Benjamin Netanyahu is on a mission. Over the next several months, Israel’s new prime minister aims to convince world leaders of the imminent danger Iran poses to Western civilization. Shortly before he was sworn in on March 31, Netanyahu told the Atlantic that besides fixing the economy, Washington’s other primary imperative must be to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
“You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs,” Netanyahu said of the Islamist theocracy.
Should the Obama administration fail to stop Iran, Netanyahu said, Israel might be forced to preemptively strike the Islamic Republic.
Since the Bible affirms that Europe—not Israel or the United States—will ultimately smash the Iran-led “king of the south” (Daniel 11:40), in some ways, Israel’s hawkish threats against Tehran might distract us from other, far more consequential events, prophetically speaking.
The Bible says the spectacular clash between the European “king of the north” and radical Islam will primarily revolve around Jerusalem. It’s the division of Jerusalem, not Iran’s quest for nuclear power, that will trigger the next worldwide war.
The Inevitable Clash
“Behold, the day of the Lord cometh,” Zechariah wrote in a prophecy for the end time. “For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (Zechariah 14:1-2).
In the vision, the prophet begins with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and then works his way back to describe events that immediately precede the Messiah’s appearance on Earth. Before all nations gather to fight against Christ at His return, Jerusalem “shall be taken”—conquered by the European conglomerate. This event, signaling the beginning of what the Bible calls the Great Tribulation, occurs shortly after Europe’s whirlwind attack against radical Islam.
Shortly before that clash between the kings of the north and south, Zechariah says half of Jerusalem will “go forth into captivity,” indicating the city will be divided by some kind of violent struggle. What this prophecy indicates is that a Hamas-dominated Palestinian insurgence, backed by Iran, will take half the city of Jerusalem captive.
The Israeli-Islamist clash over Jerusalem is what we need to be watching for next.
For the past decade, at times it appeared as if Israel would willingly give up East Jerusalem at the negotiating table. In December of 2005, a poll published by Yedioth Ahronoth found that about half of Israelis supported the idea of giving up parts of Arab East Jerusalem if it would solidify a peace deal with the Palestinians.
Even before he became prime minister, Ehud Olmert said that Israel would someday have to give up its dream of an eternally united Jerusalem under Jewish sovereignty. After one month in office, one of Olmert’s colleagues in Kadima told the Associated Press that Olmert’s government was devising a plan for dividing Jerusalem.
Compare that with where we suddenly are today. What a difference three years makes, as Pierre Atlas wrote March 27 for Real Clear Politics, contrasting Israel’s new government with Ehud Olmert’s. Atlas noted that in 2006, most Israelis supported the unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and much of the Knesset favored withdrawing from parts of the West Bank. At the time, the right-wing Likud party, which opposed unilateral withdrawals, suffered most as a result of the electorate’s mood. It lost 26 of its 38 seats in the 2006 parliamentary elections.
“No one could have imagined then that, three years later,” Atlas wrote, “Netanyahu would be forming the next Israeli government.”
Actually, shortly before those 2006 elections, as our regular readers know, our editor in chief mentioned on his weekly Key of David television program that Benjamin Netanyahu would likely return to power in Israel because of the prophecy in Zechariah 14:2. He said half of Jerusalem is “going to be taken by force, and you need to realize that. Now, that might also indicate that the Likud, or the conservative party, will get in power” (Jan. 6, 2006).
With a right-wing coalition now in power in Israel, that brings us one giant prophetic leap closer to the inevitable clash over Jerusalem.
The Fight for the City of David
In sharp contrast to his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu campaigned for prime minister on keeping Jerusalem united. At a campaign stop at the Regency Hotel on Mt. Scopus, Netanyahu said, “If we gave up half of Jerusalem, there would be an Iranian base right near this hotel.”
International scorn for this harder-line stance has been intense. In early March, for example, Israel was blasted for its proposal to expand an archaeology park in the City of David, which would require the demolition of dozens of Palestinian homes that have been constructed there illegally over the past 20 years. This in spite of the fact that, under the plan, not only would East Jerusalem wastelands be converted into beautiful gardens and parks, but the illegal residents would also be given generous compensation packages, which would include relocation land.
During her March visit to the region, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said any plan that calls for the demolition of Palestinian homes would not help the peace process.
Nir Barkat, Jerusalem’s new mayor, criticized Clinton for being duped by Palestinian propaganda. The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of “ethnically cleansing” East Jerusalem in order to “Judaize” the city.
The European Union has also harshly criticized Israel. According to a confidential EU report that was leaked to the media in March, EU officials have accused Israel of “actively pursuing the illegal annexation” of East Jerusalem (emphasis ours).
Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has vowed to push ahead with this multiyear development plan even as critics lambaste the government for making it harder to divide Jerusalem as part of any two-state solution. One official from Netanyahu’s office who defended the government’s position told the Times of London, “Jerusalem has been the eternal capital of the Jewish people for some 3,000 years and will remain the united capital of the State of Israel.”
Mayor Barkat, like Prime Minister Netanyahu, supports keeping Jerusalem united. Under the direction of Barkat, Jerusalem authorities recently sent eviction notices to 90 families in East Jerusalem near the Old City, warning that because their homes had been built without proper council approval, they would be demolished.
In an interview with the Jerusalem Post, Barkat defended the municipality’s plans for the city by saying, “I would like to see what [New York Mayor Michael] Bloomberg would say about illegal building in Central Park. Would he give up Central Park because there is illegal building there?”
The battle for the City of David, located in the Arab neighborhood of Silwan, is a microcosm of a larger struggle that will soon thrust the entire city of Jerusalem into a boiling cauldron of hatred and violence.
Becoming a War Zone
Tension between Palestinians and Jews increased substantially after the Gaza war in January. It intensified further after the elections of Prime Minister Netanyahu and Mayor Barkat. Many right-wing Jewish movements, invigorated by the new government’s refusal to cave in to Palestinian ambition, are experiencing a renaissance.
This is not to imply that the Palestinian cause is flailing. In fact, it too is gaining steam, thanks to increasing direct and indirect support from the international community—most notably from the American administration of Barack Obama.
Jerusalem, especially East Jerusalem, is quickly deteriorating into a war zone!
Consider a few recent events. On April 2, in the West Bank town of Bat Ayin near East Jerusalem, a Palestinian brandishing a pickax hacked a 13-year-old Israeli boy to death and wounded his 7-year-old friend. Islamic terrorist groups Islamic Jihad and the Imad Mughniyeh Group claimed responsibility for the murder, warning ominously that it was merely a “natural response to the crimes of the occupation.”
The same day, at about 2 a.m. in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City, seven Jewish settlers broke into the home of Nasser Jaber, a Palestinian businessman who had moved out of the home while renovations were being done. Claiming they owned the house, the settlers replaced the locks and took over the home.
In April, a Palestinian man driving a car tried to run over Israeli police officers. The police, who were monitoring the demolition of the Jerusalem home of the Palestinian terrorist who killed three Israelis in a bulldozer rampage last July, shot the man dead. Afterward, a scuffle erupted between police officers and dozens of angry Palestinians who sympathized with both the driver of the vehicle and the terrorist whose house was being bulldozed.
The next day, a spokesman from Hamas’s military wing delivered a prophetically electrifying response to Israel’s efforts to defend itself against illegal Arab intrusions. Hamas official Abu Ubayda “threatened Israel of an ‘explosion’ if it continues to consolidate control of Jerusalem,” the Ma’an News Agency reported. Ubayda also warned that “the Judaization of Jerusalem and threat to the iconic al-Aqsa Mosque could provoke reprisals.”
Jerusalem’s cobbled streets are rumbling, tension is mounting, war is brewing. This is sobering. But it is also incredibly exciting.
This intensifying conflict will result in the prophesied division of Jerusalem, which is the trigger that will set off a rapid-fire sequence of events culminating in the return of the Messiah to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:4).
“When half of Jerusalem falls,” editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote in March 2006, “it starts a chain reaction of events—an avalanche of crises—that leads directly to Christ’s Second Coming!” This is why—even during economic, political, social and personal calamity—we must not take our eyes off Jerusalem.
Events in that city are the measure of how close we are to the most awesome event in human history!
Logically, Jesus’s focus right now is on ensuring Jerusalem, His landing pad, is ready for His return. In a spectacular way, conditions in Jerusalem today—politically, demographically, economically, even archaeologically—are aligning just as Christ described in the Bible 2,000 years ago!
We need to watch Jerusalem closer than ever. Even now, events in that city indicate that the Messiah’s return is imminent, and that the time rapidly approaches when He will transform Jerusalem into exactly what its name means: a city of PEACE!
Study Zechariah’s prophecy in detail in our free booklet Jerusalem in Prophecy, specifically Chapter 3. •