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The year 1948 saw the birth of the modern state of Israel, transforming a significant portion of the Jewish people from a scattered nation (a diaspora or dispersion) into a nation-state with real sovereignty.For nearly 2,000 years the Jews had no permanent liberties and no kingdom they could call their own. Again, 1948 changed this, but there were many wars and political trials to come in maintaining this gain. And now in 2014, the Israeli state still faces both external and internal threats to its very existence.
Israel's economic miracle must be balanced against a number of negative factors. Begin with the religious animosity of many of the world's Muslims. Also this tiny country remains surrounded by hostile Arab states with a combined population of some 370 million. And then, too, many Palestinians think of Israel as an alien interloper that has no place in "Palestine."
Israel's relationship with its longtime protector, the United States, has encountered some rocky shoals. The Israeli leadership is far from assured that Washington will stand by Jerusalem should the tiny nation encounter a time of severe crisis. The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains extremely skeptical of the ongoing U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Some observers even think that the deal with Iran will drive Israel into an informal entente with Saudi Arabia. The latter might agree to this as part of the great divide in Islam between the majority Sunni branch and the minority Shiite branch concentrated in Iran and Iraq. Noted foreign policy professor Walter Russell Mead commented on the matter in The Wall Street Journal:
"Riyadh and Jerusalem have common interests that are not limited to preventing Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. The Saudis believe Iran is leading Shiites in a religious conflict with Sunnis now engulfing the Fertile Crescent. They fear that the [Iranian] Islamic Republic, nuclear or not, poses an existential threat to their security as the Shiite tide rises . . .
"Israel is . . . concerned about . . . the prospect of a Hezbollah-Tehran-Syria axis along its northern frontier . . . Both countries think that a naive Mr. Obama's unicorn hunt for nuclear disarmament is leading him to sacrifice vital geopolitical interests in the hope of what will turn out to be a very bad nuclear deal with Iran" ("A Riyadh-Jerusalem Entente," Dec. 6, 2013).
Our free Bible study aid booklet Are We Living in the Time of the End? shows that the establishment of the state of Israel is one of the key prophetic benchmarks for the fulfillment of end-time prophecy. (Sources: The Wall Street Journal, author Ari Shavit.)