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The Morning After

written by Asher Intrater
February 01, 2001

Here is sort of a spiritual “state of the union” analysis as we start this new period in Israel. May it help you in some insights to be able to pray for Israel and the Middle East in the year 2001.

I write this article on the morning after the Israeli elections. I stayed up late into the night to watch Barak’s resignation speech and Sharon’s victory speech. Sharon’s speech had almost no tones of celebration. Rather it seemed to be a sober acceptance of a very difficult responsibility.

The situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories has degenerated over the last few months. Many have been killed on both sides. Trust and hope have dwindled. One “price” of the breakdown of the peace talks is the heavy toll on the economics. When there are terrorist attacks, Israel puts a closure on the territories, and thus the Palestinians cannot work. On the Israeli side, tourism and investment have dropped off. That has led to a domino effect of unemployment and bankruptcies.

King of the Jews
When Yeshua (Jesus) was crucified, the sign over his head read, “King of the Jews” (John 19:19). When Yeshua appeared before Pilate He was asked, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33). The soldiers then placed a crown of thorns on His head and dressed Him in a purple robe, mocking Him for this so called king’s position. They struck Him and said, “Hail, King of the Jews!” (John 19:1). When Pilate brought Yeshua out to be crucified he said to them, “Behold, your King!” (John 19:14). When the chief priests denied Yeshua they said, “We have no king but Ceaser!” (John 19:15). The chief priests complained to Pilate about the sign over Jesus’ head: “Do not write ‘the King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said I am King of the Jews.'” (John 19:21). To this Pilate answered with an authority that seemed to come from the sovereignty of God: “What I have written I have written.” (John 19:22).

The closest thing we have today to an earthly king for the Jewish people is the position of Prime Minister. In a partial sense, the position of the Prime Minister of Israel is the earthly seat of Jesus’ kingdom. Yeshua was crucified for His claim to be king of the Jews. He has never relinquished that. One day He will return to take up that position.

In the millennial kingdom of God, Yeshua will reign upon the earth as the divine Prime Minister of Israel and the messianic king of the Jews. One aspect of the cross is that it symbolizes the spiritual battle over this position. No wonder there is still such a battle over that position today.

As Ariel Sharon looks to what faces him, he might feel as if he is about to be crucified and spit upon. It is so difficult for any man to be the Prime Minister of Israel. All of them in recent years, both left wing and right wing, have been men of extraordinary mettle (Begin, Rabin, Shamir, Peres, Netanyahu and Barak). Let us remember to keep the Prime Minister, the Knesset members and the Palestinian leaders in prayer.

Big Numbers and Small Numbers
There were some big numbers and small numbers in the statistics of this election. The 62.5% victory for Sharon was the largest percentage in the history of Israel. However, the percentage of voter turn-out (58%) was the smallest in the history of Israel. The 25% margin between Sharon and Barak was the largest margin ever. The 18 month term for Barak’s government was the shortest ever.

The more difficult figures come in reference to the Knesset seats. A government needs 61 of the 120 Knesset members to form a coalition. Although Sharon received 62% of the popular vote, there were no elections for the parliament members. Therefore, Sharon’s Likud party is left with the 19 seats they received from Netanyahu’s defeat in the last election. That means he is trying to form a government of at least 61 seats from a base of 19.

That is the reason that Netanyahu said that he would not run for Prime Minister unless there were Knesset elections as well. It is almost an impossible situation. The general “right wing” block and the “left wing” block are virtually tied at 60 – 60.

This is one of the reasons that Sharon has been advocating a unity government (in which the Labor party would join in the coalition). If the Labor party, or at least some part of the non-right, does not join the coalition, Sharon will be held virtually at ransom by the ultra- religious parties who control about 25 seats.

Unity Government
One of the reasons that Sharon received such a large majority is the desire of most Israelis for a unity government. Now we will see whether the politicians will yield to the will of the people in this regard, or whether extremism and sectarianism will prevent a unity government from being formed.

Sharon has been calling for a unity government for over a year – long before he became a candidate. Unity demands for all sides to compromise and yield somewhat – an attitude hard to find even in the church, let alone the government. Yeshua said that unity is a foundational issue of spiritual warfare: “Any kingdom divided against itself cannot stand” (Luke 11:17).

The people of Israel need to be united in order to face the huge challenges in this decade. I believe it would be wise for us to pray for a unity government to be formed.

Wisdom, Moderation and White Hair
Over the last year Sharon has been speaking of unity government, painful concessions for peace, his grandchildren, and so on. His critics say that this is just a campaign ploy.

There has been a turn in the public opinion in Israel this year away from the two younger, dynamic leaders (Barak and Netanyahu in their 50’s) toward the two older statesmen (Sharon and Peres in their 70’s). One famous Israeli journalist (Nahum Barnea) mentioned somewhat tongue in cheek that Netanyahu made a mistake by tainting his whitish-graying hair a little darker before the Likud primaries. He said that today people were more looking for the hoary-headed experience of the elder statesmen.

The New Testament warns us not to “lay hands” (I Timothy 3:6, 5:22) on anyone too soon – meaning, not to set in authority someone too young. It seems that the difficulties of the Prime Minister position in Israel require wisdom that cannot be acquired in less than 60 years, no matter how talented and dynamic the candidate. Perhaps a little moderation comes along with the years as well.

One mistake that damaged both Barak and Netanyahu was their unwillingness or inability to gather around them a team of leaders. They made bold decisions without building the consensus of leaders to bring the support in the Knesset. I believe that both Netanyahu and Barak will be back to take on major leadership roles in the Israeli government, but their effectiveness will increase as they learn to work with others.

The Breakdown of the Peace Process
Two weeks ago Amos Oz published a letter to the editor in the Hebrew newspapers calling for support for Barak. (Oz is one of the great fiction and prose writers of the twentieth century in Israel. He also has become a spokesman for the “peace” ideology.) In this article he said that there was no reason to blame Barak, because he had simply followed out the peace talks to their logical conclusion. The fact that the Palestinians did not want peace was not Barak’s fault. Rather it showed that there was a major breakdown in their paradigm of the peace process.

Oz mentioned that the concept of the peace talks was based on a mutual acceptance by the Israelis and the Palestinians that there would have to be a trading of land, a separation of borders, and a recognition of the existence of the other half. When Barak offered the return of almost all the territories, and then the Palestinians said that they wanted also the right of return within the Israeli territories, they had in fact said, “What’s mine is mine, and what’s yours is also mine.”

There have been two general approaches to peace from the Israeli side. The left wing has had a fair, logical and Western approach to dealing with the problem. If we could just give the Palestinians enough rights and enough land, both sides could compromise and arrive at a peace treaty. Generally speaking, the United States and other Western nations have backed this approach.

The right wing view has been that inherent in the Islamic world is a commitment to the destruction of Israel and the claiming of Palestine as Islamic “holy” land. At the end of any peace talk, no matter how reasonable, there will come a stumbling block at the unwillingness of the Islamic religious parties to compromise.

The recent breakdown of the peace talks is evidence to the Israeli public that the right wing analysis was more accurate. That is one of the reasons that Sharon received such a high percentage of the votes. Religious fanaticism is true among certain Jewish groups as well. However they are a minority in Israel, while the Islamic fanatics have a much wider popular support and political control among the Palestinians. The right wing viewpoint has been that we should not delude ourselves about a utopian peace and a new Middle East. The best we can hope for is a balance of power, a cessation of the violence, and a tense but workable peace agreement. Aim for a minimal status quo solution without trying to settle the apocalyptic and utopian issues.

Bush, Sharon, and Spiritual Warfare
Most Israeli journalists have had a very positive view of Clinton’s influence. For the first time this week, I heard an Israeli position quoting the Bush administration as saying that one of the reasons for the worsening of the situation here in the Middle East was Clinton’s pressure to push both sides toward an idealistic agreement that neither the Arab public nor the Israeli public were ready yet to receive.

The Barak campaign was filled with intimidating fantasies of a wide-scale war breaking out in the Middle East immediately upon Sharon’s election. That could be true. However, it could also be true that a more conservative government might be able to come to a realistic temporary solution that would at least lower the violence.

As Sharon entered the hall last night for his victory speech, he was delayed because he received a call on his cell phone from President Bush. While the crowd waited, Bush and Sharon chatted. Bush reminded him of the tour the two of them took a few years ago to view the territories. Bush joked with him saying that at that time no one thought that Bush would be president, nor that Sharon would be Prime Minister.

Israel will continue to be a central focus of the anger of the forces of Islam internationally. As there was a battle against the forces of communism in the second half of the 20th century, the battle of the 21st century will be against the forces of militant Islam. The focus of that battle will not be the Gulf Bay, but Jerusalem.

The current Intifada broke out when Sharon visited the Temple Mount. Jewish religious claims to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are considered blasphemous to the Islamic world. As believers in Yeshua, we have a prophetic duty to pray against the spiritual forces of evil in the angelic warfare that influence the political situation in the Middle East (see Daniel 10:12-20).

Asher serves as president of Tikkun Global family of ministries and congregations, dedicated to the dual restoration of Israel and the Church. He is founder of the Revive Israel five-fold ministry team, and oversees both Ahavat Yeshua and Tiferet Yeshua congregations in Israel.

He and his wife Betty share a passion for personal prayer and devotion, local evangelism and discipleship in Hebrew, and unity of the Body of believers worldwide.

Asher was raised in a conservative Jewish home and holds degrees from Harvard University, Baltimore Hebrew College and Messiah Biblical Institute. He has authored numerous books, tracts and articles.

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