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Last week, I was interviewed by a Saudi newspaper & Christianity Today about the White House peace plan. Here’s what I told them, even as the Turkish & Qatari media spread lies & Palestinians vow to defeat a peace plan they haven’t read.

SaudiPaper-Joel-frontpageUPDATED: Now that the Israeli elections are over, the White House is signaling it will release its much-awaited plan to help establish Middle East peace, most likely around mid-June.

As that release approaches, I’ve been called by reporters from the Associated Press, Axios, the Christian Broadcasting Network, Christianity Today, CNN, the Religion News Service, a Saudi newspaper, and others, asking for insights.

No one yet knows what’s in the final peace plan.

Yet Turkish media, Qatari media (including the Doha-based Al Jazeera satellite news network), and other media outlets are continually attacking President Trump and his team, propagating lies about Israel, attacking the Gulf states who are warming to normalization of ties with Israel, and promoting the narrative of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist and pro-jihadist organizations. What’s more, they are disseminating all manner of falsehoods about what is supposedly in the Trump plan, all in the hopes of scuttling any hope of Arab-Israeli peace and discrediting and delegitimizing the plan before its even released. (for just a few examples, see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

“According to one media monitoring organization, since the 2016 Presidential election, Qatar’s flagship media outlet Al Jazeera has savaged President Trump in more than 1,800 disparaging news and opinion pieces, often describing him in crudely anti-Semitic and anti-American terms,” notes an analysis by the Middle East Forum. “The state-run media network has demonized Trump in a manner far exceeding the most derogatory reports from Western media, calling him ‘the conductor’ of the ‘orchestra of Satan’ and insisting that he is controlled by Jewish forces.”

Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders oppose and vow to defeat the peace plan, even though they have not yet seen the final version of the plan. (see more examples here, here, here, here, here, here and here.)

Why? How can anyone properly analyze the plan until all the final details have been released? How does it benefit the impoverished, struggling Palestinian people to have their leaders launching continual attacks against the White House and voicing such strenuous opposition when the plan in the end could turn out to be very beneficial to them?

Indeed, news reports just this week suggest that the King of Saudi Arabia offered Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas $10 billion over ten years to help establish a new Palestinian state, if Abbas would be open to and accept the Trump plan — yet Abbas reportedly refused. I’m working to independently verify this report, but again, if it is true then how does this benefit the Palestinian people?

As I tell the reporters who have contacted me, the best I can do at this point is provide some perspective and analysis that is informed, in part, by my meetings with Israeli and Arab leaders, as well as my conversations with various American Evangelical leaders.

As the various stories are published, I’ll post them here and send them out on Twitter and on my Facebook “Epicenter Team” page. For now, here are two.

TRUMP PLAN DOESN’T CUT OFF LANDS FROM JORDAN OR EGYPT AND IS IN LINE WITH THE SPIRIT OF THE ARAB PEACE INITIATIVE by Hadeel Oueis, Washington correspondent for Al Riyadh newspaper, Saudi Arabia, April 27, 2019

In an interview of Al Riyadh, an American Evangelical leader, Joel Rosenberg, who has met with many Arab leaders and U.S. President Donald Trump to discuss the “Peace Plan” prepared by the U.S. administration, says that he is aware of the priorities of the administration and Arab attitudes regarding the expected plan.

But he also sees a counter-plan led by the Arabic-speaking Turkish media and Al-Jazeera [satellite TV news network, based out of Qatar] designed to destroy any chances for peace, and also to broadcast a large amount of lies regarding elements that have not been put forward about the plan in an attempt to distort Arab attitudes towards the plan.

Rosenberg says that Turkey publicly criticizes Israel yet is the one country in the region that has all kinds of relations with Israel, including diplomatic relations.

It should be noted that the agreements between Turkey and Israel go so far as to facilitate the movement of citizens of the two countries without visas. This began more than a decade ago with the launch of Turkey as a global trade and tourism center.

Turkish flights carrying the Turkish flag fly to Israel more than any other airline in the world, and it’s a lucrative route for Turkish Airlines, which has the second most frequent flights to Tel Aviv after the Israeli company, “El Al.”

A second Turkish airline, “Pegasus,” also dominates Israeli aviation markets, though it has no flights from Arab countries to Israel. These airline connections have never been affected by the Turkish President’s high-profile speeches attacking Israel and supporting the Palestinians.

Even President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel didn’t stop even one Turkish flight or Turkish business deal with Tel Aviv.

Rosenberg says Turkey is trying to fabricate lies about the Trump peace plan in order to distort U.S. positions and confuse the Arab street, as well as to keep the Arab states from benefitting from economic relations with Israel.

Turkey likes being Israel’s main economic partner in the region, and fears the peace deal could change this. Turkey is also constantly trying to protect itself from challenges that arise in international relationships by presenting itself as the only moderate state in the region, and hopes to shape the views of Congress and counter the influence of Jewish power in America in order to help Ankara.

Rosenberg says media reports are wrong to say that the Trump “Peace Plan” will take land away from the Sinai or from Jordan, and says the U.S. administration will not put forward proposals that could harm or disturb two very important allies of the Trump administration, Egypt and Jordan.

Rosenberg adds he is familiar with the positions of the key parties in the region. He feels that the Arab states usually adhere to the views of the Palestinians, and have not been willing to distance from them in the past.

He expects that the plan will contain points that make it compatible with the spirit of the Arab Peace Initiative, including the emphasis on the importance of a two-state solution, and leaving the issue of Jerusalem’s borders for negotiations without being pre-determined by the Kushner Plan.

He continued: “I have heard from the Arabs who are trying to help the rights of the Palestinians. They are inviting President Abbas to the table to present the proposals and visions that the Palestinians want. In principle, I expect that the Trump plan is in keeping with the spirit of these principles, but this could also make parts of the plan unattractive to the Israeli side. Therefore, the only solution is to open doors to direct dialogue and negotiation.”

Rosenberg warns the Palestinians against ignoring the full details of plan, and not seeing and checking what is really in the plan [when it is released.]

This is just what the critics and the abusers of empty slogans want. Yet these empty slogans and attacks do nothing to help the Palestinians and constantly deprive them of the countless gains that would occur if peace happens.

Rosenberg adds that people should see Al-Jazeera’s contradiction — they use their network to attack Israel and peace but the state that funds it [Qatar] already has quiet, non-official relations with Israel.

Yet Al-Jazeera and its supporters do not want the Arab region and its leaders to improve relations and make true peace with Israel, not just symbols. For this will bring economic gains, foreign investment and peaceful international relations to the forefront.

Rosenberg emphasized that peace between the countries of the region is ultimately not an American affair. It is about whether the people of the Middle East aspire to become major, productive and influential nations, which are close to each other and diversified in their capabilities from energy to advanced technology.

Are they willing to boost their economies and their ability to innovate and stabilize if peace is achieved or steps towards peace are taken?….

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In a scene ripped from the pages of my latest novels, leaders of Russia & North Korea meet in Vladivostok to forge anti-American alliance. Here’s the latest.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — North Korea’s “Dear Leader” Kim Jong Un arrived yesterday in the far-Eastern Russian city of Vladivostok to hold his first-ever summit with Russian Czar Vladimir Putin, having made the lengthy journey onboard a bulletproof train.

The reason for the meeting: to forge a far closer ties between Moscow and Pyongyang, complicate U.S. efforts to bring about peace between North and South Korea, and ostensibly for Putin to persuade his colleague to “denuclearize.” The prospects of these two powers drawing closer should be worrisome to anyone paying attention to Putin’s efforts in recent years to build a far broader and more aggressive anti-American and anti-Western front.

What struck me in particular was that the headlines of the last 24 hours seem ripped right out of the pages of The Kremlin Conspiracy and The Persian Gamble, in which a Russian-North Korean military and political alliance plays a central role.

Consider the following excerpt from Kremlin:

It quickly became apparent where they were heading—Vladivostok, site of Russia’s largest naval base, located on the Sea of Japan at the extreme southeastern corner of the Russian Empire.

Defense Minister Petrovsky explained that he had ordered his staff to arrange the trip on the premise that he would be conducting a surprise inspection of the submarine fleet that constituted the bulk of Russia’s ability to project power into the Pacific. Petrovsky would, in fact, do just that, accompanied by Zakharov. But the real purpose of the trip was something entirely different.

Once in Vladivostok, Russian President Alexander Luganov, FSB Chief Nimkov, and senior advisor Oleg Kraskin would be driven to a secret military facility where they would have dinner with the reclusive leader of North Korea, who would be arriving by train.

“Why by train?” Luganov asked.

“He is petrified of flying, Your Excellency.”

“How far is that journey?”

“Almost five hundred miles.”

Oleg stopped writing for a moment and looked at Petrovsky. Five hundred miles by train? he wondered, though he said nothing….

Oleg could have written a book about the absolutely bizarre eccentricities of the North Korean dictator he observed during the two-hour meeting between the two leaders, from what he wore to what he ate to how he expressed himself. But what truly disturbed Oleg was how close Luganov seemed to be to this madman. Oleg had never participated in—much less created a transcript of—a single call between the two leaders. Yet the evidence suggested the two men had spoken dozens of times over the past few years. They clearly had a history together, and they were using a personal shorthand to build their framework for an entirely new bilateral relationship.

At first, none of it computed. On the plane, Petrovsky had advised Luganov on ways to persuade the North Koreans to end their nuclear weapons program and enter into a new round of six-party peace talks with South Korea, China, Japan, Russia, and the United States. Luganov had acted as if he fully agreed with his defense minister. But once Petrovsky left the room, it became obvious that defusing the North Korean threat was not Luganov’s objective at all.

As Oleg took notes during the meeting between the two heads of state, it was clear that Luganov was trying to clandestinely flip Pyongyang’s allegiance from Beijing to Moscow. In so doing, he seemed willing to help Pyongyang become a regional powerhouse ready and able to intimidate and even dominate Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, and everyone else in the Pacific Rim. To accomplish this, Luganov offered to cancel North Korea’s $11 billion debt to Russia and provide some $2 billion in new Russian grain shipments. That’s why, Luganov said, he’d persuaded five oligarchs to be prepared to invest upward of $25 billion in developing North Korean natural resources like coal and iron ore over the next decade. That was also why Luganov was offering Moscow’s technical assistance with helping Pyongyang build ballistic missiles capable not only of carrying nuclear warheads but of reaching the continental United States.

Luganov’s chilling offers were immediately accepted, but there was more to the conspiracy the two leaders were concocting. They agreed that to throw the West—as well as Beijing—off the scent, Russia would publicly and forcefully condemn Pyongyang’s ongoing nuclear weapons tests. They even wrote the press release together. What’s more, they agreed that Russia’s Foreign Ministry would actively support additional economic sanctions against North Korea at the U.N. Security Council meeting later that month.

It would all be a show. The “Guiding Star” couldn’t have made himself more clear that he eagerly sought to be the Pacific arm of a “rising new Russian Empire.” He agreed to fully share the results of North Korea’s ICBM testing with scientists from Tehran in order to help the Islamic Republic of Iran become the Middle Eastern arm of the new Russian Empire. Then, in the final minutes of their time together, the two men lowered their voices and somewhat cryptically agreed to be helpful to each other on “additional projects of mutual concern.” Oleg wasn’t sure what they meant. Nor was he certain he wanted to know. But he dutifully wrote down every word he heard through the official translator and kept his mouth shut….

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This Passover/Easter weekend, there are some 1 million Jewish followers of Jesus in the world. I’m one of them. Here’s why.

testimony-joel-oneforisrael

(Jerusalem, Israel) — Last year, a ground-breaking study was released by LifeWay Research revealing there are now some 871,000 Jewish followers of Jesus in the United States alone.

Add in the 30,000 Jewish believers who live in Israel, and the many others who live in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, and there are now about one million Jewish followers of Jesus in the world today.

That’s an astonishing number, especially when you realize that in 1967 there were fewer than 2,000 Jewish believers in the entire world.

I’m grateful to be one of them. Yet, I’m constantly asked — especially by Jewish people — how in the world this is possible.

“Dude, how can you be Jewish and believe in Jesus?

I love this question. I was first asked it in November of 2002. I had just released my first novel, The Last Jihad. I was doing a telephone interview on a hard rock radio station in Rochester, New York, the city closest to where I grew up in Upstate New York. And the radio host, a guy who called himself “Brother Weese,” asked me this very question.

I’ve been happily answering it ever since. 

A nine-minute version of story of my spiritual journey — how I was raised by a Jewish father and Gentile mother, and how I came to believe that Jesus is, in fact, the Jewish Messiah, foretold by the ancient Hebrew prophets — was recently released online by a ministry called, “One For Israel.” 

Click here to watch the 9-minute video.

Click here to see my father, Len Rosenberg, share his spiritual journey.

Several years ago (2015), I recorded a longer and more detailed version. I’m including it here in case you’re interested.

  • My spiritual journey — part 1 — how becoming the author of The Last Jihad triggered people asking me a critical question
  • Part 2 — how my Jewish grandparents escaped from Russia, my father’s Jewish upbringing, my mother’s Gentile heritage, and how they met
  • Part 3 — my mother’s spiritual journey
  • Part 4 — my father’s spiritual journey, and then how I came to faith
  • Part 5 — how I learned I was Jewish, and then my crisis of faith in high school
  • Part 6 — the conclusion of my story, and so what? Why should any of this matter to you?

My hope and prayer is that as you listen to the story, it will encourage you in your own faith, and that it will be something you can share with family and friends to help and encourage them, as well. Thanks, and on this Passover / Easter weekend, may the Lord deeply bless you as you open the Bible, read the Holy Scriptures, and seek a personal relationship with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

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Come on a cruise to New England & Canada with Lynn and me in Fall 2019. Study Scripture, pray & worship together and learn about the work of The Joshua Fund. Please register today & join us!

TJF-cruise2019

**** We still have space for 25 couples, so if you’re interested, please don’t hesitate — sign up to join us today! ****

Dear Friends —

It is my joy to invite you and your family to join my wife, Lynn, and me on The Joshua Fund’s inaugural Fall cruise, September 28 through October 5, 2019.

During this 7-day journey from Boston to Montreal, we’ll have an opportunity to study the Scriptures and discuss what the Lord is doing in Israel and the Arab Muslim world, even as we witness God’s handiwork in creation, enjoy the colors of Fall, and visit beautiful places along the northeastern seaboard.

Will you join us? [Watch a brief video about the cruise]

Lynn and I founded The Joshua Fund in 2006 with the goals of blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus and of educating Christians in North America and beyond about God’s plan and purposes for the people of the Epicenter. This cruise will give us the opportunity to share with you what we’re seeing God do to build His Church.

During special sessions on the cruise, I’ll be teaching on “Prophecy and Prayer in an Ever-Changing World,” and answering your questions about Biblical prophecy and what is going in the Middle East today. I’ll also be sharing in detail what The Joshua Fund does and how this ministry is blessing so many people.  

Together, we’ll spend time in praise, worship and prayer, following God’s command to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” In addition, we’ve invited Jewish and Arab ministry leaders from the region to join us. They will share first-hand their stories from the field, including how The Joshua Fund is helping them advance the Kingdom of Christ.

Rather than a typical static conference in a hotel, however, you’ll be traveling onboard Holland America Line’s MS Zaandam, and what a special journey it will be. Every detail will be carefully planned for you by our Christian travel provider, Inspiration Cruises & Tours. Come with us and our special guests from Israel on an unforgettable adventure of learning and spiritual growth, as well as rest and relaxation.

We so look forward to spending time with you. Will you make plans now to join us?

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TJF-cruise2019-brochure

Are there differences between how American Evangelicals and Israeli believers view Netanyahu and his reelection? Yes, significant ones, as I explain in this CBN News interview.

FaithNation-Joel-Apr2019

(Jerusalem, Israel) — In the wake of our national elections, I did a series of interviews yesterday with American media outlets discussing the results, including with John Jessup and Jenna Browder, hosts of the “Faith Nation” program on the CBN News Network.

We certainly discussed Israelis’ reaction to the results, and the possible impact on the peace process. But they also asked me an especially interesting and perceptive question: How do Israel’s Messianic Jews and Evangelicals perceive Israel’s Prime Minister, and do their perceptions differ with American Evangelicals? 

Here is a transcript of our discussion. To watch the full interview, please click here. (Note: The segment begins at 11 minutes and 30 seconds into the program.)

JOHN JESSUP, CBN NEWS: What is the mood there as Israeli react to the news of another Netanyahu term?

ROSENBERG: Well, first, I think people are stunned — either stunned with excitement, there were very few people that were sure that he was going to win reelection; in fact, the polls showed that he was behind for most of the campaign. The polls certainly showed that he and the Likud Party were closing the gap in the final week, but even the exit polls did not indicate with any assurance that Netanyahu was essentially going to perform a magic trick. They call him a magician. He pulled a rabbit out of the hat, again. Most people didn’t see it. Even people who were for him went to being thinking, “I don’t know.” But there is also a whole swath of the country that is thinking, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. He’s here forever.” So, it’s a mixed view here right now. 

JOHN JESSUP, CBN NEWS: Joel, what does Netanyahu’s reelection mean for the United States, and also for the Middle East peace process?

ROSENBERG: Great question. The first thing I would say is that with Prime Minister Netanyahu being reelected — and almost certain to be able to put together a coalition government; we’ll see that over the next few weeks — there will be continuity for the Trump team. President Trump knows Netanyahu well. Obviously, the Trump peace team — the architects like Jared Kushner and the rest — they know the Netanyahu team well. So, there will continuity and they’ll be very happy about that. They won’t have to change the game plan for Benny Gantz or the others who could have come in and been the new leaders here.

In terms of how it will actually affect the peace process, look, I’m of the view that the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas has absolutely no intention of saying yes to any plan that President Trump puts forward. They will probably read the plan, but I wouldn’t even put it past them not to read it. I’m sure they will, but I’m just saying there’s no indication that Abbas and his team are even open at all. So, the question remains: Does the plan allow for the Gulf states’ Arab leaders to say, “Why would the Palestinians reject this plan? It’s not perfect, but it’s reasonable. It’s credible. It’s a serious plan. The Palestinians should sit down and negotiate.” And if the Palestinians don’t, then in theory it could open up an opportunity [for the Gulf states to move towards peace with Israel without waiting for the Palestinians.]

FaithNation-Joel-2

JENNA BROWDER, CBN NEWS: I want to talk to you about believers there in Israel. How do they perceive Netanyahu?

ROSENBERG: Well, there’s about 30,000 Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus here in Israel now. There’s another 4,000 to 5,000 Arab Evangelicals. And there are, you know, another 10,000 or more Christians of various other kinds, mostly Evangelicals, living, working, serving in the country in various capacities. It’s interesting, Jenna, I think there is quite a divide between how American Evangelicals perceive Netanyahu, and how believers see him here.

I think American Evangelicals see the best of Netanyahu — which is true about him, but he is a complicated man. American Evangelicals see him as a statesman, as a visionary, as a strategic thinker. [For example,] I don’t know who else could have stared down President Obama and taken on and resisted and refuted the Iran nuclear deal, and then gone on to persuade President Trump to scrap that nuclear deal and reimpose crippling economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. That was the right thing to do. Netanyahu resisted President Obama’s efforts almost to force Israel to relinquish strategic territory to Israel’s sworn enemies. So, Evangelicals see that in Netanyahu and they like that. Netanyahu is also opening diplomatic bridges to China, to Brazil, to India, to the Arab countries. And this is Netanyahu at his best.

But local followers of Jesus here see that, but they see other things, too. They see, for example, that he gives an awful lot of power and money to ultra-Orthodox religious parties that are hostile to Christians, and hostile to Messianic Jewish followers of Jesus — I mean, very hostile. They see that Netanyahu has said very unkind, very harsh things to Arabs here in Israel, Arabs citizens we’re talking about, even saying recently that a new law made it clear that only Jews were real citizens of Israel, and no one else really was.

I share that deep disappointment with Netanyahu on some of these matters, including the fact that Netanyahu brought into his political coalition in recent weeks — honestly, and I say this with deep disappointment because I worked for Netanyahu nineteen years ago — but he brought in a party called Otzma Yehudit, Jewish Power, that is a racist, bigoted, anti-Arab, anti-peace party, that was really associated with a violent, extremist party that was outlawed here 25 years ago. So, these are things that have caused Israeli Jewish believers and Evangelicals here mostly to vote for center and center-right parties, but not for Bibi. And I will tell you that I was one of them who struggled because I see both sides of Bibi, what he’s very, very good at, and the mistakes that he makes that are very disappointing. And I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him this time around, though I respect him. I pray for him. But I guess I’m becoming a little more Israeli than I was when I could only see him from a distance.   

To watch the full story and interview, please click here. (Note: The segment begins at 11 minutes and 30 seconds into the program.)

Note: The comments above represent my personal views only. The Joshua Fund does not get involved in any electoral, political or legislative matters.

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BREAKING: Netanyahu, “the magician,” pulls another rabbit out of the hat. Winning 35 seats, he’s on track to be Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, though his legal troubles remain.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — For most of the night, it was too close to call. 

But in a stunning turn of events, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and his Likud Party surged from behind in the wee hours of the morning, stunning the press, the pundits, and millions of his fellow citizens who went to bed thinking his career might be finished. 

Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, as he has done so many times before, Netanyahu defied all predictions — including his own — that the end was near. He and the Likud Party won 35 seats in the next session of the Knesset (parliament). This represented a net gain of five seats, Likud’s best showing since 2003 when they held 38 seats, all but assuring Bibi that he will remain Israel’s Prime Minister.

With 97% of the vote counted, it appears that Bibi’s main challenger — former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, centrist leader Yair Lapid, and their Blue & White Party — also won 35 seats. This was a huge and dramatic success for the newly-founded political party. In their maiden effort, they captured more than one-quarter of the Knesset and believed for most of yesterday evening that they were on track to unseat Bibi. Indeed, around 1:00am local time, Gantz delivered a victory speech on live national television.

But in the end, Blue & White’s effort to deliver “change” wasn’t enough.

The reason? The center-right bloc of parties, including Israel’s Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox religious parties, won at least 65 seats. The leaders of these parties have long been loyal to Bibi. Overnight, most publicly indicated that they prefer Netanyahu to remain in his post.

Barring some unforeseen twist, therefore, Bibi — who has already served 13 total years as Israel’s premier, including the last ten consecutive years — appears on track to become the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history, outlasting even the country’s founder, David Ben Gurion.

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That said, as I wrote on Monday, Netanyahu’s legal troubles remain, and are gravely serious. He faces a judicial hearing in July. Unless Bibi’s lawyers can get the cases dismissed, the three indictments against him in three separate criminal corruption cases will become final. 

At that point, Netanyahu’s governing coalition could face new problems, even unraveling. Moshe Kahlon, leader of the Kulanu Party and Israel’s current Finance Minister, said last month that if Netanyahu’s indictments are finalized in July, he and his team would have to resign. If they keep to that threat, they would complicate Bibi’s coalition math. If another party also refused to serve with a fully-indicted premier, the coalition could collapse.

To be sure, expect many plot twists and turns in the days and weeks ahead,. Among them: President Trump promises to unveil his “deal of the century” peace plan soon, which could put new stresses on the P.M. and his governing coalition. Please continue keeping Israel’s leaders and people — Jews and Arabs — in your prayers during this critical time, and as always, please keep praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

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BREAKING AND UPDATED: Israeli election way too close to call. But let’s be clear: Netanyahu faces real legal and political jeopardy. Here’s what Evangelicals should know.

Bibi-Gantz

(Naples, Florida) — As I write this, I’m preparing to board a series of flights to get me home to Israel after a six week book tour for The Persian Gamble. I’m eager to see my wife and sons, and eager to join millions of my fellow Israelis who will turn out to vote on Tuesday in one of the most fiercely-contested and potentially most-consequential national elections in a generation.

No one really has any idea who will win, but many political analysts and most in the media believe we are about to enter a “post-Bibi era.” I certainly have no idea what the outcome will be, and I take the media’s predictions with a grain of salt. Most in the Israeli media hate Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and have for years. They are rooting for Bibi’s chief rival, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz and his centrist Blue & White Party.

That said, let’s be clear: Netanyahu does, in fact, face serious legal and political jeopardy that could bring his long and storied political career to an end sooner than most on the Israeli right (or American Evangelicals) think.

Here’s the short version…..

LEGAL JEOPARDY

  1. Netanyahu has been indicted in three separate corruption, bribery and fraud cases.
  2. Sara,  his wife, has been indicted in a fourth and completely separate case.
  3. Bibi and his closest friends and supporters dismiss this all as a “witch hunt” and say they will eventually be exonerated. Hopefully. But the indictments came not from a political enemy but from Netanyahu’s hand-chosen Attorney General Avichai Mandelbilt. He’s widely regarded in Israel as a fair and able lawyer. What’s more, he took a full year to review the initial recommendation by Israeli police authorities to prosecute Netanyahu based on some 800 pages of evidence.   
  4. Worth noting: In 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted on corruption charges and was sent to prison
  5. Also worth noting: In 2010, Israeli President Moshe Katsav was convicted on multiple charges of raping a woman on his staff, and he was sent to prison.
  6. Yes, we should give the Netanyahus the legal presumption of innocence. I hope and pray that they are exonerated. Who wants the First Couple of their country to be guilty of multiple crimes?
  7. Bibi has some serious flaws, and he has made some very disappointing personal and political mistakes over the years. He has been harshly and unfairly critical of Israeli Arabs, at times, and rarely focuses on improving life for Israeli Arabs, even though they are full-fledged citizens of the state. He recently associated himself with a racist, bigoted, anti-Arab, far-right-wing political party and worked to recruit their leaders — previously far outside the mainstream — into his coalition. He routines grants enormous political power and lavishes much government spending on the ultra-Orthodox religious parties whose children don’t serve in the IDF, who demand far too much welfare, and are typically hostile to Christians and especially to Jewish followers of Jesus. Moreover, most of the leaders of Israel’s center-right political parties are Bibi’s former chiefs of staff or former very close allies of his who become so frustrated with him and feel so burned by Bibi that they quit Likud in exasperation and start their own parties. This is not a man who is fond of discipling future leaders.
  8. Still, it should be noted that he has also been an excellent prime minister in a number of ways. He resisted repeated efforts by President Obama to make unwise and dangerous concessions to Israel’s sworn enemies. He led the global charge against the insane Iran nuclear deal and persuaded President Trump to scrap the deal and reimpose crippling economic sanctions on Iran. He has kept Israel safe. He hasn’t led us recklessly into war, but he has constantly ordered the Israeli Air Force to bomb Iranian forces trying to establish bases in Syria. Israel’s economy is booming. Israel has become a high tech superpower. Unemployment is only 3.6%, lower than even the US. Tourism is booming, reaching record levels year after year. Bibi persuaded President Trump to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem and recognize the Golan Heights as Israeli sovereign territory that will never be given back to Syria. What’s more, Bibi has impressively built diplomatic ties with China, India, Brazil, African and Latin American countries  and even numerous Arab and other Muslim countries at a time when many thought Israel would become increasingly diplomatically isolated because no peace treaty has been agreed to with Palestinian leaders.
  9. Bibi is a complicated man who generates strong emotions — for and against him. But as elections approach I want my readers (especially American Evangelicals) to be aware of just how serious are the charges and how seriously Israeli courts deal with senior officials if they are convicted.

POLITICAL JEOPARDY — TWO SCENARIOS

  1. For months, polls have indicated that Bibi and his Likud Party have been losing to the Blue & White Party, led by Benny Gantz.
  2. Some late polls suggest Netanyahu and Likud have closed the gap and are neck-and-neck with Gantz. However….
  3. The final published poll suggested Gantz’s team would win 32 Knesset (parliament) seats, while Bibi and his team would win only 27. 
  4. If Gantz and his party do, in fact, win the most seats on Tuesday, Gantz will likely be tapped by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with the opportunity to form a coalition government. If Gantz can cobble together a coalition of 61 or more seats of the 120-seat Knesset, then he will become the country’s next premier. This would be a nightmare scenario for Netanyahu, and would likely spell the end of his political career. He would likely step down from Likud and enter private life.
  5. However, there is a second nightmare scenario for Netanyahu. He and Likud could eke out a victory and win more seats than Gantz. But what happens if even one leader of a right-wing party — one of Bibi’s natural coalition partners — says, “Bibi, we love you. We’re sure you and Sara are innocent of all these charges. However, we can’t sit in a government with an indicted Prime Minister who needs to spend as much time thinking about how to defend himself and his family as about defending the country. You need to step aside, fight these charges, clear your name, and then re-enter the political arena”? If one or more center-right party leader refuses to sit in a Netanyahu-led government, this could block him from becoming Prime Minister, and this, too, could potentially spell the end of his career.

I’ll be providing updates and analysis on Twitter. In the meantime, please pray for all of Israel’s leaders, our people, and our future. Never a dull moment in our part of the world.

Full disclosure: I worked on Bibi’s “come back campaign team” in the year 2000 for a few months. However, I don’t work for him now, and haven’t met with him personally in at least ten years. My objective here is not to advocate for or against any Israeli candidate but to brief my readers on the political lay of the land.