Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Israeli-Obama Divide: It is Widening

The smoke has cleared since the Israeli elections last year.  As reported last week, the clear winner was Prime Minister Netanyahu. He does have his flaws, as we all do, but the Israeli people obviously see that he is the one leader who will keep them safe from the threats that surround them.  (I heard one radio commentator say that the clear loser in the Israeli elections was President Obama).

The re-election of the Prime Minister has deepened the divide between the Obama Administration and the Israeli government under Netanyahu's leadership.  As reported in today's "Wall Street Journal," during a press conference yesterday, President Obama stated that there would be "no Mideast peace deal during his term."  He said, "What we can't do is pretend that there's a possibility for something that's not there.  And we can't continue to premise our public diplomacy based on something that everybody knows is not going to happen at least in the next several years.  For the sake of our own credibility I think we have to be able to be honest about that."  The President also said, "The issue is not a matter of relations between leaders.  The issue is a very clear substantive challenge: We believe that two states is the best path forward for Israel's security, for Palestinian aspirations and for regional stability.  And Prime Minister Netanyahu has a different approach." 

Reading between the lines, one hears from our President these words, "It is all the fault of Prime Minister Netanyahu that we will not have a peace agreement."  President Obama has less than two years remaining in office, while Netanyahu was just re-elected for four years.  One hears our President say, "I don't have enough time and, besides, I can't work with Netanyahu.  So, I accept that my legacy will not include a Mideast Peace Treaty." 

Is the Israeli Prime Minister open to a negotiated peace with the Palestinians?  Prior to the election, the Prime Minister seemed to indicate that there would be no Palestinian State created while he was leader of Israel.  Following the election, Netanyahu explained that he meant to say that, given the condition of the unity government between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, there could be no Palestinian State negotiated.  And, he is right. Israel has learned the lessons from 2005 when, under the leadership of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip in the hopes that "olive branch" would bring peace with the Palestinians.  Instead of peace, there has been nothing but hostility, initiated by Hamas who controls the Gaza Strip.  Hamas has let it be known that their ultimate purpose is to drive Israel into the sea.  Last year, Hamas and the leadership of the Palestinian Authority - President Abbas being the leader - entered into a unity government.  President Abbas has stated strongly in the past that, if a Palestinian State is created, there would be no place for Jews within it.  In The Israeli Prime Minister's mind, a unity government has to mean that President Abbas is in agreement with the ultimate purpose of Hamas.  Therefore, as long as this unity government is in place, there can be no negotiated peace or the creation of a Palestinian State.  In our government's eyes, the fault lies with the Israeli leader, not with the Palestinian leadership.

So, what is next?  I look for the Palestinian leadership to return to the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly and ask that a resolution be passed that grants them the status of statehood.  In the past, when this has happened, the United States has always stood ready to veto such a resolution.  But, given what has happened and the deepening rift between our government and that of Israel, my guess is that, if a resolution should happen sometime later this year, the United States would not give it verbal support, but would not veto it or stand in the way of its adoption.  Perhaps a Britain or a France might step in with a veto, but not highly likely. 

Increasingly we are seeing what the Bible affirms will happen in the last days.  Israel will become isolated from the rest of the world.  There will be a strong turning against Israel, increased hostilities toward it, eventuating in an armed attack against it.  I believe God is at work in these things preparing the pathway for the coming of the Messiah-King who will reign in Jerusalem over the nations of the world.  Then and only then will there be a lasting peace...and it will not involve a two-state solution, but a one-King solution. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Israel's Elections and a Warning from Joel Rosenberg

Yesterday elections were held in Israel to determine the direction of that nation's government and future.  Pre-election polls indicated that the race between the Likud party, led by Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the Zionist Camp party, led by Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni, was virtually deadlocked.  Mr. Herzog had campaigned on the promise that he would reopen negotiations with the Palestinians toward the creation of a Palestinian State, even saying that he would agree to a divided Jerusalem and a retreat back to the 1967 cease-fire lines created after the Six Day War.  Just hours before the election, Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that he would not support a Palestinian State if elected to the Prime Minister's position. 

Early results from the elections seemed to indicate that the race was a tight as the polls had indicated.  American newspapers this morning reported that Likud and Zionist Union had both won 27 seats in the Knesset.  Yet, as I scanned the headlines from my Israeli news sources, a different outcome was seen.  With 99% of the votes counted, was reporting that the Likud party had won 30 seats in the Knesset while the Zionist Union party had won 24 seats.  Trailing in third place was a united Arab party, the Joint List, which won 14 seats.  So, a close race was not that close. 

So, what does the re-election of Prime Minister Netanyahu mean?  First, if he keeps his campaign promises (and, as we know from experience here in America, politicians do not always keep those promises), then the future of negotiations with the Palestinians is a dead issue.  Second, because the past several American Presidents have made it their goal to create a Palestinian State, the divide between the Israeli government and the Obama administration will become wider than ever and more volatile.  Without Congressional intervention, Israeli concerns will certainly take a "backseat" with this Administration.  Third, the Palestinians will become more vocal in their appeals for the United Nations to step in to create a Palestinian State by the actions of the General Assembly and through the Security Council, knowing that this Administration would be reticent to veto such a measure.  Yet, for the Israeli people, there is that knowledge that Prime Minister Netanyahu is committed to keeping them safe, especially from a possible nuclear Iran.  Having just returned from Israel, I understand the safety concerns the Israelis have. 

Yesterday, Joel Rosenberg posted on his blogsite, his speech before the National Religious Broadcasters Convention.  He titled it, "Three Existential Threats Facing America."  You can read this speech at  Let me just summarize Joel's three points.  Threat #1: What if America is not simply in a season of decline but heading towards collapse, towards implosion?  He believes that America is under the judgment of God because of the over 58,000,000 babies that have been aborted since 1973.  Staggering number - nearly 10 times those murdered by the Nazis in World War II.  Threat #2: What if America is not simply at rising risk of attack by Radical Islam but heading towards the risk of annihilation by Apocalyptic Islam?  Rosenberg declares that "the threat of Radical Islam is a very serious threat to us and our allies."  He cites both Jordan's King Abdullah and Egyptian President el-Sisi as two men who see the threat, yet our leaders refuse to even state that Radical Islam is a threat.  The statistics that Rosenberg cites are powerful, as we relates the presence of Apocalyptic Islam.  He states, "Apocalyptic Islamic eschatology is a photographic negative of Biblical eschatology.  The leaders of Iran and ISIS believe the way to hasten the coming of the messiah is to kill as many people as possible.,  The followers of Jesus Christ, on the other hand, believe the way to hasten the coming of the messiah is to save as many people as possible."  Threat #3: What if America is not simply entering a season of strained relations with Israel, but we are heading towards total American abandonment of the Jewish State?  Rosenberg writes, "The Bible teaches us that all nations will turn against Israel in the last days - and all nations will face judgment for it - but woe unto us if it happens on our watch. ...This is the most dangerous moment in the history of the U.S.-Israel relationship.  What do the next two years hold?  I'm not sure.  But this much I know: on top of all America's national challenges and sins, we dare not also abandon or turn against Israel and the Jewish people.  If we do, we will seal our fate with God." 

Friends, this is a very sobering address and one that we need to read carefully and then prayerfully ask God what we need to do.  Yes, we are watchmen on the walls.  Are we sounding the trumpet loudly and clearly?  Are we pointing people to Jesus Christ as the only place where salvation, hope and peace can be found?  Are we directing people to dig more deeply into the Word of God?  May we heed the signs of the times?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Shalom from the Promised Land

It has been a couple of weeks since my last blog.  I just returned from leading a 10-day tour to Israel.  Our group was 11 in size - just a great group of people who had a passion to walk where Jesus walked and to experience His presence in the Holy Land.  The weather was absolutely ideal while we were there.  And the country-sides were alive with nearly every color in the rainbow.  The fruit trees were in bloom, as was the wild mustard - in fact, the hillsides were alive with that majestic yellow color.  The red anemones were full of life as they competed for space with the royal purples and blues of the wild cyclamens.  And everywhere there were the luscious shades of green.  The rainy season was coming to an end, and the hillsides showed their beauty before the dry hot summer months begin. 

Israel is an exciting destination.  In a matter of minutes one can travel back over four thousand years to the time of Abraham.  One of the most special places we visit on our tours is found at the ancient tel of Dan.  This location was the northernmost place in ancient Israel; you remember seeing that phrase "from Dan to Beersheba" often in the Old Testament.  That simply meant "from north to south."  The tel of Dan was originally known as Laish - you can find this story in Judges 17-18.  Near the gate of Dan lies an even older gate - the gate to the city of Laish - a gate that dates back over four thousand years.  I know some of you are saying, "So, what is so special about a four thousand year old gate?  Isn't it just an old gate?'  The answer is: It was through this very same gate that Abraham walked as he entered into the land of Canaan; the land that God would promise to him and his descendants.  As you stand there, you see the ancient stones that formed the road entering into the city of Laish.  You close your eyes and you can see a princely man, mounted on a camel, entering through that gate.  He is a stranger to the land, having come from Haran, some four hundred miles to the north.  Friends, this gate is known as "Abraham's Gate."  It is just one of those "wow!" moments.

We traveled to Mt. Bental, a former Israeli listening post on the Golan Heights.  From there we witnessed the Syrian border just a few miles below our position on the heights.  As we stood, we could hear gunfire from below.  Our guide simply said that it was his "cousins" shooting at one another.  We know that rival factions in the Syrian Civil War have challenged each other for the position in and around the village of Kuneitra in Syria. 

Jerusalem continues to be one of the most awe-inspiring cities I have ever visited.  It is a city that teems with both the ancient and the modern.  As we were walking down the roadway to the Pool of Siloam, we noticed a rather large flock of sheep and goats headed directly toward us.  They were being herded by a young Arab boy riding a donkey.  We got excited for this wonderful photo-op from the ancient past, until we noticed that the Arab boy was talking on his cell phone.  So much for the idyllic photo we had anticipated. 

It had been a mere sixteen months since I was last in Jerusalem and I was amazed at how much work the archaeologists have done, especially in and around the City of David, also known as the Orphel in the Bible.  One of the things that most excited my heart was the excavation of one of the gates of the old Jebusite City before the time of David.  Some archaeologists believe that it was through this gate that Melchizedek, king of Salem, came to greet Abraham after his return from rescuing Lot (found in Genesis 14). 

Oh I could go on and on about Israel.  But my heart was saddened to learn that tourism is down dramatically from the previous year.  The dining rooms in the hotels were filled with lots of empty chairs.  At certain of the sites we visited, the usual crowds were simply not there.  We asked our guide why the steep drop in tourism.  His response was that people are afraid to travel to the Middle East because of ISIS and other radical Islamic groups.  Friends, I want to assure you that Israel is a very safe country in which to travel.  As believers, one way in which we can support Israel is by visiting there - walking where Jesus walked; listening carefully to the stones as they tell their stories; and listening to the hearts of the people living there.  The Western media is so quick to report the negatives and so reticent to share the good news found in Israel. 

Friends, if you know of a group that is going to Israel, consider joining that group and going on the adventure of a lifetime, an adventure that will dramatically change your life.  Or plan to join with a group in the future.  I have begun working on planning another tour for late Spring 2016. 

Israel needs our prayers.  Next Tuesday they will have a national election to determine who will lead their government for the next four years.  The most recent polls show a very tight, almost "too-close-to-call" race.  Please join with me in praying that peace will come to Jerusalem and for God's will to be done in the election next week. 

I close with a statement found on a tee-shirt hanging on a rack in one of the little shops in the Old City: "Don't worry America, Israel has your back!"  I liked that.