As President of the United States, Barack Obama is pressuring Israel not to seriously consider launching air and missile strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. But while running to be a U.S. Senator, Mr. Obama said such strikes should be seriously considered to prevent Iran from acquiring the Bomb. Here’s what he told a Chicago Tribune editorial board meeting:
“The big question is going to be, if Iran is resistant to these pressures, including economic sanctions, which I hope will be imposed if they do not cooperate, at what point are we going to, if any, are we going to take military action?” Obama asked. Given the continuing war in Iraq, the United States is not in a position to invade Iran, but missile strikes might be a viable option, he said. Obama conceded that such strikes might further strain relations between the U.S. and the Arab world.
“In light of the fact that we’re now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in,” he said.
“On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. … And I hope it doesn’t get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I’d be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.”
A senior Iranian commander this week is calling for the destruction not just of Israel but of the United States of America, as well. “As long as America exists, we will not rest,” said Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, head of the Basij paramilitary force. “In revealing the truth about America and the Zionists, we must raise public hate against the despotic powers and create the environment for the destruction of America.” Such language is consistent with the Twelver eschatology held by the senior Iranian leadership that says Iran must seek to annihilate Israel (the “Little Satan” in their view) and the U.S. (which they call the “Great Satan”) in order to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam and the establishment of a global Islamic kingdom or Caliphate.
Meanwhile, growing evidence suggests an Israeli first strike on Iran is drawing closer. While disagreements clearly exist between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu about precisely when a war with Iran may be warranted, one thing is clear: the leaders of the U.S. and Israel are preparing Iran, the world, and their own people that war is coming soon if Iran doesn’t stop pursuing nuclear weapons. During a White House press conference on Wednesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron in the Rose Garden, for example, Mr. Obama said “the window for diplomacy is shrinking.” He added ominously, “We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon….Tehran must understand that it cannot escape or evade the choice before it. Meet your international obligations or face the consequences.” I read that as Mr. Obama’s most blunt warning yet that war is coming, and he might not be able to stop it.
At the same time, Aluf Benn, one of Israel’s most respected national security columnists published a story in Haaretz today with this lead: “Since his return from Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has mainly been preoccupied with one thing: Preparing public opinion for war against Iran. Netanyahu is attempting to convince the Israeli public that the Iranian threat is a tangible and existential one, and that there is only one effective way to stop it and prevent a ‘second Holocaust’: An Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, which is buried deep underground. In his speech before the Knesset on Wednesday, Netanyahu urged his colleagues to reject claims that Israel is too weak to go it alone in a war against a regional power such as Iran and therefore needs to rely on the United States, which has much greater military capabilities, to do the job and remove the threat. According to polls published last week, this is the position of most of the Israeli public, which supports a U.S. strike on Iran, but is wary of sending the IDF to the task without the backing of the friendly superpower.”
In this context, The Joshua Fund board and staff are gathering for the next few days to review our war preparations and pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for wisdom for all the leaders in the region. We would be grateful for your prayers as we seek the Lord’s guidance to how we can be better prepared when this larger regional war comes, as well as how to be a blessing to those caught in the crossfire from more than 225 rockets fired from Gaza over the past week. Next week, Lord willing, I’m heading to southern California to speak at a conference on “Israel, The Church and the Mideast Crisis.”We will look at the latest developments through geopolitical and economic lenses, as well as through the “third lens” of Bible prophecy. We’ll also discuss how the Church can do a better job blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus in real and practical ways, and how best to strengthen the believers in the region. I hope you will register and join us. The event will not be webcast so you’ll need to be there in person. Please also keep us in your prayers. Thanks and God bless you.
Here are the latest developments in the Gaza tensions:
PALESTINIANS BREAK TRUCE: “The Israel Air Forces’ Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted a Grad-type rocket launched toward the southern city of Be’er Sheva on Wednesday, despite a truce reached between Israel and Gaza militants earlier this week, while a second projectile landed in an open field in the vicinity of the town of Ofakim,” reports Haaretz. “It was not the first time since the Egyt-mediated ceasefire that rockets were fired at Israel’s south, a Grad-type Katyusha rocket also hitting a residential area in the southern town of Netivot late Tuesday. One person was lightly wounded.”
ISRAEL SEES ROCKET ATTACK AS “MINI-DRILL” OF COMING WAR WITH IRAN: “Israel has emerged from the past few days of fighting with Palestinians in Gaza more confident that its advanced missile shield and civil defenses can perform well in any war with Iran,” reports Reuters. “Describing how the flare-up in violence had provided an impromptu opportunity to test out Israel’s defenses, one Israeli official said on Tuesday it gave useful indicators for any potential conflict with Tehran: ‘In a sense, this was a mini-drill,’ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.”
NETANYAHU CANCELS TRIP TO EUROPE: “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled his planned visit to Paris and Madrid, which was on Wednesday, due to the ‘security situation in southern Israel,’ despite the renewed calm in the Gaza Strip,” the Israeli media is also reporting. “Attempts at coordinating the visits to France and Spain began after Netanyahu return to Israel from the AIPAC conference in Washington. Israeli embassies in Paris and Madrid were asked to inquire whether the Élysée Palace and Spain’s prime minister’s office would allow Netanyahu to visit on March 21 and 22….Israeli embassies began making initial contact and received positive responses. Both the French and the Spanish stated that Sarkozy and Rajoy were very interested in meeting Netanyahu.”
TURKISH LEADER SAYS ISRAEL MUST STOP “MASSACRE” OF PALESTINIANS IN GAZA BUT DOESN’T DENOUNCE ROCKET ATTACKS: “Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan severely criticized Israel’s recent airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip, saying in a speech on Tuesday that the attacks represented a ‘massacre’ of the coastal enclave’s residents,” reports Haaretz.
U.N. SECURITY COUNCIL REFUSES TO CONDEMN ROCKET ATTACKS AGAINST ISRAEL: See letter of protest the Israeli ambassador to the U.N. delivered to the Secretary General.
“An attack on Iran could take place within a matter of months, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a series of television interviews,” reports Haaretz. “‘We’re not standing with a stopwatch in hand,’ he said. ‘It’s not a matter of days or weeks, but also not of years. The result must be removal of the threat of nuclear weapons in Iran’s hands.'” Netanyahu gave separate interviews to all three Israeli television stations, the first he has given since his return from Washington….’I hope there won’t be a war at all, and that the pressure on Iran will succeed,’ the prime minister stressed, noting that his preferred choice would be for Iran to halt its nuclear program and dismantle the uranium enrichment facility located in an underground site near Qom. ‘That would make me happiest,’ he said. ‘I think every citizen of Israel would be happy….Making decisions isn’t the problem; it’s making the right decision….If you don’t make the decision and don’t succeed in preventing this [an Iranian nuke], to whom will you explain this — to the historians? To the generations before you, and the generations that won’t come after you?'”
UPDATED:Tuesday: “Israel and militants in Gaza agreed to cease hostilities Tuesday after Egypt brokered a “mutual truce” following four days of bloodletting which left 25 Gazans dead,” reportsAgence France Presse. “Under the agreement, which came into force at 1:00am (2300 GMT on Monday), both Israel and militants from Islamic Jihad — responsible for the lion’s share of rockets targeting southern Israel — agreed to hold their fire, an Egyptian intelligence official told AFP. Israeli officials and Islamic Jihad both confirmed that a deal was in place.” The Jerusalem Post is reporting that 7 “projectiles” were fired at Israel after the cease-fire went into effect. Please pray that the cease-fire will hold and these radical Islamic terrorism will stop.
“Data from the most recent bout of escalation in southern Israel which ended on Tuesday morning when an Egypt brokered ceasefire came into effect revealed that some 222 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip over the last four days, the Iron Dome system logged 56 successful interceptions and the IDF carried out 37 strikes within the Gaza Strip,” reports Ynet News. Here is an interesting breakdown of the month-by-month numbers of rocket attacks against southern Israel over the past year. Israel saw a record number of tourists coming in February. What will March numbers look like?
Monday: “The current round of fighting between the IDF and Gaza terrorists is increasingly appearing to be unprecedented in terms of the number of rockets directed at Israel, military officials say,” reports Ynet News. “The IDF has registered some 200 rocket launches from Gaza and is characterizing the attacks as a dramatic development in terms of the quantity and rate of the fire. ‘In the first three days of the current round of fighting we’ve sustained a larger quantity of rockets than the quantity fired at Israel in the two previous rounds, in August and October, which were longer,’ an army official said. More than 50 of the rockets fired in recent days were medium-range missiles and most attacks were carried out by the Islamic Jihad, the army said. The IDF said that at this time there is no indication of attempts to target central Israel with long-range rockets.” The Israeli Air Force continues to retaliate, and Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed Monday to escalate attacks in Gaza if rocket attacks don’t stop. For the first time in the new round of fighting, Netanyahu hinted at a possible ground war. “The IDF is ready to expand its operations and continue them as necessary.” Notably, the U.N. has not yet denounced the Palestinians for these 200+ terrorist attacks against Israel’s civilian population. More details on possible IDF ground operation into Gaza.
* The Israeli Air Force has been bombing Hamas rocket launchers and weapons warehouses, and has eliminated four top terror leaders.
* CNN reports that “eight Israelis have been wounded and 500,000 have been forced into shelters.”
* CNN reports that among the Palestinians in Gaza, “at least 21 people have been killed in strikes since Friday, while at least 75 people have been wounded.”
* The good news is that “the Iron Dome system has intercepted 90 percent of missile attacks on urban centers during the latest rocket bombardment from Gaza,” reports Israeli channel 7. “The expensive systems were inaugurated last year amid controversy over its worth. A primitive Kassam rocket costs terrorists only a few hundred dollars while each Iron Dome anti-missile missile costs $50,000. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stated Saturday night, ‘We will continue to improve home front defense including by means of additional Iron Dome systems, the effectiveness of which was shown again over the weekend.”
* PRAYER REQUESTS: Please pray for the Lord to show His mercy and grace to the innocent civilians caught in the crossfire on both sides of the borders. Please pray for the terrorists to stop attacking Israel. Please pray for the Lord to comfort the grieving and heal the injured. Please pray for the believers to know how best to show God’s love to those who are suffering. And please pray for Prime Minister Netanyahu and his advisors, that they would be like the sons of Issachar, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (I Chronicles 12:32).
(photo credit: Agence France Presse — Iron Dome anti-rocket system in action)
Please pray for all those living in southern Israel as they have been subjected by a dramatic surge of rocket attacks — more than 90 in the last 24 hours. Please mobilize others to pray, as well, for peace, for security, for the Lord to comfort, encourage and draw close to His heart those who are being terrorized in southern Israel, as well as for the Palestinians caught in the crossfire in Gaza.
Some good news: “The Iron Dome has successfully intercepted 25 out of 27 rockets fired at Beersheba, Ashdod and Ashkelon. The other two rockets exploded in open fields. These are the highest success rates for the defense system to date. Gantz praised the IDF officials in charge of operating the system during the situation assessment. A Home Front Command official said: ‘The Command’s instructions have proven to save lives and they should be followed. When an alarm is sounded or if there is an explosion – enter a safety area.’ Israelis are also instructed to avoid large gatherings of more than 500.”
Haaretz reports that the IDF killed Gaza’s terror chief. “Israel Air Force launched a strike on Palestinian targets in Gaza on Friday, killing the leader of the Popular Resistance Committees, the organization that captured former IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. The IDF Spokesman said in a statement that that the attack targeted Zuhir al-Qaisi, the secretary-general of the Popular Resistance Committees, and his collaborator, Mahmoud Hanani.”
With tensions mounting between Israel and Iran, the possibility of war steadily rising, growing challenges in the U.S.-Israel relationship, the so-called “Arab Spring” spreading across North Africa and the Middle East, and the rise of a new Czar in Moscow, I’m really looking forward to speaking at this upcoming prophecy conference in southern California, and I hope you will make plans to join us. I will have the honor of speaking alongside a number of respected Bible scholars — as well as Dr. Hormoz Shariat, whom I call the “Billy Graham of Iran” — as we address a number of critical questions such as:
Will Israel launch a preemptive war against Iran, and if so how soon?
Are current events moving us towards the fulfillment of the prophecies found in Ezekiel 38-39 and the “War of Gog and Magog”?
What does the “election” of Vladimir Putin as President of Russia portend for the future of the Middle East?
What does Bible prophecy say about the future of Iran, Syria, and other countries in the epicenter?
What is the spiritual climate in Iran and Israel look like today?
The events in the Middle East continue to draw the eyes of the world toward a fulcrum of historical, spiritual, and prophetic importance. The “Israel, the Church and the Middle East Crisis Conference” will help you understand the current Middle East conflict from a biblical perspective and grow in your understanding of the critical role Israel and her neighbors play in the unfolding of prophetic events. What’s more, this event will help you know how to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Please join us!
Date: March 23-24, 2012
Location: Biola University, La Mirada, California
Online Registration Registration fee is $35. Group rate for 10 or more people is $25 per person.Registration fee includes lunch.
Student RegistrationConference is free for students with presentation of valid student ID at the door
Happy Purim! This is the Jewish holiday that celebrates the remarkable story of how the Lord used two faithful believers — Mordechai and Esther — and a movement of prayer and fasting to save the Jewish people from an evil Persian regime determine to annihilate them. The Bible tells believers throughout the ages to celebrate this important holiday. Here are four ways you can celebrate this year:
Pray— we are to praise the God of Israel that He is the Redeemer of the Jewish people….we are also to thank Him that He also saved so many Persian people who turned to the Living God at the end of the story (many people miss this part)….and especially this year we should follow Mordechai and Esther’s example by praying and fasting for the redemption of the Jewish people amidst this current showdown with an evil Persian regime that wants to annihilate them, and praying for the Persian people to be saved as well.
Give — the Lord encourages us to give food and other gifts to the poor. As we read in Esther 9:20-22, “Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”
Go — If you’d like to learn more modern day lessons from the Book of Esther, and/or give to a ministry that is providing food and other gifts to the poor and needy in the Land of Israel, please go to The Joshua Fund’s website at www.joshuafund.net.
May the Lord bless you, and all of Israel, and all of the Persian people this Purim season.
All the signs to me look like Israel is going to war with Iran, and soon. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu strikes me as a man who has made his peace with the task ahead of him, a man who now believes his nation is capable of winning a war with Iran and has made all of the preparations necessary to strike if need be. I’m not saying he’s made a final decision. But he’s talking like a leader ready to make that final decision in the not too distant future. Indeed, I believe this trip to Washington is part of Netanyahu’s process of making a final assessment of whether the Obama administration will truly have Israel’s back, as the President promises, or whether Israel will be completely isolated. And while the White House is clearly pressuring Israel not to strike, Congress seems ready to support Israel fully.
Today we’ll learn more about whether that is really the case as Netanyahu will address Joint Session of Congress. His goal: to seek 100% support from Congress and the American people — diplomatically, financially and with resupplied weapons, if not full military support — if Israel has no other choice but to launch massive preemptive strikes against Iran to defend the Jewish state from another Holocaust. The PM’s message to Congess is expected to be similar to the address he gave last night to the AIPAC conference and to President Obama in the Oval Office, a clear, powerful and sobering message: When it comes to stopping Iran from getting the Bomb, he said, “none of us can afford to wait any longer.” Translation: buckle up, it’s about to be a very bumpy ride in the Middle East.
“For fifteen years, I’ve been warning that a nuclear-armed Iran is a grave danger to my country and to the peace and security of the entire world,” the Prime Minister told thousands of supporters of Israel gathered in the Washington, D.C. convention center. “For the last decade, the international community has tried diplomacy. It hasn’t worked. For six years, the international community has applied sanctions. That hasn’t worked either. I appreciate President Obama’s recent efforts to impose even tougher sanctions against Iran. These sanctions are hurting Iran’s economy, but unfortunately, Iran’s nuclear program continues to march forward. Israel has waited patiently for the international community to resolve this issue. We’ve waited for diplomacy to work. We’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer. As Prime Minister of Israel, I will never let my people live in the shadow of annihilation.”
“Some commentators would have you believe that stopping Iran from getting the bomb is more dangerous than letting Iran have the bomb,” Netanyahu continued. “They say that a military confrontation with Iran would undermine the efforts already underway; that it would be ineffective; and that it would provoke an even more vindictive response by Iran. I’ve heard these arguments before. In fact, I’ve read them before — In my desk, I have copies of an exchange of letters between the World Jewish Congress and the United States War Department. Here are the letters [holding copies up for the audience to see]: The year was 1944. The World Jewish Congress implored the American government to bomb Auschwitz. The reply came five days later. I want to read it to you. ‘Such an operation could be executed only by diverting considerable air support essential to the success of our forces elsewhere…and in any case, it would be of such doubtful efficacy that it would not warrant the use of our resources…’ And, my friends, here’s the most remarkable sentence of all, and I quote: ‘Such an effort might provoke even more vindictive action by the Germans.’ Think about that – ‘even more vindictive action’ — than the Holocaust. My friends, 2012 is not 1944. The American government today is different. You heard it in President Obama’s speech yesterday. But here’s my point: The Jewish people are also different. Today we have a state of our own. And the purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives and to secure the Jewish future. Never again will we not be masters of the fate of our very survival. Never again. That is why Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.”
What I appreciated most about the speech was Mr. Netanyahu drawing the audience’s attention to the Biblical story of the Jewish Queen Esther, whose prayers and fasting moved the Lord to intervene to save the Jewish people from a Persian tyrant in ages past. “This week, we will read how one woman changed Jewish history,” he explained. “In Synagogues throughout the world, the Jewish people will celebrate the festival of Purim. We will read how some 2,500 years ago, a Persian anti-Semite tried to annihilate the Jewish people. And we will read how that plot was foiled by one courageous woman – Esther. In every generation, there are those who wish to destroy the Jewish people. In this generation, we are blessed to live in an age when there is a Jewish state capable of defending the Jewish people. And we are doubly blessed to have so many friends like you, Jews and non-Jews alike, who love the State of Israel and support its right to defend itself. So as I leave you tonight I thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for standing up for the one and only Jewish state.“
Earlier in the day, Mr. Netanyahu gave a decorated copy of an Esther scroll as a gift to President Obama during their Oval Office meeting, and discussed the significance of the story with the President. What is not clear is whether the Prime Minister explained the ending of the story: Yes, Esther did her part, praying, fasting and intervening before the Persian king on behalf of the Jewish people. And yes, the Lord did his part in changing Ahasuerus’ heart, and putting the evil Haman on the gallows, and dramatically changing the dynamic in favor of the Jews. But it must be remembered that in the end, the Jewish people did have to fight against the Persian forces hell bent on their destruction, and with the Lord’s help the Jews miraculously prevailed. “[T]he king granted the Jews who were in each and every city the right to assemble and to defend their lives, to destroy, to kill and to annihilate the entire army of any people or province which might attack them…..The Jews assembled in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm; and no one could stand before them, for the dread of them had fallen on all the peoples.” (Esther 8:11 and 9:2)
In this context, let us continue praying for President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Lord gives them both wisdom to know the right thing to do, and the courage to do it. If there is a peaceful way to stop Iran’s nuclear program and bring down the Iranian regime so the Iranian people can live in freedom and all the region can live in peace and security, let’s pray the Lord shows them how to achieve this — and soon. “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”
Please pray especially for Mr. Netanyahu and his advisors, that they would be like the sons of Issachar, “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” (I Chronicles 12:32).