Here are some of Hagel’s most troubling quotes on Israel, Iran and U.S. defense matters.

Why are so many so troubled about the prospect of former Senator Chuck Hagel becoming the next Secretary of Defense. Here are some his most troubling quotes, as reported by the Weekly Standard.

On Israel:

— Hagel, in 2007: The Israelis have “chained down [the Palestinians] for many, many years. … But when people have no hope, when there’s despair, little else matters. And this is not about terrorists don’t like freedom. Tell that to the Palestinian people who have been chained down for many, many years.”

— Hagel, in 2003: Israel “keep[s] Palestinians caged up like animals.”

— Hagel, in 2006: Accused Israel of performing a “sickening slaughter” against members of the Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorist group.

— Hagel, in 2009: Signed a public letter in favor of direct negotiations with the terrorist group Hamas.

— Hagel, in 2006: “The political reality is that … the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people up here. … Let me clear something up here if there’s any doubt in your mind. I’m a United States Senator. I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States Senator. I support Israel. But my first interest is, I take an oath of office to the constitution of the United States. Not to a president, not to a party, not to Israel.”

On Iran:

— Hagel, in 2006, speaking in Islamabad, Pakistan, Hagel: “A military strike against Iran, a military option, is not a viable, feasible, responsible option.”

— Hagel, in 2008: “Iran will not be deterred from developing nuclear arms only because the United States and the EU say they must—especially if they feel threatened and if the United States, Great Britain, France, and Israel, among others, all retain their nuclear weapons.”

— Hagel, in 2006: Refused to ask that the Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be designated a terrorist organization.

On U.S. defense matters:

— Hagel, in 2009: Hagel agreed with an Al Jazeera caller that the U.S. is “the world’s bully.”

— Hagel, in 2012: “[R]ecommended deep reductions in the U.S. nuclear inventory and eventually retiring intercontinental ballistic missiles, which form the land leg of the military’s nuclear triad of land, sea and air delivery platforms — that has drawn the most scrutiny.”

— Hagel, in 2011: “The Defense Department, I think, in many ways, has become bloated. … In many ways I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down.”

Hagel hearing a “disaster.” Calls Iran terror regime an “elected, legitimate government.” Senators “shocked” by how “ill-prepared” Hagel was.

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) testifying on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) testifying on Capitol Hill Thursday.

Former Senator Chuck Hagel — President Obama’s nominee to be the next U.S. Secretary of Defense — had a terrible hearing on Capitol Hill today. It went worse than even Hagel’s critics expected and seems to have rattled those leaning towards supporting himi. CNN Congressional correspondent Dana Bash said Senators were “shocked” by how “ill-prepared” Hagel was. Liberal commentators on Twitter called Hagel’s performance a “disaster.”

For me, the performance further underscored why Hagel is a terrible choice to be the SecDef and will send exactly the wrong message to Iran and our other enemies around the globe.

Damascus countdown: Iran & Syria vow retaliation after Israeli airstrike. Is something more catastrophic coming?

Map locating the Syrian town Jamraya which was hit by an Israeli air strike on Wednesday. (Reuters graphic)

Map locating the Syrian town Jamraya which was hit by an Israeli air strike on Wednesday. (Reuters graphic)

What will be next?

As the implosion of Syria continues unabated, Israeli officials are increasingly worried that weapons of mass destruction positioned on Syrian soil will be used against the Jewish state. Or that they will fall into the hands of anti-Israeli forces. Or be handed over to anti-Israeli forces. Prime Minister Netanyahu and the IDF top brass are also deeply concerned about Iran’s efforts to use the chaos in Syria to divert international attention away from stopping Tehran’s nuclear weapons program. As I’ve written before on this blog — and explore in more detail in my forthcoming geopolitical thriller, Damascus Countdown — the corridor between Tel Aviv, Damascus and Tehran is the most dangerous corridor on the planet at the moment. Iran is getting closer to building The Persian Bomb. More than 40,000 people have been slaughtered inside Syria. The world is not taking decisive action to stop any of this. And there is a growing fear in the region that a countdown may have begun to something even more catastrophic happening in the not-too-distant future. I pray that it doesn’t. But governments are increasingly on edge, and for good reason.

Here’s a snapshot of the latest developments in the last 48 hours:

“Israel bombed a suspected shipment of antiaircraft missiles in Syria on Wednesday, according to regional and U.S. officials, in its most ambitious strike inside its neighbor’s territory in nearly two chaotic years of civil war there,” reports the Wall Street Journal. “The early-morning strike in a border area west of Damascus targeted a convoy of trucks carrying Russian-made SA-17 missiles to Hezbollah, the anti-Israel Shiite militant and political group in Lebanon, according to a Western official briefed on the raid.”

“Syria maintained that the accounts of a strike on an arms convoy near the country’s border with Lebanon were wrong. Instead, Syria’s military said, Israeli jets had attacked a military facility near Damascus,” the Journal reports. “‘Israeli warplanes violated our airspace at dawn today and directly struck one of the scientific research centers responsible for elevating resistance and self-defense capabilities in the area of Jamraya in the Damascus countryside,’ Syria’s military said in a statement carried by the official Sana news agency. The attack killed two workers and injured five others, it said, and ’caused significant material damage and the destruction of the complex’ and an adjacent parking lot. Syrian activists say the Jamraya site is in a mountainous area of military facilities and training camps located on a heavily guarded road just off the main Damascus-Beirut highway. Later Wednesday, a U.S. official said the accounts of two targets—a convoy of weapons, and a military site—weren’t mutually exclusive. The U.S. believes Israeli warplanes bombed a Hezbollah-bound convoy of antiaircraft missiles, U.S. officials said. The vehicles may have been close to a military facility, they said, cautioning their information remained incomplete.”

Meanwhile, “Iran threatened that a reported Israeli strike in Syria would have ‘grave consequences for Tel Aviv’ on Thursday, days after saying that an attack on Syria would be seen as an attack on Iran,” reports the Times of Israel. “Syria added that the attacks ‘would not go unanswered.'”

“All options for a response against Israeli aggression are open,” an official close to the Assad regime said, according to Syrian press reports. ”The Zionists are trying to use the situations in Syria to restart the crisis when the government was managing to work toward a diplomatic solution.”

“Angry statements from Russia, Iran and the militantly anti-Israel group Hezbollah underscored the risk that Israel’s action —  which analysts and Western officials described as an attempt to stop the transfer of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah outposts in Lebanon —  could hasten the spillover of the civil war in Syria into a wider conflict,” reports the Washington Post.

“Russia said on Thursday it was very concerned about reports of an Israeli attack in Syria and that any such action, if confirmed, would amount to unacceptable military interference in the war-ravaged country,” reports Ynet News. “‘If this information is confirmed, then we are dealing with unprovoked attacks on targets on the territory of a sovereign country, which blatantly violates the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motives to justify it,’ the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.”

>> Pre-order forthcoming international geopolitical thriller, Damascus Countdown, which releases March 5th

>> Watch the interview Pastor Ray Bentley did with me this past week analyzing the Israeli elections and discussing threats facing the Jewish people in 2013.

>> To support The Joshua Fund, please visit

Tensions with Syria escalate. Netanyahu orders Iron Dome batteries deployed in North. Number of Israelis seeking gas masks triples.

“Two Iron Dome batteries have been deployed in northern Israel over the past few days, the IDF said on Sunday,” reports Ynet News. “One battery of the missile-defense system was deployed in the Krayot area, while the other was installed in the Galilee region. Additional, fully operational batteries have already been deployed in the Haifa are and in other locations. About a week ago the security establishment successfully tested an upgraded version of the Iron Dome rocket defense system in Israel’s central region. The upgrades are designed to give the Iron Dome ‘improved capabilities against an unprecedented range of threats,’ the Defense Ministry said. ‘The test, which was completed successfully, will lead to an upgrade in Iron Dome’s operational capabilities.'”

Meanwhile, Ynet also reports: “The defense establishment’s concerns about the potential threat of chemical weapons from Syria and Hezbollah has not gone unnoticed by the Israeli public. The Israel Postal Serivce reported Wednesday that more Israelis are updating their gas masks and ABC kits. In fact, the number of Israelis changing their nonconventional warfare protection kits has nearly tripled over the past month. The public demand can be attributed to recent upheaval in Syria and the alarming possibility that the regime’s arsenal of nonconventional weapons may find its way to Hezbollah, as was implied by IAF Chief Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel Tuesday. ‘Syria is undergoing tectonic changes. Given its massive arsenals, Israel may find itself dealing with nonconventional weapons on its borders,’ Eshel said.”

>> Pre-order forthcoming international geopolitical thriller, Damascus Countdown, which releases March 5th

Egyptian state headed for implosion warns Army chief

Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi march despite a nighttime curfew in the city of Suez January 28, 2013. (photo credit: Reuters)

Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi march despite a nighttime curfew in the city of Suez January 28, 2013. (photo credit: Reuters)

“Residents of this Mediterranean coastal city burying their dead from Egypt’s wave of political violence vented their fury at Egypt’s Islamist president and the Muslim Brotherhood on Tuesday, demanding his ouster and virtually declaring a revolt against his rule, as the head of the military warned Egypt may collapse under the weight of its turmoil,” reports the Associated Press. “Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’ strongly worded comments, his first since the crisis began, appeared aimed at pushing both sides in Egypt’s political divide to reconcile and find a solution to the rapidly spreading protests and riots across much of the country the past six days.”

More excerpts from the report:

  • But his breaking of his silence falls heaviest on President Mohammed Morsi, who has been unable to contain the unrest by trying a tough hand, as protesters defied his declaration of a month-long state of emergency and curfew in Port Said and two neighboring cities. At least 60 people have been killed and hundreds injured since Thursday in clashes between police and protesters angry over what they call Islamists’ moves to monopolize power and failure to address the country’s multiple woes. In his comments, el-Sissi signaled the military would not move to put down protesters, saying troops are in a ‘grave predicament,’ forced to balance between ‘avoiding confrontation’ with citizens and protecting state institutions.
  • Violence exploded in Port Said on Saturday, leaving more than 40 dead since. The provincial governor has gone into hiding. Police are hunkered down. Tanks are in the streets by government buildings, but army troops have balked at enforcing Morsi’s curfew order. Residents in all three cities flouted the restrictions with huge marches in the streets Monday and Tuesday night.
  • “God wreak vengeance on Morsi, who gave the orders to shoot at the protesters of Port Said, the city that fought three countries,” said Ayman Mohammed Abdel-Fatah, holding a picture of a slain 22-year-old relative who he said was shot four times by police during protests outside Port Said’s prison.
  • “As long as the president’s hands are stained in blood, he must leave,” said Mohammed el-Assfouri, a lawyer, standing outside the Mariam mosque where mourners prayed for the dead.
  • Egypt’s unrest began Thursday and accelerated the following day when clashes erupted nationwide amid protests by the opposition marking the two-year anniversary of the start of the uprising that toppled Mubarak. Port Said’s violence was touched off Saturday when a court issued death sentences against 21 people — mostly local soccer fans — over a bloody soccer riot in the city a year ago. Youths infuriated by the verdicts marched in the streets and clashed with police at a police station and the prison.
  • The opposition contends the crisis is caused by Brotherhood attempts to monopolize power and can only be resolved if it makes major concessions to loosen its grip, including forming a national unity government and rewriting contentious parts of the Islamist-backed constitution. The Brotherhood has dismissed those demands, and Morsi has instead invited the opposition to join a broad dialogue conference. The opposition has refused it as mere window dressing. The army chief’s comments suggested the military’s impatience with politicians’ power struggles.

>> To learn more about Inside The Revolution: How The Followers of Jihad, Jefferson and Jesus Are Battling To Dominate The Middle East and Transform The World, please click here

Israeli warplanes reportedly strike targets on Syria-Lebanon border; Israel on high alert over Syrian WMD

israel-lineoffighterjets“Israeli warplanes attacked a target on the Lebanese-Syrian border overnight Tuesday, foreign media reported on Wednesday,” according to a report in the Times of Israel. “While some reports said the purported strike was carried out on the Syrian side of the border, according to one source the target was a weapons convoy that had crossed from Syria into Lebanon. The reports come amid rising concern in Israel and the West regarding the sizable chemical weapons stockpile in the hands of an increasingly embattled Syrian regime. Lebanese officials said a dozen Israeli warplanes violated Lebanese airspace on Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday, flying close to the ground in several sorties over southern Lebanon. The Israeli military and the Prime Minister’s Office had no comment. A Lebanese army statement said the last of the sorties was at 2 a.m. Wednesday. It said four warplanes, which flew in over the southernmost coastal town of Naqoura, flew for several hours over villages in south Lebanon before leaving Lebanese airspace.”

Similar details are being reported by other Israeli media sources, including Ynet News, the Jerusalem Post, and Haaretz.

If these reports are accurate, then the question is what exactly were the Israelis hitting and why?

It may take some time before we know for certain, but it’s possible that Israeli intelligence saw chemical weapons being moved out of Syria into Lebanon for use by Hezbollah. That is a red line Israeli officials have repeatedly stated would trigger the use of force.

The Times notes: “Israel has been deeply concerned that chemical weapons from Syria could make its way into the hands of the south-Lebanon-based Hezbollah terror group due to the chaos of the Syrian civil war, and has said on several occasions that the transfer of chemical weapons to non-state actors, especially Hezbollah, would be a casus belli. Another chief fear among Israeli security officials is that Hezbollah could get its hands on Syrian SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles. If that were to happen, it would change the balance of power in the region and greatly hinder Israel’s ability to conduct air sorties in Lebanon. Israel believes that Damascus obtained a battery of SA-17s from Russia after an alleged Israeli airstrike in 2007 that destroyed an unfinished Syrian nuclear reactor.”

The Jerusalem Post reports: “Vice Premier Silvan Shalom on Wednesday spoke to Israel Radio following  reports that Israel Air Force warplanes struck a target on the  Syrian-Lebanese border overnight, hours after Lebanon reported a series  of three overflights by Israel in its airspace. ‘The entire world has said more than once that it takes developments in  Syria very seriously, developments which can be in negative directions,’ he told Israel Radio, recalling that President Barack Obama has warned  Syrian President Bashar Assad of US action if his forces use  chemical weapons.”

>> Pre-order my forthcoming international geopolitical thriller, Damascus Countdown, which releases March 5th

Was there a major explosion at Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility? Iran says no. Israeli intel officials say yes. Mystery deepens.

Satellite photo of the Fordow uranium enrichment facility near Qom, Iran. What really happened there last week?

Satellite photo of the Fordow uranium enrichment facility near Qom, Iran. What really happened there last week?

Last week, Reza Kahlili — a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officer who became a double-agent for the CIA — reported the following: “An explosion deep within Iran’s Fordow nuclear facility has destroyed much of  the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground, according to a former intelligence officer of the Islamic regime. The previously secret nuclear site has become a center for Iran’s nuclear  activity because of the 2,700 centrifuges enriching uranium to the 20-percent level. A further enrichment to weapons grade would take only weeks, experts say….The blast shook facilities within a radius of three miles. Security forces have  enforced a no-traffic radius of 15 miles, and the Tehran-Qom highway was shut  down for several hours after the blast, the source said. As of Wednesday  afternoon, rescue workers had failed to reach the trapped personnel.”

Not a single major media outlet in Iran, Israel, the U.S. or elsewhere reported on the story at the time, much less confirmed it. Iranian officials flat out denied there had been any explosions. This led to concern that Kahlili’s report was unreliable and that this was all mere rumor.

Now, however, Israeli security and intelligence officials are indicating that there was, in fact, such an explosion. They’re not taking credit for it, mind you. But they seem to be happy about it. “Israeli intelligence officials have confirmed that a major explosion has rocked an Iranian nuclear facility, according to a report Monday in The Times of London,” reports the Times of Israel. “The British daily cited officials in Tel Aviv who said the blast occurred last week, as originally reported on the website Iran is not believed to have evacuated the area surrounding the Fordo plant, according to the same Israeli sources, who said that an investigation into the blast was ongoing. ‘We are still in the preliminary stages of understanding what happened and how significant it is,’ one Israeli official told the London Times. He did not know if the explosion was ‘sabotage or accident’ and refused to comment on reports that Israeli aircraft were seen near Fordo at the time of the blast. On Sunday, two senior Iranian officials dismissed reports of the explosion. Deputy head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Agency Seyyed Shamseddin Barbroudi said there had been no explosion at the Fordo facility whatsoever, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. The chairman of the Iranian parliament’s Committee for Foreign Policy and National Security, Alaeddin Boroujerdi, referred to rumors of the blast as ‘Western-made propaganda’ and said they were ‘baseless lies’ meant to impact ongoing talks on Iran’s nuclear program, reported IRNA.”

Over the weekend, Avi Dichter, Minister of Israel’s Home Front Defense Command and former head of the Shin Bet (Israel’s FBI), welcomed the news. “Any explosion in Iran that doesn’t hurt people but hurts its assets is welcome,” he said.

The German newspaper Die Welt also reports a major explosion did happen, at some 190 workers were injured or killed.

If such an explosion really happened, was it an accident, or sabotage? If it was a covert operation, was it was run by Israel, or by the U.S.? For now, it’s a mystery, and a fascinating one at that. As I wrote about in my e-book last fall, covert ops have played a major role in damaging Iran’s nuclear program in recent years. The success of these operations have, at time, reduced the need for a full-blown war to neutralize the Iranian program. What does 2013 hold? It’s too soon to say, but the plot is already beginning to thicken.

A few thoughts on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Also, here’s a link to my video report from Auschwitz.

Visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland in November 2011.

Visiting the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in Poland in November 2011.

Here are a few thoughts I’d like to share with you on this important day.

First, here is a link to the short video report of the visit I made to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in November 2011 with two pastors and their wives. I hope it will give you a sense of what I was thinking when I stepped into one of the gas chambers, saw a crematorium and walked the grounds where the Nazis exterminated more than one million Jews, as well as many others. Also, here’s a link to a blog I wrote about our trip to the notorious camp in Poland.

Second, please be praying for the Holocaust survivors that are still living today, and their families. Pray that the Lord comforts and heals their hearts, and draws them close to His own heart. Pray that He provides for them and cares for them in every possible way — physically, emotionally, financially, and most importantly spiritually. Please pray that the Lord would use Christians around the world to be a true blessing to them with unconditional love and unwavering support. Here’s a link to a report on one of the projects The Joshua Fund did to care for and encourage Holocaust Survivors in Israel. It’s just a snapshot of one little project among many that we do. But I want to thank you so much for your prayers and investment in TJF. With your help and God’s grace, we have a chance to honor and assist these dear, precious people who suffered so enormously in their youth, and sadly are now impoverished in their old age.

Third, here’s a link to a blog report on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s historic address at Auschwitz in January 2009 in which he declared that the prophecies of Ezekiel 37 (the “valley of dry bones”) have come to pass in the wake of the Holocaust. It includes a link to his full speech.

Fourth, let us not forget that even as the government of Iran denies that the Holocaust ever happened in Europe, it is preparing to commit another Holocaust of the six million Jewish people in Israel today. Many leaders around the world do not truly believe this is the objective of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and their inner circle. But as I have documented along with many others, this is their objective and they must be stopped before it is too late.

Fifth, let us be sobered by the realization that a terrible genocide is underway in the United States today. Since 1973, some 55 million children have been murdered through abortion. In the next few years, if this isn’t peacefully, legally and completely ended, we will cross the 60 million threshold — that will be 10 times the number of souls that we have murdered compared to the number of Jewish souls the Nazis murdered during the Holocaust. As I note in Implosion, we know the judgment God brought on the Nazi regime and their allies. Do we expect less if we do not confess these terrible national sins, repent and plead for His forgiveness?

>> Also, here’s an excellent column in the Times of Israel written by my friend, Tomas Sandell — director of the European Coalition for Israel — about lessons for Europe (and the world) in the wake of the Holocaust. I commend it to your attention.

>> Watch the interview Pastor Ray Bentley did with me this past week analyzing the Israeli elections and discussing threats facing the Jewish people in 2013.

My interview analyzing Israel’s elections, possible Iran strike & “complicated” Obama-Netanyahu relationship now on YouTube

Pastor Ray Bentley interviewing me in San Diego.

Pastor Ray Bentley interviewing me in San Diego.

Here’s the YouTube video of the interview I did on Wednesday night with Ray Bentley, the senior pastor at Maranatha Chapel in San Diego. It runs about 53 minutes.

We discussed:

* the fascinating outcome of the Israeli elections, what the results were, what they mean, and what they say about the trendlines in Israeli society

* the rise of Yair Lapid and his new secular Yesh Atid (“There is a future”) political party in Israel, now the nation’s second biggest party.

* the “complicated” relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu and the nuances of U.S.-Israeli relations

* the interesting trend of Netanyahu’s interest in the Bible, including why he recently started a Bible study in the Prime Minister’s residence

* the deep secularization of the Israeli society, and the serious lack of interest in the Word of God among most Israelis (I noted Amos 8:11, “‘Behold, days are coming,’ declares the Lord. ‘when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread ora  thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the Lord.”)

* the latest status of the Iranian nuclear threat and whether Netanyahu is more or less likely to order a preemptive military strike in 2013.

I hope you’ll find it interesting. Feel free to leaving comments on our “Epicenter Team” page on Facebook, and to share this video with others.

To learn more about Israel’s past, present and future, please prayerfully consider joining me for The Joshua Fund’s next “Prayer & Vision Tour” to Israel this summer (June 25 to July 7), a trip that will include admission to the 2013 Epicenter Conference.

UPDATED: Here’s the final vote tally. Does Netanyahu’s severely weakened political standing mean he’s less likely to hit Iran in 2013?

UPDATE ON THURSDAY: After counting additional ballots, the Israeli government issued final numbers. “The nationalist Jewish Home party has risen to become the fourth-largest Knesset faction, with 12 seats, after officials finished counting the votes of soldiers and others Thursday afternoon,” reports the Times of Israel. “The party had been predicted to take 11 seats before the last votes were counted. Kadima, which had stood on the edge of falling out of the Knesset, just squeezed over the entrance threshold after the 240,000 last votes were counted, finishing with 2.09% of the vote and ensuring places in the Knesset for party head MK Shaul Mofaz and MK Israel Hasson.”

  • Likud-Beytenu (31 seats) received 880,972 ballots, 23.32% of the general vote.
  • Yesh Atid (19): 541,033 (14.32%)
  • Labor Party (15): 430,305 (11.39%)
  • Jewish Home (12): 344,028 (9.11%)
  • Shas (11): 330,359 (8.74%)
  • United Torah Judaism (7): 195,577 (5.18%)
  • Hatnua (6): 188,425 (4.99%)
  • Meretz (6): 171,660 (4.54%)
  • United Arab List (4): 137,983 (3.65%)
  • Hadash (4): 113,336 (3.00%)
  • Balad (3): 96,788 (2.56%)
  • Kadima (2): 79,064 (2.09%)

ORIGINAL POST: Israelis have voted and with the final numbers in, two things are clear: 1) Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud-Beitenu party is far and away the largest party; but, 2) Netanyahu is no longer “King Bibi” — he is severely politically weakened and this has implications for Israeli domestic policy, but even more for its foreign policy.

Some analysts, for example, believe an Israeli preemptive strike on Iran in 2013 is now highly unlikely, if not impossible. “The chance that Netanyahu will feel strong enough to order an Israeli military strike on Iran is now nearly zero,” concludes Yossi Melman, a prominent Israeli journalist and national security analyst. My view is that it’s too early to draw that conclusion, but the question is an interesting one. There will also be significant new left-wing political pressure (along with intense pressure from the reelected Obama administration) for Netanyahu to make sweeping concessions to the Palestinians and divide the Land of Israel.

How will Netanyahu handle such pressures? I’ll discuss these and similar issues tonight in the event I’m speaking at in San Diego. Please join us in person or for the webcast (details here).

Likud’s political fusion the Israel Beitenu party should have netted 42 seats or more. In the aftermath of the indictment of Beitenu’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, the joint-ticked won only 31 seats. Netanyahu received a humbling blow. He said Tuesday night that he will seek a broad national coalition of parties from the right to the left to join his government, but the coalition-building negotiations are going to be interesting at best. Let’s be praying for Netanyahu, his advisors, and for each of the leaders of the 19th Knesset. Above all, Israel needs to look to the Lord for His wisdom during the immense challenges ahead.

“The Central Election Committee released the final results of the 2013 general election in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” reports Ynet News. “The joint Likud-Yisrael Beiteinu ticket was able to secure 31 Knesset seats, a significant drop from pre-election polls that predicted the ruling party and its ally would win 42 mandates. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave a victory speech shortly after midnight, saying: ‘I’m proud to be your prime minister. I thank you for giving me a chance, for the third time, to lead the State of Israel. It is a great privilege and a great responsibility,’ he said. Tuesday’s true victor was, however, journalist-turned-politician Yair Lapid, whose party, Yesh Atid, was able to win 19 mandates; cementing its status as the second-largest party in the Knesset. Labor was also able to rehabilitate its position in the House, winning 15 seats and becoming the Knesset’s third-largest party.”

“How will Israel’s 33rd government look?” asks the Times of Israel. “Let the post-election mathematics begin. For starters, it should be noted that Benjamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Liberman’s Likud-Yisrael Beytenu list is clearly best positioned to head a stable government. It is therefore almost certain that President Shimon Peres will ask the incumbent prime minister to try to build a coalition first. While a meager 31 seats for Likud-Yisrael Beytenu does not give Netanyahu the strength he was hoping for, he has little to fear from his new Knesset colleagues and rivals. Even if Yesh Atid (with 19 seats) teamed up with Labor (15 seats), Hatnua (6 seats), Meretz (6 seats) and Kadima (possibly 2 seats), the center-left bloc would still fall a dozen mandates short of even a slim majority. And it is very unlikely that such a bloc would be joined by either an Arab or an ultra-Orthodox party. For that matter, the center-left parties would most likely be unwilling to pay the political price the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties would demand. So, however weakened, and however spectacular Yesh Atid’s rise, Netanyahu is in the driver’s seat.”

“Conventional wisdom has it that Netanyahu will seek first to partner with the right-wing and the ultra-Orthodox parties, as he has done in the past,” the Times notes. “Shas and United Torah Judaism are often referred to as Netanyahu’s “natural” partners, and both lists have already signaled they are eager to join his coalition. The prime minister also reportedly expressed his willingness to invite them to build a government together, offering to open coalition talks with Shas’s Eli Yishai on Thursday. But with almost all of the votes counted, Likud-Beytenu, the Jewish Home party (11 seats), Shas (wobbling between 11 and 12 seats) and United Torah Judaism (7 seats) were headed for just 60-61 seats — a tiny majority, if that, in the 120-seat Knesset. Netanyahu said late Tuesday that he wants to create a wide government. Therefore, he might seek a coalition that also includes Yesh Atid — not only to have more wiggle room (that is, not to be subject to political blackmail by Shas or UTJ) — but also to look more moderate to outside onlookers and more moderate-minded Israelis. Yet Yesh Atid’s secularist chairman, Yair Lapid, is unlikely to join a coalition that includes both of the ultra-Orthodox parties. Also, any coalition that would include Shas and especially UTJ would hardly agree to push through a law that would draft the Haredim. Nonetheless, this might be Netanyahu’s favored coalition. The question is how effectively Lapid might either resist it, or seek the guarantees that would enable him to join it without betraying his platform. With 19 seats, Lapid has quite some leverage.”

>> Come with me and The Joshua Fund to Israel in 2013 for a “Prayer & Vision Tour” and Epicenter Conference — you’ve read about Israel, now come step into the story.