L’shana tova — happy New Year to all of our Israeli friends. May the year ahead be sweet and safe and blessed, and may the Lord draw you ever closer to His heart. You are always in our prayers. Our family is looking forward to celebrating with apples and honey tonight as we thank the God of Israel for His great love and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion in the far north, the city of the Great King.” (Psalm 48:1-2)
As I mentioned a few days ago, Lynn and our sons and I just returned from a very full and wonderful two weeks in Israel. In addition to baptizing our youngest son, Noah (6 years old), in the Mediterranean, packing two and a half tons of food in The Joshua Fund warehouse, and distributing boxes of food to needy Jewish families in Jerusalem, we had the opportunity to meet with a wide range of Jewish leaders, Christian leaders, and Israeli government officials. We were there in the run-up to the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in Washington, and as the peace talks began. We were on Highway 60 the day after five Israeli citizens (including an unborn baby) were murdered by Hamas terrorists on that very same road, and on the same day that another Israeli married couple was shot at and severely wounded on Highway 60, as well. It was both a fascinating and sobering time to be in the Land and we thank the Lord for every moment of our time there. Thanks to all of you who prayed for us.
In this first of several reports, I wanted to share with you a few thoughts on Netanyahu, the Palestinians, and Iran:
- The apocalpytic End Times theology of Iran’s leaders and their feverish pursuit of nuclear weapons — not the Palestinian people — pose an existential threat to the State of Israel. Time is running out. The latest IAEA report indicates Iran has enough enriched uranium to build at least three nuclear bombs.
- Yet, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu seems more publicly focused on the Palestinians in recent months, not Iran. He is saying publicly that he believes Israel can reach an historic peace agreement with the Palestinians within one year. Does he really believe this? Is he being distracted from the Iran threat?
- I see three possible scenarios: 1) Netanyahu is suffering from what I call “Zechariah 12 Syndrome”; 2) Netanyahu is playing the “peace process game” to satisfy the White House and build U.S. and Western support for a coming strike on Iran; or 3) Netanyahu genuinely sees something almost no one else sees.
- Let’s take each scenario one by one.
- Scenario #1: Netanyahu is suffering from what I call the “Zechariah 12 Syndrome.” “Behold,” says the Lord, “I am going to make Jerusalem a cup of intoxication.” (Zechariah 12:2). The Zechariah 12 Syndrome occurs when a strong, principled Israeli leader is elected Prime Minister vowing to protect the interests of the state, but quickly becomes drunk with power and the false hope that the peace process will lead to success and he will be awarded great international fame and historic significance. The room starts to spin, the leader loses his bearings, and starts making foolish decisions that ends up having disastrous results for the very people whose lives and interests he is supposed to be protecting.
- Example: In 1999, Ehud Barak — the most decorated Israeli general since King David — became Prime Minister promising peace with security. However, he quickly succumbed to “Zechariah 12 Syndrome.” He went to Camp David in 2000 and offered Yasser Arafat — a bloodthirsty terrorist — half of the city of Jerusalem, all of Gaza, and 97% of the West Bank. Arafat said no, but Barak pleased with Arafat to make an historic peace deal. Arafat perceived Barak’s begging as weakness, rejected the entire offer, went back to Ramallah and launched the Second Intifada, a wave of suicide bombings and other brutal attacks against Israeli civilians that lasted for years.
- Example: Also in 2000, Barak made another supremely foolish decision. He unilaterally withdrew all Israeli military forces from southern Lebanon without asking for or receiving a peace treaty. The result? Hezbollah told everyone in Lebanon that terrorism — not democracy and negotiations — leads to Israeli territorial concessions. So Hezbollah launched the 2006 Second Lebanon War and hit Israel with 4,000 rockets and missiles.
- Example: In 2005, Ariel Sharon — another highly decorated general Israel’s “hawk-in-chief” at the time (a man who used to say to the Palestinians, “Want a state? Move to Jordan” — was elected Prime Minister by promising peace with security. But he, too, succumbed to the Zechariah 12 Syndrome. He lost his bearings, unilaterally withdrew all Israeli forces and settlers from Gaza, and gave Gaza to the Palestinians for nothing. He didn’t ask for or receive a peace treaty. The result? Hamas told everyone in Gaza that terrorism — not peaceful negotiations — leads to Israeli territorial concessions, and people agreed with them. Hamas then took over Gaza, created a terrorist base camp (“Hamastan”) and proceeded to launch more than 12,000 rocket attacks against innocent Israeli civilians.
- Is Netanyahu heading down the same path?
- Netanyahu was so warm towards Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (aka, Abu Mazen) and the others in the Palestinian delegation in Washington that “those close to the Palestinian president claimed the atmosphere in the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks in Washington had ‘changed by 180 degrees’ from the hesitance which prevailed prior to their arrival at Washington,” according to Arab and Israeli media reports.
- But why would Netanyahu be so warm when Abbas is saying flatly that he will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
- Why so warm when the latest polls show only 1-in-3 Palestinians even support peace talks with Israel?
- Why so warm when Hamas — not Abbas — controls Gaza and flatly rejects all peace talks with Israel?
- Why so warm when Abbas is so weak few analysts (if any) think he could truly deliver peace, even if he chose to sign a peace treaty?
- Scenario #2: Netanyahu is playing the “peace process game” to build U.S. and Western support for a coming strike on Iran. Rather than being semi-delusional, Netanyahu could be crazy like a fox. He could very well be telling his cabinet the following: Look, guys, we all know Abbas is too weak to make a peace deal. But the U.S. and the Western powers are pressing hard for a peace deal. So why should we be the ones that look intransigent? Let’s be pro-active. Let’s tell the world that we want a peace deal, that we want direct talks, that we want a Palestinian state, so long as it’s demilitarized and the Palestinians recognize Israel as a “Jewish State.” We all know Abbas can’t deliver. But by being forward-leaning on this, we can try to convince President Obama and the U.N./E.U. crowd that we’re doing our best. Meanwhile, we’ll be finalizing our war plans to attack Iran. If by December or January the sanctions on Iran aren’t working, and we’ve strengthened our strategic relationship with the U.S. vis-a-vis being cooperative in the peace process, hopefully the White House will give us the green light (or at least won’t oppose, or oppose harshly) our decision to launch a preemptive strike against Iran in the spring or summer of next year (or whenever we’re ready). I believe such a case would be persuasive to Netanyahu’s cabinet.
- That said, if Netanyahu is simply “playing the game,” he is taking a huge risks.
- Risk #1: The peace talks could consume an enormous amount of his and his government’s time and energy, drawing away critical time that should be focused on Iran war planning.
- Risk #2: President Obama could become deeply invested in the peace talks, and put increasing pressure on Netanyahu to make unwise and dangerous concessions, against Netanyahu’s will. How would Netanyahu exit from such a process without alienating the U.S. government?
- Risk #3: Abbas could call Netanyahu’s bluff and give Netanyahu everything he’s asking for in return for an historic peace treaty, only to renege on key elements of the deal after a Palestinian state has been created (i.e., build alliances with Iran, Syria and Hezbollah; import rockets and other arms, despite written guarantees of being demilitarized; buying aircraft that could endanger Israeli cities; etc.)
- Netanyahu is a smart guy and a shrewd player, but we must keep in mind that in his first term in office (1996-1999), he vowed never to make a deal with Arafat, yet ended up shaking the terrorist’s hand and giving him the Biblically important city of Hebron, when no one believed he would ever capitulate like that.
- Scenario #3: Netanyahu genuinely sees something almost no one else sees. Maybe a season of true peace, security and prosperity is coming, if only briefly. Ezekiel 38-39 certainly indicates such a time is coming prior to the War of Gog and Magog. I wouldn’t rule it out. But I don’t see it being sincere or lasting long, if it should happen at all.
More to come….
- Learn: The DVD collection of speeches from the 2010 Epicenter Conference in Philly has just been released, including the message/Q&A by Israeli Vice Prime Minister Yaalon, and a special bonus feature on how to share the gospel w/your Muslim friends by Hormoz Shariat and Tom Doyle — you can order your copy by clicking here
- Learn: Pre-order The Twelfth Imam. Details coming very soon on book tour dates, locations and details.
- Learn: Visit www.joelrosenberg.com, read a sneak preview with advance excerpts from The Twelfth Imam, and/or sign up for Joel’s (free) weekly Flash Traffic emails
- Pray: Join Joel’s “Epicenter Team” on Facebook
- Give: Would you like to help The Joshua Fund educate and mobilize Christians to bless Israel, and provide food, clothing, medical supplies and other humanitarian aid to the poor and needy in the epicenter? Please click here to visit www.joshuafund.net and provide at $50, $100 or $250 donation.
- Go: Attend the “Inside The Mideast Crisis Conference” in Chicago on October 1-2
- Go: Attend the 2011 Epicenter Conference in Israel and go on a “prayer & vision tour” of Israel with The Joshua Fund