The small state of Israel is literally surrounded by their enemies. With Egypt to the south, Jordan to the East and Lebanon and Syria to the north, Israel is surrounded by countries that would like nothing more than to see her overrun. It wasn’t always this way as in the late 1990’s, a long-term peace finally seemed within Israel’s reach. Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were under way, and most of Israel’s borders were secured by peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. Now, after the bloodshed of the second Palestinian intifada and the rise of Islamic jihadist groups throughout the region, the picture seems more menacing than ever. As Israel separates itself unilaterally from the Palestinians in the absence of a full peace – and without the leadership of Ariel Sharon, the architect of separation — it also worries about events well beyond its borders.
While Israel is threatened by her immediate neighbors, the greatest single recent threat to the nation of Israel has come not from a neighboring nation but from Iran. The old nation of Persia has embarked on an ambitious nuclear program, one that would enable them to eradicate Israel. As reported in the New York Times on April 12, 2006: “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who announced on Tuesday that Iran had produced low-grade enriched uranium suitable for power stations, threatened last year to ‘wipe Israel off the map,’ provoking international condemnation.” Fortunately for Israel the Western nations have rallied against Iran and their nuclear program (for the time being at least) by proclaiming that sanctions may follow should Iran proceed to the next step. “Iran’s latest move is a serious setback to efforts by the U.N. Security Council to have Tehran halt its enrichment work. The development could now prompt Western powers, who fear Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons, to consider imposing sanctions against the Islamic Republic” (NY Times, April 12, 06). To date, Iran has developed a Sharrab-3 missile which can carry a nuclear warhead and can reach both Europe and Israel. And within a year it is expected to be able to design, build and facilitate a fully operational nuclear bomb.
Dealing with one enemy is a difficult chore, but dealing with several enemies would be considered a challenge for any nation. Unfortunately for Israel, this is the reality that they face everyday as a nation. The Times continues: “Since the Hamas government took office a little over a week ago, Israeli officials have been saying, there has been an increase in the number of homemade rockets fired from the northern Gaza Strip into Israel. But in Gaza it is clear that the rockets are being launched not by Hamas but by militants from factions associated with the once dominant Fatah organization — Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades and the Abu Rish Brigade — as well as by the Popular Resistance Committees, an amalgam of gunmen that does include some Hamas adherents and members of Islamic Jihad.”
The surrounding nations
In Egyptian elections late last year, the Muslim Brotherhood, an illegal organization linked to terrorist attacks, won five times as many legislative seats as it did in 2000, not enough to enact laws but enough to show that support for Islamists is rising. The trend Israelis fear might make it easier for terrorists to gain access to Gaza and thus Israel.
With Jordan sharing the longest boarder with Israel, a constant potential threat is always a door knock away. In November, 2005, suicide bombers sent by al Qaeda in Iraq, blew up a hotel in Amman, Jordan’s capital raising fear that turmoil in Iraq will spill over into a campaign to topple King Abdullah, whose father long kept the Jordanian boarder from being used for attacks on Israel.
With the withdrawal of Syria’s army from Lebanon in the spring of 2005, the ties between the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah have increased so that Israel’s northern boarder is now threatened not merely by Hezbollah but also by their backers, the Iranians.
God has chosen Israel to be part of the Promised Land, but until the return of our Lord Jesus Christ this small nation will continue to be in the center of the signs of the times. May that day soon come when tranquility and true peace will come to Israel.
George Rayner, Mississauga, Ontario
(Our heartfelt thanks to Bro. George for writing this column for the past 16 years.)