileges to our spiritual advantage.