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Israel and Hamas: what’s different this time?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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A Palestinian demonstrator wearing a rosary holds a stone during minor clashes with Israeli troops in protest against Israel's military operation in the Gaza Strip, in the West Bank village of Bir Zeit, near Ramallah, November 19, 2012 (Credit: Reuters/Mohamad Torokman)

Israel and Hamas are locked in another conflict.  While this may seem like another chapter of the same story, four factors make this battle different from any Middle East conflict in the past.

By way of background, “Hamas” (an acronym for “Islamic Resistance Movement”) was founded by Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood in 1987.  Their charter calls for the destruction of IsraelIn 2006, the group won elections in Gaza; shortly afterwards, Egypt and Israel closed Gaza’s borders to hinder Hamas’ military build-up.  In December 2008, Israel launched “Operation Cast Lead” to prevent Hamas from continuing rocket attacks against southern Israel.

Now the two are locked in a similar conflict.  Hamas wants its borders reopened; Israel wants Hamas’ missiles removed.  What is different this time? 

First, Hamas has stockpiled more than 12,000 rockets, including Iranian Fajr-5 long-range rockets which are capable of reaching Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.  They seek to retain at least some of these rockets as future leverage against Israel; the Jewish state wants them all removed, even if a ground offensive is required.

Second, Egypt is now led by the Muslim Brotherhood.  Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi must appear in the eyes of the Muslim world to support Hamas or his party will quickly lose support in Egypt.  At the same time, he knows that his country’s peace treaty with Israel is vital to America’s $2 billion in annual aid to his country.  He wants to broker a cease-fire that would support Hamas while preserving his relationship with Israel.

Third, Israel has now deployed the Iron Dome missile defense shield, capable of eliminating as many as 85 percent of Hamas’ rockets.  They have called up 30,000 reservists in preparation for a ground offensive to eliminate Hamas’ missile capacities.  While they are seeking a cease-fire that would forestall such an offensive, they are willing to invade Gaza if necessary.  They have 300 aircraft available for a campaign over Gaza, naval warships, and thousands of troops massed on the Gaza border.

Fourth, there is a growing spiritual awakening in Israel and the Arab worldMore Muslims have come to Christ in the last 15 years than the previous 15 centuries; more Jews have made Jesus their Messiah in the last 20 years than in the previous 20 centuries.  This spiritual movement holds the greatest promise for peace in the Middle East.  So long as Muslim extremists seek Israel’s destruction rather than its prosperity, this conflict will continue.  So long as Israel’s people reject their Messiah, they will forfeit much of his blessing and provision.

How will you “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6) today?