Although Bhutan is not an Arab or Muslim country, it shows that this spirit acceptance we have seen towards Israel is spreading. Morocco on the other hand, the other country to have recognised Israel this week, is indeed an Arab and Muslim country with around 99% of the population being Sunni Muslims the majorities in the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
And what we seem to be seeing in the Islamic World is a split been the Sunni and Shia Muslims nations in regards to how they view Israel, with the Shiites, lead by Iran, holding onto the policy of standing by the Palestinians, and refusing to have any relations with Israel until a two-state solution agreement is reached, while the Sunni Muslim and the Gulf States, led by Saudi Arabia, seem to be moving from this long-held position toward an accepting, and even friendly attitude to Israel.
We have seen peace agreements between Arab nations and Israel before, firstly Egypt in 1979 and then Jordan in 1994, but these peace agreements were very different from the ones we’re seeing today.
In 1994 Jordan’s peace deal was very much associated with the Oslo accords that had been signed with the previous year where Israel agreed to create a Palestinian State in the West Bank and to give Jordan a generous share of the waters of the Jordan River – a very valuable resource in the region.
Again, in 1979 Egypt only made peace with Israel because it had found that there was no other way for it to get back control of the Sinai, the loss of which had been an enduring humiliation to Egypt since 1967. They tried to take back control of it in 1973, only to end up with their entire 3rd Army trapped after Ariel Sharon crossed the Suez Canal. Egypt President After the war Egyptian President Sadat realised the only way to recover the Sinai was to make peace with Israel, and he decided that it was a price worth paying. Making peace with Israel was unpopular with the general public in Egypt and President Sadat was assassinated in 1981, before even the transfer of the Sinai from Israel to Egypt was complete.
Today, in contrast, we see Arab nations making peace with Israel because they want to, because they want to have relations with them. They aren’t doing so because they see it as a price worth paying, they’re doing it for economic, strategic and geopolitical reasons, so they can have trading relations and so that they can have military cooperation, especially opposing Iran, which Israel and the Gulf States fear.
The first Arab state this year to recognise Israel was the UAE back in August, and in many ways is seen to be a test case for Saudi Arabia, the main power in the Gulf.
What has been so striking about the Israeli-UAE agreement so far is that the citizens of the two countries have in general embraced the decisions of their respective governments, very much in contrast to Egypt in 1979, and Jordan in 1994 where the relations went from being actively hostile to being cold at best.
Israeli’s have been flocking to Dubai, and UAE citizens have been filling the cafés and shops in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel and the UAE have agreed to grant visa-free travel to each other’s citizens, and there are now around eight daily direct flights been Dubai and Tel Aviv, and airlines have had to add extra flights on to meet demand. UAE airline FlyDubai is now operating and filling no less than four direct flights between the two cities every day – and this is all during a global pandemic! In contrast, there are no daily direct flights at the moment between Tel Aviv and Cairo – the capital of a country that signed a peace agreement with Israel over 40 years ago, neither is there any flights between Tel Aviv and Amman, which made peace with Israel over 25 years ago.
The agreement with the UAE is clearly a very different peace agreement to those we have seen previously.
The tourists from the UAE who have been visiting Israel have had some cases a mixed welcome in Israel, because although they have had a warm welcome from the Israelis, the Palestinians are looking on the normalization movement in horror. A group of Emirati businessmen visiting Tel Aviv took the opportunity to visit the Temple Mount and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, only to be met with a Palestinian protest shouting insults at them. Surely incidents like this will only push the UAE more towards Israel’s side?
The business communities in the two countries have also responded positively to the normalization and have been holding conferences to boost trade between the two countries. Having access to Dubai, which is already an established trade hub for the greater Middle East and beyond, will open up Israeli businesses, especially their tech businesses to markets they have never had access to before. This will be a real boost to the Israeli and UAE economies.
But why does this all matter? Turn over with me to Ezekiel 38, because here we have a snapshot of the politics of the time, leading up to the battle of Armageddon when Christ returns.
8 After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.
We have already seen Israel gathered out of many people, but we haven’t yet seen them dwell safely.
9 Thou shalt ascend and come like a storm, thou shalt be like a cloud to cover the land, thou, and all thy bands, and many people with thee.
10 Thus saith the Lord God; It shall also come to pass, that at the same time shall things come into thy mind, and thou shalt think an evil thought:
11 And thou shalt say, I will go up to the land of unwalled villages; I will go to them that are at rest, that dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates,
So again we are told Israel will be at peace at that time.
12 To take a spoil, and to take a prey; to turn thine hand upon the desolate places that are now inhabited, and upon the people that are gathered out of the nations, which have gotten cattle and goods, that dwell in the midst of the land.
We also see that they have “gotten cattle and goods”, and so they’re at peace and also wealthy.
13 Sheba, and Dedan, and the merchants of Tarshish, with all the young lions thereof, shall say unto thee, Art thou come to take a spoil? hast thou gathered thy company to take a prey? to carry away silver and gold, to take away cattle and goods, to take a great spoil?
14 Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord God; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it?
So the challenge is there, when Israel dwell safely, shalt thou not know it? Do we know these things?
Because come down to verse 18
18 And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God, that my fury shall come up in my face.
19 For in my jealousy and in the fire of my wrath have I spoken, Surely in that day there shall be a great shaking in the land of Israel;
So what we seem to be seeing is the beginning of the Muslim world to accept Israel, with the notable exception of Iran, which is one of the only nations in the Middle East that is listed as coming against Israel.
4 And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:
5 Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet:
So this division we see among the Muslim states, where the majority of them accept Israel, but Iran continues to stand against Israel is a situation that was prophecied back at the time of Ezekiel - we see that when Gog comes down against Israel, Iran (Persia) is listed, while most of the Middle East is not. Sheba and Dedan – mentioned in verse 13 who likely refer to the Gulf States and Saudi Arabia are clearly standing by the invasion and are not involved – they are no longer the enemies of Israel. Alongside them is, of course, Tarshish, which if you regularly listen to Bible in the News, you will know refers to Britain. This week we have continued to see negotiations for the exit of Britain from the EU; Britain too separating herself from the nations that we know will come against Israel at the time of the end.
All these things show us that we are moving quickly to the situation described in Ezekiel 38, meaning we cannot be far from the time of Christ’s return.
This has been Paul Barnes joining you.
Join us again next week for another edition of Bible in the News.