“The Desert Shall Rejoice”

“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths:  For out of Zion shall go forth the Law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations and shall rebuke many people and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks:  nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:3-4

Dear Intercessors for Israel:

Israel is holding its national elections April 9th.  The future and direction of the country is at stake.  National issues such as finding peace with the Palestinians, removing Israeli communities across the so called “Green Line”, the defense budget, health care, and a multitude of other needs are all paramount.  Israelis go to the polls to vote to elect a political party, but each party’s top candidate campaigns for it. The percentage of votes cast for the party determines how many positions/seats it can fill in the Knesset.

“After the elections, the President of Israel, (who himself is not elected, but rather appointed by the Knesset) surveys the landscape of newly elected Knesset members and parties based on political ideologies. Then he determines which like-minded parties have the best chance of coming together to form a government. The President chooses as Prime Minister the party head he believes to be most capable of forming a government. To form a government, the future Prime Minister must put together a coalition of at least 61 out of the 120 members of Knesset, or a simple majority” (info@lightofzion.org).

The Resilient Party (Hosen L’Yisrael)
Former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and his Israel Resilient Party (Hosen L’Yisrael) is currently the closest competitor to current Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party.  Gantz in an interview declared that “I am going to beat Netanyahu.”  He then came out in favor of the possibility of removing Israeli communities from Judea and Samaria (West Bank).  Gantz also stated that he was opposed to “controlling another people, and that Israel as a nation could learn from the 2005 removal of its settlements in the Gaza Strip” (www.i24.co.il).  Gantz said he would also consider forming a government with the help of either Ultra-Orthodox parties or even the Arab parties “if they are Zionist.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s spokesman gave a cautious welcome to Gantz’s remarks:  “It’s encouraging, if he succeeds and he sticks to this opinion,” declared Abbas’s aide Nabil Abu Rudeineh in an interview to Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

Gantz remarks immediately came under fire from Israeli conservatives, who accused him of seeking to remove settlers from their homes. “We thank Gantz for taking the mask off,” said Naftali Bennett who leads the Israel’s New Right party. “Benny Gantz is bypassing (Labor leader Avi) Gabbay on the left and wants to expel more Jews from their homes in a unilateral disengagement from Judea and Samaria. Benny Gantz cannot be the next Israeli defense minister.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, which has repeatedly accused Gantz of left-wing policies, said: “We told you – Gantz will establish a left-wing government with the help of an obstructionist bloc that relies on (Arab MK Ahmad) Tibi and the Joint List (of Arab parties).”

Gantz also said in the interview that he would not join a government under Netanyahu if the Prime Minister had been indicted in the corruption investigations against him. He also called on Netanyahu to “step down in a dignified manner” (www.ynetnews.com).

National Election Polls
National Election Polls taken this week show Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Likud Party leading all other Israel political parties.  Polls project the Likud party winning 32 seats in the Knesset vice 23 for Gantz’s Israel Resilient Party. Often in Israeli elections, there is a lack of a clear majority by one party.  Thus “coalitions” are formed to bring a government into power. Many minority parties become “kingmakers” as their few seats in the Knesset are just enough to allow a greater party to take power, if they can be persuaded to join.  After every Israeli election, there is usually a “contest” among the leading parties to see who can form a ruling coalition.

Pray for these upcoming elections. Whichever party or coalition comes into power directly affects this nation’s future and security.  “Lord, the government is on your shoulders, please guide all of Israel into wisdom to make your choice/exercise your will in this upcoming election.”

United States Military Leaving Syria
The US military is eyeing the end of April as the target date to pull out its forces from Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported last Thursday citing current and former US officials.  According to the publication, the US will remove a significant portion of the 2,000 troops currently serving in the conflict-wracked country by mid-March with a full withdrawal coming by the end of April. Pentagon officials declined to comment to the WSJ on the recent report.  The Pentagon has repeatedly stressed it would not announce its troop movements or give timelines for when they may leave Syria.

US President Donald Trump stunned Western allies on December 19 by announcing the American decision to quit Syria, declaring that the Islamic State movement, also known as ISIS, had been wiped out. “We’re at 99 percent right now, we’ll be at 100,” the president asserted referring to the proportion of the caliphate that had been recaptured.  There are still an estimated 14,000 and 18,000 ISIS militants in Syria and in Iraq, including up to 3,000 foreign fighters, according to a report presented by the U.N. Security Council.  Trump’s declaration has also raised fears of a long-threatened Turkish assault against the Kurds, and the United States has yet to come up with an agreement to protect its allies.

Also concerned by the US move is Israel, which is worried over whether Iran would be left with free reign to operate there, and whether Russia would respond to its calls to limit it.  The United States has reiterated that it will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself against Iran and Hezbollah, including through targeted strikes in Syria, in the wake of its decision to remove American forces from the country.  Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also vowed to intensify Israeli military actions in the wake of the United States’ withdrawal (www.i24.tv/en/news/).

Here is a link to a comprehensive report by CBN’s Chris Mitchel’s who has just returned from this region. Pray, protection for the Kurdish people and Syrian Christians in this ancient biblical region.

“Death to America”
Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared last Friday that his country’s popular Iranian chants wishing “Death to America” were directed at US President Donald Trump and top U.S. government officials and not the “American nation.”

First of all, I should tell the American officials:  Death to America means death to Trump, John Bolton, and Pompeo. It means death to American rulers who are currently these individuals,” Khamenei told a group of Iranian Air Force members in Tehran as the Republic celebrates its 40th anniversary.  Khamenei added that his nation would continue chanting “Death to America!” so long as “the US remains evil and wicked,” according to Iranian media.

Khamenei’s remarks on Friday appeared to be in response to US President Donald Trump, who during the US State of the Union address, said Iran “chants death to America and threatens genocide against the Jewish people. We will not avert our eyes from the Islamic Republic,” Trump warned.  Pray concerning President Trump and other top American leaders that “the curse causeless shall not come” (Pr. 26:2). May the LORD God protect them from Iranian curses and death threats.

Pray this verse from Deuteronomy but substitute Khamenei’s name for Balaam’s: “Nevertheless the LORD would not hearken unto Balaam (Khamenei), but the LORD turned the curse into a blessing unto thee (Trump & U.S. officials) because the LORD thy God loved thee” (Deut. 23:5).

There are many hidden Christian believers in Iran.  Pray for this growing body of believers.  Pray for a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in congregations that will transform the government in Iran.  Pray for Iran and its leaders.  May they see Yeshua in their dreams and be transformed and “… learn war no more” (Is.2:4).

“Nyet Russkiy Posol’slvo  Iyerusalim!” —  No Russian Embassy in Jerusalem!
The Russian government will not be moving its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Russia’s ambassador said last Thursday night, despite signals from Moscow that Russia has shifted its stance on the Israeli capital.  Russia’s foreign ministry explicitly recognized the western portion of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city in 2017.

Last year following the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, Russia’s mission to Israel also held its annual “National Day” celebration in Jerusalem, rather than in Tel Aviv for the first time ever.

Despite these past moves, Russian ambassador to Israel Anatoly Viktorov told the Russian TASS outlet that his government would not be relocating its embassy to Jerusalem. “The issue of transferring the Russian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is outside the agenda. Russia is committed to the international legal framework concerning Jerusalem, including corresponding United Nations Security Council resolutions,” Viktorov said.

The US and Guatemala have relocated their embassies to Jerusalem.  A number of other countries, including Australia, Brazil, and the Czech Republic have suggested they may also move their embassies to the Israeli capital city (www.timesofisrael.com).

The world may yet still reject Jerusalem, but there is a day coming when “the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (Zec.1:17).

“The Desert Shall Rejoice”
Last November incendiary kites and balloons, which were launched from the Gaza Strip by Hamas operatives, set fire and destroyed the Southern Israel Gvarim nature reserve. Over 3,200 acres of grasses and forests, as well as an additional 1,000 acres of farmland were blackened.  The nature reserve appeared to be a total ecological disaster.  Now after this winter’s rains, carpets of red flowers called kalaniyot have appeared.  Kobi Sufer, the regional director of the southern coastal area for the Nature and Parks Authority, declared his amazement.  All the previous underground brush was removed by the fires, so “now all you see is carpets of the red flowers dancing in the wind.” Sufer also commented, “Someone comes here today, looks around and says, no way this placed burned!” (www.timesofisrael.com).

This time of year, the annual Darom Adom (Scarlet South) festival  is in full swing .  Over 60,000 visitors came for the opening weekend. Organizers said they expect more than 350,000 Israeli flower lovers to visit these fields and celebrate the beauty of the wilderness blooming.  Truly Isaiah’s prophecy is coming to pass once more (Is. 35. 1-2).

Shabbat Shalom,
Gene and Marylois,
House of Peace

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