May 5, 2018
Phil Johnson, Ph.D.
Ahmed Khidr is not my friend. Oh, he appears as one of my “friends” on Facebook – but so do nearly 5000 other people. And as we all know, “facebook friends” are not always what we’d call friends in the real world.
But Mr. Khidr recently posted on my Facebook Wall a comment about the State of Israel where he opined: “It’s the beginning of the end right now as Israel will grow more and then it will fall, and it will fall. Just keep watching.”
Mr. Khidr is a Muslim from Egypt. If I am ever looking for an intelligent, thoughtful or even respectful conversation about Middle East politics that include Israel, I do not look in Egypt. The virulent hatred that Egypt has for Israel is baked in from elementary school on. Add state media bias and the desperate need to explain and justify Egypt’s stunning losses at the hands of tiny Israel make meaningful conversations difficult.
But Mr. Khidr’s Facebook comment opens a point worth discussing. After surviving 70 years, is Israel likely to continue to survive in a fast-changing world – especially during this month of May where so much is going on?
The following is a quick list of what’s happening in May 2018 and why it might matter to Israel, the region and the world.
May 6: Lebanese Elections
What’s Happening? The primary area of interest with Lebanon’s upcoming elections is the growing influence of Hezbollah – the Shiite Islamist political party, provider of social services and terrorist group. Hezbollah is the only political party in Lebanon that has its own militia.
What it means: Hezbollah and its allies are expected to make significants gains in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections. Hezbollah is backed by Iran and their increased influence in Lebanon could contribute to a shift in the regional balance of power between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. And with Hezbollah’s continued (and growing) military role in Syria, there is increasing concern of a confrontation with Israel, especially as Hezbollah consolidates its influence in Israel’s Golan Heights.
May 12: The Deadline for re-certifying the “Iran Nuclear Deal”
What’s Happening? Barack Obama’s controversial nuclear deal with Iran has been an irritant for many Americans, Israelis and Mr. Donald Trump. President Trump has until May 12th to re-certify the deal.
What it means: At the moment, it doesn’t seem likely that Trump will re-certify the Iran nuclear agreement. Israeli prime minister Netanyahu recently revealed a treasure trove of stolen Iranian documents proving that the Iranians have not, in the past, been honest about their nuclear ambitions. Netanyahu is hoping to persuade Trump that Iran cannot be trusted in the future.
The European Union, Russia and China all seems happy with the way things are going with Iran. If Trump does decertify the deal, sanctions could be reimposed (as early as July 11th), economic deals might fall through and there are sure to be some interesting “tweets.” Political blowback from other nations will be all over the media and Iran will say that it will not renegotiate with the U.S. – but time will tell what they’ll do – depending on when and how significant future sanctions are.
May 14: US Embassy Move to Jerusalem
What’s happening? In October of 1995, the US congress passed a law recognizing Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and gave a directive to move the US embassy to Jerusalem by 1999. Finally, in 2018, Donald Trump is following through on that law and moving America’s embassy to the city of Jerusalem.
What it means: Officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is controversial and contentious (never mind that Israel’s Knesset, administrative offices and Prime Minister are already in Jerusalem). It’s contentious because the Palestinians believe that Jerusalem should be their capital and most of the rest of the world views the U.S.’s unilateral move as a block to any future peace deal between Israel and Palestine. The full reaction to the move is yet to be seen. The next event on our list indicates the interesting timing of the U.S. embassy move.
May 15: Palestinian Observance of the Nakba (Catastrophe)
What’s Happening? Israel declared her independence on May 14, 1948 – 70 years ago. On May 15th, Palestinians observe the 70th anniversary of what is known as the Nakba, or Catastrophe when 700,000 Palestinians fled their homes during the Israeli War for Independence. They have not been allowed to return to their former homes.
What it means: As I wrote about in my last article, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the Political Committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council, predicts that the “Great Return March” movement and protests among Palestinians will increase in intensity, culminating on May 15th – with the anniversary of the Palestinian Exodus. Combined with Israel’s continued presence in contested areas and the move of the U.S. embassy, it is likely to enflame an already tense situation and possibly push things to a flash point that could end in violence from the Palestinians and reactions/repercussions from Israel. From the Palestinian perspective, having the U.S. recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital with an embassy move – ON the EVE of the Nakba seems like a fork in the eye.
May 15: (Depending on Country) The Beginning of Ramadan
What’s Happening? Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for 1.8 billion Muslims. It’s a month of fasting, self-control, charity and drawing closer to Allah.
What it means: In the context of everything that’s going on geopolitically this month- we now have a month of religious reflection and seeking a closer relationship with Allah. Probably more than a few Muslims will consider why Arabs and other Muslims have not been successful against their enemies and why they have been at the wrong end of dictators, violent civil wars and economic hardships. This has the ability to prompt people to question whether or not these problems are the result of not being close enough or faithful enough to Allah. How recommitment to their faith plays out could be interesting…
So, will Israel survive the events of May?
Embassy moves, Palestinian protests, Hezbollah’s growing power, Iran’s nuclear ambitions and global condemnation – these are all a part of Israel’s context this month. From a Christian/Biblical point of view, there will be challenges for Israel in the future. The book of Ezekiel talks about a time when most nations will turn against Israel but that God will intervene on Israel’s behalf. Just a quick look at the completely ridiculous number of UN sanctions against Israel (compared to other nations) and current geopolitical attitudes regarding Israel, it’s not hard to see prophetic and geopolitical events lining up.
But as far as the Israel’s longevity, I have great confidence. She’ll be just fine. While some wait for her downfall, while the odds (humanly) have always been against her, she had thrived, grown, contributed greatly to the world and in the end, God still has a purpose for His people – the people who gave us the Redeemer.
In regards to Israel, Genesis 12:3 reminds us, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
May 22: Meeting between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.
What’s Happening? The leader of the Hermit Kingdom, North Korea will get himself to Washington, D.C. to visit with President Trump regarding the “sudden” change of heart. Kim Jong Un went from testing rockets, building nuclear devices and threatening the world to hugging people, releasing American prisoners and talking nuclear disarmament.
What it means: While it doesn’t directly impact Israel – it does impact the rest of the world. On the surface, it looks like a great foreign policy win for the U.S., China and South Korea. But I’m a bit skeptical… sure, there might be peace…there might be concessions… But let’s just watch. I have a feeling that Kim Jong Un is at the end of his rope, needs cash, and is willing to play nice, placate the global powers that be, and get what he needs to stay in power.
I mean, seriously, I cannot imagine Kim giving up his one ace in the hole, his nuclear program. And he’s not about to introduce economic reforms to his country – that’s not a good formula for staying in power. And what does one do with one’s death camps?? Regardless as to what happens, just keep a wary eye out for true motives. I think we’ve seen this show before.