In an age largely devoid of politicians of stature, Binyamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu stands head and shoulders above the rest as a steadying influence on the world scene.
Elected to lead Israel for the fifth time in the past 23 years, he clearly commands wide respect and is seen as a figure of stability in a volatile region.
Paradoxically, though perhaps not surprisingly, the Likud Party leader is no pushover either. I guess that’s part of his secret.
Focusing on the paramount need of security for a nation hemmed in on all sides by enemies, he is perceived as a strong man who refuses to compromise with those who do not have his people’s best interests at heart.
So while it might seem he is being provocative with his apparent lack of commitment to a Palestinian state along with a determination never to see Jerusalem divided, these are in fact peaceful objectives.
For a Palestinian state on Israel’s doorstep is an open invitation for Hamas and Hezbollah to ‘walk all over’ the Jewish people with the explosive fury they are already expressing through rockets and other missiles on the Gaza border.
But Bibi is no doormat. Jews may have been led to the Nazi ovens like lambs to the slaughter, but never again. Their enemies have repeatedly made clear that they do not want peace; they don’t even want a ‘piece’ of the territory over which they are fighting. They want it all – “from the river to the sea”, a mantra even heard at the British Labour Party conference and on the streets of London during an annual march from which Hezbollah is now thankfully banned.
Even Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has shown sympathy for this slogan which effectively denies Israel’s right to exist.
So giving in to the demands of terrorists is not an option, and Bibi is thus seen as holding the best hopes of peace. By contrast, former Generals Ariel Sharon and Yitzhak Rabin both signed up to ‘land for peace’ accords which have only led to further violence.
But like Winston Churchill, Bibi is in no mood to appease bullies and has correctly perceived that the Ayatollahs of Iran mean what they say about wiping the Jewish state off the map.
We do not want another Holocaust, and it is high time British Christians realised that sitting on the fence over Israel is both cowardly and deadly. The Jewish nation is under severe threat and God will call us to account over the deafening silence on the issue generally expressed by the church at this time.
It was just over a year ago that Hamas launched its Great March of Return for the descendants of refugees claiming their land has been stolen, promising ‘peaceful’ protests which have instead sparked 2,000 violent incidents and 694 explosions, burnt up 9,000 acres of agricultural land and fired 1,323 rockets into Israel.
In the northern part of the country, meanwhile, the strategic Golan Heights is now the centre of fresh controversy following recognition of the region by U.S. President Trump as sovereign Israeli territory.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has condemned this move while at the same time acknowledging Israel as “a shining example of democracy in a part of the world where that is not common”.
But as the Gatestone Institute put it, “Israel’s continuing control over the Golan Heights increases the chance for peace and decreases the chances that Syria, Iran and Hezbollah will be able to use this high ground as a launching pad against Israelis.” Besides, they add, “no country in history has ever given back to a sworn enemy, militarily essential territory that has been captured in a defensive war.”
Meanwhile we await Donald Trump’s much-heralded ‘Deal of the Century’ with bated breath, though Bibi has already set out his ‘guidelines’ for the agreement on a visit to Washington, according to an interview with the editor of conservative Israeli weekly Makor Rishon – namely, that he will not accept any plan that uproots “even a single settlement or settler”; that “governance west of the Jordan River will remain in our hands”; and that he will not divide Jerusalem.
Another boost to Bibi’s position is the fact that the Saudis, along with other Sunni Arab leaders, are growing weary of Palestinian intransigence while at the same time strengthening their own ties with Israel.
Bibi has committed himself to a nationalist, stable, right-wing government working for all its citizens. In this respect I was intrigued to read a Jewish explanation for the origin of the political terms ‘left’ and ‘right-wing’ that are now, of course, used globally.
It began as a biblical concept reflecting the locations chosen by Abraham and Lot as they went their separate ways. Orientation in those days was not defined by one’s position in relation to the North Pole, but from facing East, where the sun rose and a new day began. So the Hebrew for west, for example, actually translates ‘behind’ while north and south stand for left and right. Thus Abraham went south (i.e. turned right towards Hebron) while Lot went north (i.e. turned left in the direction of Sodom).
Israel Today senior editor Aviel Schneider explains: “Lot chose (the well-watered Jordan plains) according to his senses and human understanding. Abraham trusted God, and was content with the south and with going ‘to the right’… Left-wing ideology is founded on logic, on what the eye can see, while right-wing ideology puts its trust in God. Left-wing politics are more likely to be humanistic, right-wing politics biblical.”
The rabbis and many Likud voters subscribe to this theory, he adds.
Not a very flattering concept for left-wingers, for sure. But then they are the ones promoting sodomy, right?
Perhaps it’s also a useful pointer to Britain’s troubles over Brexit. Even the Tories, who were once regarded as the party of the family, have made a significant left turn of late which has helped to sink the ship of state.
As an interesting postscript, Israel’s democracy is based on proportional representation which many, including me, believe to be fairer than the first-past-the-post system we have adopted, and citizens vote for a single political party rather than for individual candidates.
So please continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122.6), where the 120-seat Knesset (Parliament) is located.
Charles Gardner is author of Israel the Chosen, available from Amazon; Peace in Jerusalem, available from olivepresspublisher.com; and A Nation Reborn, available from Christian Publications International