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Road Map to Peace, or Highway to Antichrist and War?
An Interview with Marvin J. Rosenthal
By David Ettinger,
Writer/Copy Editor, Zion’s Fire Magazine
Published in Zion’s Fire Magazine in May/June, 2003

ZION’S FIRE: What is the general background to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

MARV ROSENTHAL: To understand the origin of the conflict you really have to go back to the year 1947. It was in that year that when the United Nations voted to partition what at that time was called Palestine into two nations – an Arab-Palestinian nation and a Jewish nation. U.N. staff drew lines dividing the land between the major Arab population and the major Jewish population. Obviously, there was some overlapping: some Jews lived in what was to become an Arab nation and some Arabs lived in what was to become a Jewish nation. But the idea was, to the degree that it was possible, to keep the Arab populations where they were located, and the Jewish populations where they were located. The better land – and the largest piece of the land in the division process – was to be given to the Palestinians. The United Nations passed the resolution dividing the land in 1947. It was to officially occur on May 14, 1948.

The Jews were given far less than what they were originally promised by the British, who controlled Palestine following the First World War when they captured it from the Ottoman-Turkish Empire. But the Jewish people said, “OK, we’ll compromise and take less than what we’ve been promised.” And so, on May 14, 1948, in perfect conformity with the United Nations resolution, the Jewish people in the land declared themselves a nation among the nations of the world. In marked contrast to and direct defiance of the United Nations resolution, six Arab nations – Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and Iraq – with significant support of the Palestinians, invaded Israel in what was called the War of Independence.

The war began in 1948 and ended in 1949. During the invasion, many of the Palestinians withdrew from the areas where they lived among the Jews. They weren’t driven out, they chose to do so. Many withdrew in support of the invading Arab armies. Those who stayed, today numbering more than a million, are Israeli citizens and prospering far beyond many Arabs in the surrounding Arab countries.

Moving forward in time to 1967, in the Six Day War, which was fought for national survival, the Israeli army captured from the Jordanians what is often called “the West Bank” (so called because it is on the western side or bank of the Jordan River). In the Bible, it is the land area that is called Judea and Samaria. Israel also captured the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Sinai desert and Gaza Strip from Egypt, the latter a small parcel of land along the Mediterranean coast. As a result, from 1967 to the present hour, what was to be a Palestinian state has been under Israeli control.

During the years of negotiations, Israel has given up about 90 percent of the land area to Yasser Arafat and the Palestinians – including the cities of Jericho, Hebron, and Bethlehem – to become part of a Palestinian state. But the reality is that there never was a Palestinian state, not in all of history. That area intended to become a Palestinian state was controlled from 1948 until 1967 by the Jordanians. Before that it was controlled by the British (1917-1947), and before that by the Ottoman-Turkish Empire for four hundred years (1517-1917).

We can trace history to the dawn of civilization and we will never find a Palestinian state. It is a myth created by the Arabs in the twentieth century for political purposes. Therefore, technically, there is no occupation by Israel of the Palestinian state. They were given an opportunity for statehood by the U.N. and rejected it. Someone has said that “once a lie gets a head start, it’s hard for the truth to catch up.” A Palestinian state has never existed.

But in terms of the present reality, the fact remains that there exists a large Arab population living in the West Bank and Gaza whose claims for territory and statehood threaten the security and very existence of the Jewish state.

ZF: Regarding the Road Map, why is there such an urgency now to establish a Palestinian state by 2005?

MR: I think it was Abba Eban, who, when Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said, “The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” The United Nations, in their 1947 partition plan, gave to the Palestinians more territory than they can potentially get from this new Road Map to peace, and they turned it down.

On several occasions, two Israeli prime ministers made great concessions and put their nation at great risk to allow for a Palestinian state, and again they turned it down. At least on three occasions from 1947 up to the present hour, the Palestinians had an opportunity to have their own homeland, and each time they turned it down. You see, the existence of a homeland for the Palestinians is only part of the equation. The other part is that Islamic extremism – and it is widespread – cannot stand the thought of a Jewish state anywhere in the world, but particularly in the Middle East. The real road block to peace is not Israel’s opposition to a Palestinian state, but the Arab world’s opposition to the existence of a Jewish state.

I think the significance of our State Department and our President’s Road Map to Peace initiated at this time, in large measure, comes out of the recent Iraq war. The fact that our military went in – so powerfully, so dynamically, so successfully, so quickly – and won such a resounding military victory, that the might of America’s military capability was evidenced. That astounding show of strength put a great deal of fear into countries like Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia. The United States is not a paper tiger and we now have a president who is not afraid to open the cage and let the tiger out. That single deed has created a totally new environment in the Middle East and entire world. I think that President Bush wanted to seize the day and use the victory in Iraq to try and establish a peace (between the Israelis and Palestinians). For his first 18 months in office, President Bush did not get directly involved with peace initiatives in the Middle East. But now, because of the stark demonstrations of America’s military might, he is putting his reputation on the line.

Many of the Arab countries realize that they can be next, particularly Iran or Syria. The Middle East Arab nations don’t want a large American military presence in the Middle East, and therefore, a possible way to minimize that would be to establish a peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

ZF: With everything else that is happening around the world, why is there so much focus on Israel and the Palestinians, especially from the other sponsors of the Road Map, the United Nations, European Union, and Russia?

MR: In biblical terms, God said that Jerusalem was the hub of the earth: “At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 3:17). By design, he made it such. When there is peace in Jerusalem and Israel there will be peace in the world. Until that happens, though, there will not be peace in the world. You’re talking about the Middle East, where you have a sea of Arab-Islamic nations and the very small nation of Israel in the midst of that sea.

Israel is a democracy, very pro-West, and there is a train of thought that believes that if there is going to be a global war, it’s not going to be ignited in Africa, Asia, or Europe, but will happen in Israel. I think the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations are all concerned that a peace be worked out. In terms of this Road Map to Peace, it is a little ludicrous to me that if you look at the record of the European Union, you will find that they have consistently been pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. If you look at the Soviet Union, they have so many of their own provinces that are largely Islamic in population that they have been consistently pro-Palestinian. The United Nations is beyond shame in its uneven, unbalanced, immoral treatment of Israel as compared to her Arab-Palestinian neighbors.

The Israeli state has five-and-one-half million Jews. Muslims number more than a billion. Who do you think would make a better trading partner? Add to that the fact that Muslim nations control most of the world’s oil reserves. So, apart from America, which still makes some morally correct decisions, the deck is stacked against Israel.

It was somewhat surprising that the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, would buy into this Road Map to Peace. I think the only reason it happened is because Ariel Sharon really isn’t a committed ideological conservative. The conservative element in Israel is largely opposed to the Road Map to Peace. The Likud Party, to which Sharon belongs, would normally be largely opposed to the peace plan. Sharon has signed on to the plan precisely because he is not ideologically a strong conservative. He’s more of a pragmatist. He was a field general and is now a politician. As a pragmatist he has become convinced that Israel cannot continue to occupy the West Bank. It will, to his thinking, lead nowhere. Therefore, from a pragmatic position, he’s saying, “Let’s try this.” However, I would hasten to add that many Israelis are scared to death because they see the deck stacked against them. They are worried about many of the ingredients of this so-called Road Map to Peace.

ZF: The stated goal of the Road Map to Peace is, by 2005, to have independent Israeli and Palestinian states existing side-by-side in peace. What are the chances of this succeeding?

MR: I’ll make two observations. First, I think you may wind up with two nations in this process. You may end up at the end of the road, perhaps, seeing a Palestinian state alongside an Israeli state. Secondly, the last part of that question has to do with peace. The plan is called the “Road Map to Peace.” In my opinion, it’s not going to be a road map to peace, but a highway to Antichrist and war. I don’t say that from a political perspective, but I say it from a biblical and a theological perspective.

Israel is being called on, right up front, to commit to the reality of a Palestinian state. That’s a giant leap of faith. And the Israelis want to make sure that it is not a leap of faith in the dark, because it is dependent on the faithfulness of other nations. They’re being asked to commit to an Arab-Palestinian state. They would be willing to take the risk if they felt that it would be a state that would live next to her as a good neighbor, where they would not have to worry about terrorists or war. So it’s a major leap.

In terms of the Palestinians, they have to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist within safe and secure borders and it’s hard to expect that will come to fruition. I’ve been very supportive of our President and I don’t want to be misconstrued. But I’ve heard him repeatedly speak of not allowing a “few terrorists” to stop this peace process. If you look at a dictionary, a “few” is not a very large number. The reality is that, within the Islamic world, you have tens of millions of people who have an in-depth, insatiable hatred for the Jew and for the Jewish state. Within the framework of the Palestinians, you have to understand that, for almost 55 years, the children who have been born and raised in that environment have been taught to passionately hate the Jewish people. Their textbooks are replete with teaching that the Jews stole their land and mistreated them. On many of my trips to Israel I have seen these books. They contain math problems that say something like, “There are ten Jews and you machine-gun seven of them to death, how many more do you have to shoot to kill all ten?” When you get children who have been brought up in that kind of environment, and you now have over fifty years of that kind of environment, the hatred for the Jewish people and Israel is deep and wide. To all of a sudden say to many of the Palestinians and extremists in the surrounding Muslim nations, “You’ve got to be good neighbors, permit a Jewish state, and stop the terrorist activity,” you’re not simply talking about a few extremists.

According to the clear teaching of the Islamic religion – and I’m concerned because politically the attempt is not to condemn the entire Islamic world, but to make a distinction between the extremists and peace-loving Islamic people – the reality is that there are tens-of-millions of fundamentalist Muslims in the world who, by virtue of their religion, have a hatred of the Jewish people. I would argue that this hatred goes all the way back to the beginning of Genesis, with Abraham and his sons, Isaac, and Ishmael. It’s a deep-seated, widespread hatred. This hatred is spiritual in nature and stands in opposition to the true and living God and to His Son, the Lord Jesus. It is in opposition to God’s plan and program for redemption, which revolves around the Jewish people, who were the instrument to bring Christ to the world the first time, and it is to that people that He will come as King the second time.

This all has direct and primary spiritual implications, and when the question arises, “Does the peace plan have a chance to succeed?” my answer is clear and resounding “No.” It doesn’t have a chance to succeed. Perhaps we could wish it were otherwise, but such is not the case.

ZF: What is the biblical basis for your conclusion?

MR: I’m not a politician and I’m not a statesman, but I try to follow what’s going on in the Middle East rather closely. There are many opinions as to what caused the problems and how to solve them. But, if I go to the Word of God, I think it’s very clear that the Lord Jesus said in Luke, chapter 21, that Jerusalem will be “trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (v. 24). The “trodding down” began with the Babylonian captivity in the book of Daniel. The “times of the Gentiles” is depicted in the great image of Daniel Chapter 2. It’s also depicted in the four ravenous beasts – representing the Babylonians, the Medo-Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans – of Daniel Chapter 7. The point is that no divinely-appointed Jewish king from the lineage of David would be ruling over Israel while they were under Gentile domination.

Historically, in the fullness of time, Jesus came into the world. He was the Davidic King, if Israel had repented of her sin. He could have ruled over Israel and the “times of the Gentiles” would have ended. But Israel rejected Him, and, therefore, He said Jerusalem would continue to be “trodden down” by the nations, and they have been. The Romans ruled for the first few centuries after the death of Christ. They were followed by the Byzantines, then Islam, the Seljuks, the Christian Crusaders, the Mamluks from Egypt, the Turks, and the British. And just as the Word of God declares, this is the “times of the nations” when no divinely-appointed Jewish king would be ruling over Israel. The Lord said that would continue until His return as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. In that capacity, He will rule the world from Jerusalem.

The Bible is very clear that at the mid-point of Daniel’s Seventieth Week, there is going to be great tribulation starting in Israel and spreading out from there as we approach the end of the age. The Antichrist is going to direct persecution against the Jewish nation in particular. And many are going to flee Jerusalem. The Lord taught, in the context of the end of the age, that a remnant of Jews is going to flee into the wilderness. We’re also told in the Olivet Discourse in Matthew 24 and 25, Mark 13, and Luke 21 that armies are going to encompass Jerusalem. We are told in Daniel Chapter 9 that, as we approach the very end of the age, the Antichrist is going to make a covenant to protect Israel for seven years and, in the midst of that seven years, he’s going to break the covenant and that will institute the Great Tribulation. So, on the one hand, we’re told that, at the end of the age, there’s going to be bloodshed, war, and killing. It’s going to be a horrendous time. It will spread to much of the world, but it will be centered in Jerusalem. But on the other hand, even to the time leading up to the end, the Lord makes it very clear that Jerusalem is going to be ruled over by foreign powers.

I think good men always want to strive for peace. I don’t fault our government for striving for peace – to try to reach some kind of settlement over there – but from a biblical and theological standpoint, it is very clear that there will not be any peace. This Road Map to Peace may very well be the catalyst to move nations and governments into place in preparation for a world ruler who will confirm a covenant with Israel for peace. It should be noted that the Bible refers to that covenant as a “covenant of death” (Isaiah 28:15). Israel will think that she’s participating in a covenant of peace, but won’t realize with whom she’s making the covenant. It will be the Antichrist himself. How tragic that she rejected the true Christ at His first coming and she will mistakenly embrace the false Christ at the nearing of the Lord’s second coming. It’s going to cause the most horrendous period of human history. It is that event – “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7) – that will bring Israel to her knees and prepare her to receive her glorious King.

So, while I’m a supporter of our President, and I think we should be working toward peace in the Middle East, I also think it was a major error by our State Department to bring on board the European Union, United Nations, and Russia. They have consistently been anti-Israel and do not have, at this hour, the capacity to make moral decisions. The things that have to be achieved in the Road Map by both Israel and the Palestinians, in my view, will not succeed. Politicians are saying things like, “I feel more encouraged now than I have in years,” and “this may be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for,” I don’t believe it will succeed. Some kind of peace agreement may, in fact, be reached, but I don’t think it will be real or enduring, nor will it bring peace.

ZF: Though there is optimism now, somewhere down the road – in 2004 or 2005 – there are going to be some very sticky issues that need to be dealt with. What are some of those issues?

MR: This gets to the heart of the matter. First, however, a word about the up-front things that are required by the plan. Israel must approve the establishment of a Palestinian state and be willing to dismantle and withdraw from some of her settlements in the West Bank.

The settlement issue causes monumental problems for Israel because a lot of those people who have settled in the West Bank have done so for religious reasons. They believe that God gave the land to Israel as an everlasting inheritance. Those people settled there during a time of great hardship. There are others who are Zionists and strongly believe that they have a right to be there. More than fifty thousand live in the West Bank and hundreds of thousands of Israelis support their right to live there. For the Israeli government to enforce the Road Map to Peace, she must forcibly extract many of these people from their homes. She must freeze other settlements – which means they can’t build any more houses. For those Israelis who remain, they will be living in an area surrounded by Arabs if an Arab-Palestinian state is established.

On the other hand, for the Arabs to say, “We believe that Israel has the right to live in a country with secure borders,” is to do an “about-face” after more than fifty years. To put an end to terrorist activity is going to be a very hard thing to accomplish. You’ve got terrorist groups, and they’re not going to necessarily listen to the (Palestinian) government. These are some of the major up-front issues.

But these issues, though extremely sensitive and difficult, are potentially doable. The really complex issues, which don’t get addressed until 2005, have to do with about one million Arabs who fled when Israel became a nation and now number three-and-one-half million. The Palestinians are pushing for them to be able to return to Israel. According to the “Road Map to Peace,” this is an issue that must be addressed. If you’re going to settle that many Arabs in the boundaries of Israel, you’re going to sink the ship. There are about five-and-one-half million Jews living in Israel today. There are currently about a million Arab citizens in Israel. But if you brought about two or three million more into the land, that would destroy the Jewish state. The typical Israeli family has one-and-a-half children. The typical Arab family has six to eight children. In fifteen years, the Arab citizen population would outnumber the Jewish citizen population, so they (the Arabs) could vote for anything they want and vote as a bloc. Therefore, it is almost the same as national suicide to say that they’re going to allow two or more million Arabs into Israel. But that’s part of the peace plan.

But the even bigger part of the plan is the dividing up of Jerusalem. The Jewish people believe that Jerusalem is their eternal capital. Because the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are in Jerusalem, Arabs say it is the third-most holy site in the world for Islam after Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Therefore, they want it to be the capital of the new Palestinian state. So, the big issue is, and has always been, who’s going to control Jerusalem? Who’s going to control the Temple Mount? The Temple Mount is the place where the Second Temple stood and the place from which Christ will rule at His Second Coming. The peace plan would divide Jerusalem. East Jerusalem would be the potential Palestinian capital. But because that’s where the Temple Mount is, orthodox Jews will be enraged at the prospect of giving it up.

The so-called resettling of Arab refugees and the status of Jerusalem are the two biggest issues. The framers of the Road Map are deliberately not addressing these issues with the hope that significant progress will be made before they have to deal with them. The hope is that if progress can be made early, then the thorny issues will be easier to deal with in 2005. I don’t think that’s going to be the case. Again, I say that this is not going to be a road map to peace, but a highway to war, and I would even go beyond that to suggest that it will be a road map to the emergence of the Antichrist.

According to my study of the Word of God, I believe that we had to see not only the emergence of the modern-day nation of Israel in the last days, but we also had to see the re-emergence of Iran, Iraq, and Syria. Biblically, that would be Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The three major antagonists of Israel today are Iraq – though their immediate threat has been diminished in the recent war, and we don’t know what the end will be. In Iran we’re very concerned about their development of weapons of mass destruction – and Syria. We’ve seen the emergence of these nations. All that is unfolding in the Middle East is like the movement of the furniture behind the curtain in preparation for the curtain going up and the outworking of end-time events.

I believe very strongly that the things we are seeing are precursors to end-time events and will lead to the Antichrist and war.

ZF: What kind of pressure will be put on Israel to compromise and make concessions?

MR: When you talk about the European Union, you must remember that Israel is dependent on the EU for exports. Israel is one of the few nations of the world that grows more agriculturally than she consumes. Her major market for exports is the European Union. If the EU doesn’t like the road that Israel is taking, it can put all kinds of economic pressure against her. Israel also is the largest exporter of diamonds in the world. In the area of high tech, Israel is among the leaders in the world. She doesn’t mine the diamonds, but gets them from South Africa and Russia. But Israel has the best diamond cutters in the world. She purchases the diamonds, cuts them, polishes them, designs jewelry, and exports it all over the world. It is anticipated that some state-of-the-art computer/medical-related equipment and programs will emerge from Israel in the next eighteen months. All these countries have to do is say, “You can’t trade with us,” and it’s very easy for Europe, the United Nations, and Russia to put tremendous pressure on Israel. That’s what’s been done and is being done. Regarding the United Nations, Israel is the only nation on the face of the earth that cannot sit on the Security Council. In contrast, extreme, radical-Islamic nations can. It’s insane, but it’s true. The United Nations has never been a friend of Israel. And Russia can also bring pressure on Israel. As a Quartet, the EU, the U.N., Russia, and America can bring extreme pressure on Israel economically, politically, and militarily.

ZF: It is obvious that the United Nations sides with the Arab-Palestinian world. Why, however, does the European Union, which is mostly democratic, side with the Arab-Palestinian world, as well?

MR: Somebody once said that “oil is thicker than blood.” There are about five-and-one-half million Jews living in Israel. In the Islamic world there are well over a billion Muslims. They are trade partners with the European Union. Would you rather have a market with five-and-one-half million or a market of a billion?.

I’m afraid that Americans in general, and Christians in particular, often don’t realize that nations today do not make decisions based on what is right or wrong. They don’t make decisions based on truth, or historical precedent. They make decisions based on what is best for them. When you’ve got a nation like France that has about seven or eight million Muslims living there, and millions of Muslims living in Germany – countries that have major contracts with Iraq – instead of saying who is right and who is wrong, or that, “Yes, Iraq poses a threat,” they look at self-interest, and they make decisions based on economics. If it had not been for America – her veto power in the U.N., her economic support, her military help with equipment – Israel would have ceased to exist.

ZF: Even if peace could be made between Israel and the Palestinians, would the rest of the world support it?

MR: An anti-Israel position is built into Islam. The fact that you have a Jewish nation in an area that was at one time in history controlled by the Islamic world is quite literally like a bone stuck in the throat that they can’t extricate. I’ve been in the West Bank and Jordan many times in the last thirty years. There are some Palestinians who just want to live in peace, they just want to work their farms and raise their children. But they’re caught between a rock and a hard place. The unfortunate reality is that there are other large numbers of Palestinians who simply don’t want Israel to exist.

While you may get a country like Saudi Arabia to say, “We’re going to support this Road Map to Peace,” part of that comes out of American muscle right now. The truth is that if a Christian goes to Saudi Arabia and gives out a tract, he can go to jail for a long time. Give out a Bible or print a Bible and you’ll go to jail for a longer time. Try to buy property to build a church, and it will never happen. But the flip side of that is Muslims can come to America, buy property, and build Islamic mosques. I find it ironic that there are three Islamic mosques in the greater Orlando area that are religious, not-for-profit entities that don’t have to pay property taxes. And here we are, Zion’s Hope and The Holy Land Experience – a Christian, Bible-believing mission that clearly conforms to U.S. not-for-profit laws committed to sharing the Gospel of Christ – and we’re in a court battle right now to appeal the property appraiser’s attempt to revoke our existing property tax exemption.

So, Muslims can come here, build mosques and distribute literature, print the Koran, and propagate their faith, and be tax exempt, but we can’t do any of that in the Islamic world. Talk about a level playing field, this is about as unlevel as you can get.

But to get back on track with the question . . . much of Islam hates Israel in particular, and the democracies of the West in general – the former because of the Old Testament, and the later because of the New Testament. Islam’s hatred of Israel and the West is spiritual in nature. I’m convinced that when you talk about the final attack against Israel at the end of the age, contrary to a lot of Bible teachers and theologians, I don’t believe it’s going to predominantly be an attack that comes from Rome or a revived Roman Empire. Rather, it’s going to primarily be an Islamic coalition. Ezekiel 38 and 39 give us some of the nations involved. I think there may be an alliance between Islamic countries, some Western European nations like Germany and France, and Russia. It will be a uniting of the iron and clay depicted in the feet and toes of Daniel’s image (Daniel, chapter 2).

ZF: From your understanding of biblical prophecy, where do you see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict heading?

MR: I don’t know if I can say where it’s heading, but I did allude to the fact that there could be some kind of peace that is forged out of this. We could see a couple of years of moving ahead with this Road Map to Peace, and there could be some positive signs early on. However, my view is that the Road Map will not achieve peace, that there’s going to be conflict, and the conflict will be far broader than the Israelis and Palestinians. These movements will ultimately lead to a coalition of Islamic nations and others that are going to wage war with Israel. That’s why I’ve been saying that this is not going to be a road map to peace, but a highway to Antichrist and war. I can’t dot all the i’s or cross all the t’s, I don’t have answers to all the details. However, as I look at the prophetic scriptures, and examine world events against those Scriptures, I am convinced that these events have direct prophetic significance. We are getting a daily running commentary on Israel and the Middle East politically, however, we hear nothing about the theological implications, and the Middle East is a theological issue. It is as old as Abraham and his two sons, Ishmael and Isaac – the former, the son of the flesh, and the latter, the son of faith.

ZF: What is your final word on the issue?

MR: One thing we need to remember is this: That there will be no peace in Israel until Jesus returns. He is from the tribe of Judah and the family of King David. As such, He is the legitimate King of the Jews. It’s in that capacity that He will judge wickedness and bring in peace. After all, He alone bears the name Sar Shalom. He is the Prince of Peace.

Road Map to Peace, or Highway to Antichrist and War?
An Interview with Marvin J. Rosenthal
Published in Zion’s Fire Magazine in May/June, 2003