The Sweetness of the New Year in a Bitter Middle East

by Sarah Ann Haves

Israelis are toasting to the Jewish New Year this week, eating apples and honey as a reminder of the sweetness of the holiday season. It is a time of personal and national reflection, while the Middle East boils with new outbreaks of violence. In Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Malaysia, India, East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Arabs are taking to the streets, displaying their anger at what they perceive to be Western disrespect of the Moslem religion. The rioters are being encouraged by Al-Qaeda. Its organization in the Arabian Peninsula has posted statements on the Web urging attacks on American targets to weaken what they perceive to be U.S. hegemony in the Middle East. Hezbollah in Lebanon is warning the United States that a controversial anti-Islam film must be banned from Internet sites or there will be more violence against Western interests in the region.

New protests by Palestinians living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are also a result of frustration with the high cost of living and economic instability. Furthermore, without the peace process moving forward, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is losing credibility among his own people. Palestinians have lashed out at government corruption and unfulfilled promises. The Palestinians do not see a state of their own becoming a reality anytime soon, which gives them little hope for the future. They have accused Hamas of trying to bring down the government of Abbas. And, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is shifting the blame on Israel. The great schism between Fatah and Hamas is being revealed once again, and Israel does not want to be the scapegoat for a new Palestinian uprising.

Yet, for weeks now, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has fueled the fire by continually calling for the resignation of Abbas, adding to the exasperation that some Palestinians are feeling about their leader. Lieberman accuses Abbas of being involved in diplomatic terrorism against Israel, while representing a Palestinian government with no legitimacy. Lieberman has noted the stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, which he sees as adversely affecting Israel’s ability to maintain positive relationships with its regional neighbors. His concern is that the stalemate is creating a vacuum in the Palestinian territories that could be filled by radical Islamists. Islamists are already causing instability throughout the Middle East, taking advantage of the collapse of dictatorships before new stable governments are able to govern effectively.

The Arab Spring
is turning into a fundamentalist Islamic and jihadist winter...

During a recent briefing at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, MK Ronni Bar-On, Chairman of the Israeli Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, spoke to diplomats and journalists. He explained that the current Arab Spring is turning into a fundamentalist Islamic and jihadist winter in a new evolving Middle East. Israel is the only true democracy operating in the region. “This is the right time for the international community and international public opinion to make itself count by way of backing democracy and trying to build new ones from the ruins of old dictatorships… The wheels of the revolution cannot be turned back, but if the people of the region do not get what they deserve and demand, this opportunity will soon turn to disaster and chaos.”

The recent clashes in the Middle East, with attacks on American embassies, has shown just how much hatred already exists towards the United States and Western powers.  But, while the world focuses on the latest upsurge in regional violence and terror, the first challenge for Israel is still Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made a point of putting pressure on U.S. President Barack Obama to threaten Iran with military action if it crosses red lines. The Obama Administration has already responded negatively to Netanyahu’s demands.

However, the United States, Gulf countries and Western nations are currently engaged in military exercises in the Straits of Hormuz, determined that if war breaks out with Iran, the Straits will remain open to oil commerce. 

Meanwhile, Iran has become a global threat that could spark nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, resulting in Arab leaders rushing to acquire a nuclear bomb.  That is why Bar-On said Iran must not be allowed to achieve nuclear capability. He also spoke of Iran’s latest weapons arsenal. “Iran’s long-term missile ability, as displayed countless times, will make the world a dangerous place to live in for all of us….Unconventional warfare will be traded and sold at cost value and will become available to every madman with a suitcase of money.”

Bar-On believes that this kind of aggression in the region will set back the global war on terror and re-position Iran as a leading powerhouse in the Middle East.

Moderate Arab nations...
are depending
on the United States
to defend them.

So far, Iran has stubbornly resisted international efforts to stop its nuclear pursuit. Therefore, moderate Arab nations, especially those in the Gulf region, are now depending more and more on the United States to protect them. As Iran has proven its determination to enrich uranium at higher levels, the Iranian government has also stepped up its anti-Semitic rhetoric towards Israel, resulting in a greater likelihood of a new war in the Middle East. 

According to Bar-On, “The last minute for statesmanship and foreign policy is the last minute that something can be done to prevent the bomb and the bleak future it holds. This last minute should not pass.”

While Iran continues to be the issue that dominates media headlines, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has taken a back seat. But, the new Arab dialogue on the streets in the West Bank and East Jerusalem could promote a shift within the Palestinian community. Bar-On explained that the Palestinian people now realize they have been wronged by their own government; that diplomacy has failed; negotiations are at a dead end; and it has left them with no hope. The pragmatic Palestinian willing to abandon terror will see an outstretched hand coming from Israel. “If negotiations do not get back on track we will be closing what could be possibly the last possibility for peace…I call the Palestinian leaders to let go of all the agendas and really try to make a difference.” 

As citizens of Israel bring in the Jewish New Year 5773, they are looking over their shoulder at the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict; a conflict that could boil over this coming year. At the same time, they are looking beyond their borders to a looming war with Iran that could ignite the whole Middle East region. Both possibilities do not make for a happy New Year. But, this season of personal and national reflection and repentance is one of the most important times in the history of the Jewish State; a time of concentrated prayer for the people of Israel and for the whole Middle East.

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.

(c) 2012 Messianic Vision all rights reserved. This article is not reproducible except with permisson from Messianic Vision.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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