In a surprising development, Israel and the UAE have made a peace deal, resulting in much joy but also controversy. What will it mean in practical terms for Israel? And what about prophetically? Is this a good thing or the beginning of the end?
The municipal building in Tel Aviv lit up with the UAE flag, and Israelis joked on Facebook, “Where can you get the best burger in Abu Dhabi?” We are in for a major change, as travel between the two countries suddenly has become possible thanks to the deal brokered by the Trump administration. Arabs were singing Hebrew Shabbat songs on social media and the president of Israel invited the Crown Prince for a visit to Jerusalem.
What has happened?
Unlike the peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt, this deal includes “normalisation” with Israel. This means that they are not simply promising to hold back on hostilities, but they will extend friendly ties such as those with European countries and the US, including freedom of travel and trade.
For those who have been paying attention, the deal is not as surprising as it might have been ten or twenty years ago. Covert cooperation has been underway for some time and warm words have been exchanged between various gulf nations and Israel over the last few years. In some ways it was not a matter of if, but when – and who would go first. Certainly other Arab nations such as Oman, Egypt and Bahrain have been openly supportive of the deal, with other countries like Morocco, Sudan and even Lebanon eyeing the possibility of following suit. This has been the cause of much consternation among Palestinian leaders who fear they are losing leverage in negotiations with Israel.
One of the key aspects of the deal is that Benjamin Netanyahu, who was positioning himself to annex parts of the West Bank, has agreed to put those plans on hold. For many this is a relief, since the implications of such a unilateral action would have many serious implications for the whole region. However, there was no promise to abandon the idea completely, which has infuriated many Palestinians. Certainly, there are winners and losers in this deal, as listed by Hillel Neuer from UN Watch:
Winners in the Israel-UAE peace deal:
🇮🇱🕎 Israelis, Jews
🇦🇪☪️ Arabs, Muslims
🌍☮️ Entire peace-loving world
🇮🇷☢️ Islamic Republic of Iran
🏴☠️💣 Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, PLO, ISIS
🇺🇳🗣️ U.N. Human Rights Council which fuels conflict https://t.co/P7QJg7rDcO
— Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) August 13, 2020
“The exact suspects that you would expect to hate this deal, hate this deal,” best-selling author and Middle East expert Joel Rosenberg told CBN News.1
Speaking shortly after the news broke, Netanyahu explained why he thought it was an important step forward:
“Peace is a good thing and peace unites moderates, two of the most advanced economies in the world – Israel and the United Arab Emirates… We’re fighting Iran and the radicals who are trying to overthrow our order in the Middle East, subjugate people, propagate terrorism. So, this is good for peace, good for security, good for prosperity. I think it’s good for the United States and good for Israel.”2
The Bible, prophecy, and peace deals
Speculations have been doing the rounds that this might be the “deal with death” spoken of by the prophet Isaiah (28:18) and we know that ultimately the Antichrist will make a seven-year covenant of peace with Israel which he will later renege upon (Daniel 9:27). Is this that?
It’s important when considering prophecy to think both long term and short term, both God’s expressed plans for the world and God’s expressed will for our lives and behavior.
Seeking peace is a good and right thing to do. That is not to say that this deal might not be a stepping stone to later developments which will ultimately lead to a “deal of death,” but these matters are in God’s hands and will surely come to pass in time regardless of any action on our part. It would be wrong to seek to hurry along prophecy, but it is right to act ethically in the present, in line with God’s heart and will, even if later developments end up twisting things for evil.
King David, who wrote prophetically in so many of his Psalms, exhorts us in this way:
“Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:15).
Yeshua the Messiah Himself said,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
The Bible repeatedly conveys God’s desire that we would be peacemakers, doing our best to live at peace with everyone. In fact, the Hebrew expression in Psalm 34 implies running and chasing peace, almost hunting it down. In short: we should bust a gut to live at peace. Our God is a God of shalom, the Prince of Peace, and we should do all we can to emulate Him.
There are also Scriptural reasons to be encouraged by the new links of peace forming in the South with several positive references to Sheba and Dedan (the Persian Gulf area) in relation to Israel in Bible prophecy. One example is from Isaiah 60:6, with similar hints in Psalm 72:10 and Ezekiel 27. It has even been noted that the great apocalyptic war of God and Magog described in Ezekiel 38 suggests that a coalition of southern nations would be attacked along with Israel by the invasion from the north, as Joel Richardson points out.
Interestingly enough the rearranging of friendships and alliances in the Middle East is confirming Daniel 11 which describes a conflict between the Antichrist, who is referred to as the king of the north, with a coalition of nations aligned with the king of the south (Egypt).
Certainly, we will all be keeping an eye on developments and shifts in the Middle East with a Bible close at hand. In the meantime, how about that Abu Dhabi burger?