Meeting with Texas Governor Perry to discuss Israel & Iran.

Meeting with Gov. Perry in Austin.

Meeting with Gov. Perry in Austin.

On Friday, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert and I met with Governor Rick Perry at the State Capitol in Austin.

I first met the Governor at the Family Leadership Summit in Des Moines, Iowa last summer. There we had maybe 15 minutes or so talking about the economic and spiritual troubles facing our country. This was a much more substantive discussion. We had about 90 minutes together to discuss the President’s trip to Israel, the Iran nuclear threat, the possibility of an Israeli first strike on Iran’s nuclear sites, and the importance of maintaining a strong alliance with the Jewish state.

It was an honor to present the Governor with a signed copy of Damascus Countdown.

Our specific conversations were off the record, but I can say I learned a lot more about Texas state history — and especially Sam Houston — than I knew going in.

I’m grateful for the Governor’s time, and for his strong support of the State of Israel and of doing all we can to strengthen Jewish-Christian relations.

———————-

I’ll be on Hannity’s Mideast Special on Friday night to discuss Iran nuclear threat & whether Obama gave Netanyahu the “green light.”

Giving Sean a signed copy of "Damascus Countdown" tonight on the set of his Mideast Special.

Giving Sean a signed copy of “Damascus Countdown” tonight on the set of his Mideast Special.

I’m in Manhattan tonight as a guest on Sean Hannity’s TV show. Earlier this evening, Sean pre-taped a one-hour special on the President’s trip to Israel. It will air on the Fox News Channel on Friday night at 9pm eastern.

It was a great and lively discussion with a fascinating group of guests. Together, we analyzed the President’s trip to Israel, the Iran nuclear threat, whether Netanyahu has been given a “green light” to strike Iran, why the U.S. is selling fighter jets and tanks to Egypt now that it is run by the Muslim Brotherhood, looking back at the Iraq war 10 years later, and the threat of Radical Islam generally, among several other topics. Sean asked me about my novels and how I use them to help people imagine worst case scenarios. We discussed Damascus Countdown in particular and afterwards I gave Sean a signed copy.

As I mentioned, it was a fascinating and experienced group of Middle East experts, including:

  • John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N.
  • Elliott Abrams, former Deputy National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush
  • Congressman Pete King of New York, a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and former Chairman of the Homeland Security Committee
  • Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas, Vice Chair of the Judiciary subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security
  • K.T. McFarland, Fox News national security analyst who held national security posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan Administrations

I hope you’ll tune in Friday, or set your DVR. In the meantime, please keep praying for the peace of Jerusalem. Clearly, these are increasingly dangerous times.

>> To learn more about Damascus Countdown, click here

Has Obama given Netanyahu “green light” to hit Iran? Video of Rosenberg interview on Fox News.

AAA-JoelonHemmerFox-2>> Secret Iranian nuclear site previously unknown to Western intelligence revealed by former CIA agent. Has Iran crossed the “red line”? Implications?

On Thursday morning, I was on the Fox News Channel and was interviewed by Bill Hemmer. We discussed President Obama’s trip to the epicenter, and the latest developments with Iran’s nuclear program — including the new report of a previously undisclosed Iranian nuclear facility.

We also discussed the complexities of the relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu and whether the President has — or still may — give Israel the “green light” to hit Iran.

Hemmer cited the oped I wrote the other day for the Fox News website: “Three critical questions Obama needs to answer during his Israel trip.” 

We also touched on Damascus Countdown, which includes the fictional element of a secret Iranian nuclear facility being discovered by a CIA operative.

Here is the link to the online video of the interview — it lasts 4:34 minutes.

>> To follow the latest developments on Twitter, please follow — @joelcrosenberg

President Obama delivers major speech in Jerusalem as part of charm offensive with the Israeli people: Will it work?

President delivers major address at the Jerusalem Convention Center.

President delivers major address in Jerusalem.

UPDATED: President Obama just completed a major address in the Israeli capital of Jerusalem. It was a strategic piece of a major three-day charm offensive the President is engaged in to try to build support among the Israeli people after four years that have been rocky at best, and antagonistic, even contentious, at worst.

Will it work?

I’ve been live-Tweeting throughout the speech, noting key lines from the address as well as the very warm reaction the college students who were invited to attend.

Here is the full text of the President’s address.

Here are the Tweets I sent out as the President delivered his remarks:

  • I’m watching President Obama’s speech, now happening at the Jerusalem Convention Ctr (where we held our 1st Epicenter Conf in 2008)
  • “There remains time” to try diplomacy with Iran. “But Iran must understand this time is not unlimited…all options are on the table.”
  • “Israel is not going anywhere.” President rejects those who reject Israel’s right to exist.
  • President says in Hebrew, “So long as there is a United States, you are not alone.” Strong response from students in the hall.
  • President asks about Israel, “What does the future hold?” Important question.
  • “Today, Israel is at a crossroads.”
  • President: Peace is necessary. “No wall is high enough. No Iron Dome is perfect enough” to provide Israel full protection.
  • Survival of a Jewish, democratic Israel requires a Palestinian state.
  • “Peace is justice.” Justice is needed for the Palestinians, as well as for Israelis.
  • President: “I’m going off script here for a moment.” Discusses meeting Palestinian young people. “I want these kids to succeed.”
  • This is why the President is speaking to young people, rather than the Knesset. He’s getting a powerfully strong postive reaction.
  • President makes three points: 1) Peace is necessary; 2) Peace is just; 3) Peace is possible.
  • President: Arab states need to take steps to normalize relations with Israel. Palestinians must realize Israel will be a Jewish state.
  • President urges Israel not to keep building settlements and says Palestinian state must be “viable” with “borders that must be drawn.”
  • President Obama delivers major speech in Jerusalem as part of charm offensive with the Israeli people. Will it work?

———————–

Here are links to Israeli coverage:

Secret Iranian nuclear site previously unknown to Western intelligence revealed by former CIA agent. Has Iran crossed the “red line”? Implications?

Kahlili: GoogleEarth 12-2012 image, missile silos, the size suggests large ballistic missiles such as Shahab 3 or the North Korean Taepodong II (ICBMs)Read more at http://www.wnd.com/2013/03/revealed-evidence-iran-crossed-nuclear-red-line.

Kahlili: GoogleEarth 12-2012 image, missile silos, the size suggests large ballistic missiles such as Shahab 3 or the North Korean Taepodong II (ICBMs)

>> Khamenei: Iran will destroy Tel Aviv if attacked

UPDATED: “Iranian scientists are working on nuclear warheads — and trying to perfect them — at an underground site unknown to the West, according to a high-ranking intelligence officer of the Islamic regime,” reports Reza Kahlili, a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps officer who joined the CIA and became a double agent against the Iranian regime.

“The officer, who has been assigned to the Ministry of Defense, not only provided the coordinates to this vast site but also details of its operation,” Kahlili reports. “The site, approximately 14 miles long and 7.5 miles wide, consists of two facilities built deep into a mountain along with a missile facility that is surrounded by barbed wire, 45 security towers and several security posts. The new secret nuclear site, named Quds (Jerusalem), is almost 15 miles from another site, previously secret but exposed in 2009, the Fordow nuclear facility. The power to this site comes from the same source as Fordow – the Shahid Rajaei power plant – with high power towers surrounding the site. Construction of the site started about the same time as Fordow, and in the second half of 2010 all industrial tests were completed. The site became 60 percent operational in 2011.”

In an op-ed in today’s Washington Times, Kahlili writes: “Images of a secret nuclear site known as Quds…show the regime has crossed the nuclear red line. In collaboration with North Korea, it is now steps away from arming its missiles  with nuclear warheads. According to information from a high-ranking intelligence officer assigned to  the Ministry of Defense, the regime’s scientists have made a significant  breakthrough in not only enriching to weapons grade, but have converted the  highly enriched uranium into metal, a key step in building nuclear warheads.  Moreover, successfully using the metal in making a neutron reflector indicates  the final stages for a nuclear-weapons design that would be a two-stage, more  sophisticated and much more powerful nuclear bomb.”

In my current novel series — including Damascus Countdown and the previous novel, The Tehran Initiative — fictional CIA operative David Shirazi [whose code name is “Reza Tabrizi”] is operating deep inside Iran. He exposes a previously unknown Iranian nuclear weapons facility where nine nuclear warheads were built and where Iran is clandestinely working on two dozen more, along with the missiles to fire them at Israel. To me this is a worst-case scenario, but until now it was only fiction.

Should Kahlili’s disturbing new information be verified by U.S. and Israeli intelligence, it could prove a game-changer. It would mean Iran is at — or has crossed — the “red line,” forcing President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu to take more decisive steps to neutralize the Iran threat, and more quickly that perhaps they had planned.

According to Kahlili’s information, which includes numerous satellite photos of the alleged site, “Gen. Ahmad Vahid Datjerdi, who works in the supreme leader’s office to protect the regime’s information and counterintelligence, manages the site. His deputy, Hojatolislam Ramezani, was appointed to the protection of intelligence at the Defense Ministry after several leaks about the country’s nuclear operations. Quds, built about 375 feet under the mountain and accessible by two large entrances reinforced with concrete, has 12 emergency exit tunnels and spreads around the mountain. The site has a capacity of 8,000 centrifuges and currently has three operational chambers with 19 cascades of 170 to 174 centrifuges enriching uranium. As of three months ago, the source said, there were 76 kilograms of 20 percent enriched uranium stock at the site and 48 kilograms of over 40 percent enriched uranium. Though the regime has long succeeded in enriching uranium to 20 percent, which is 80 percent of the way to weapons grade, enriching to over 20 percent would be a clear sign of an intention of building a nuclear bomb.”

To read Reza Kahlili’s full report — and see the satellite photos he is referring to — please click here.

Rockets fired from Gaza at Israel as President Obama meets with Palestinian leaders in Ramallah

President Obama meets with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Ramallah on Thursday.

President Obama meets with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in Ramallah on Thursday.

>> NOTE: I’ll be on the Fox News Channel around 9:10am eastern on Thursday to discuss the President’s trip.

Thursday is Day Two of President Obama’s trip to the epicenter. Here’s coverage and analysis of Day One.

The President began Day Two by visiting the Israel Museum and seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls at the “Shrine of the Book” with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Then he headed to Ramallah on the West Bank to meet with Palestinian leaders, including Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas. The goal was to discuss the possible re-starting of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks towards the President’s goal of creating a sovereign Palestinian state. Yet in the midst of all this, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza fired Kassam rockets at Jewish civilians living in southern Israeli towns, including Sderot.

It is right for the American President to visit with, listen to, and honor the Palestinian people and their leaders. They have dreams and goals and needs and desires and they have been ignored or forgotten by the world for far too long. But I am grieved and sickened by news that Palestinian terrorists in Gaza have again fired rockets at innocent civilians in southern Israel. The situation demonstrates precisely why it is not possible to create a comprehensive peace deal in the current environment.

  1. Abbas is serving his eighth year of a four year term — he refuses to call elections again for fear Hamas could seize control of the West Bank, as it has seized control of Gaza.
  2. Abbas refuses to us the Palestinian Authority forces to crush terrorism in Gaza — he and his government have no control and little influence in Gaza.
  3. The Palestinian leadership cannot make peace between the West Bank and Gaza — how then is Israel supposed to make peace with them?
  4. I believe in giving the Palestinian people full autonomy so they can run their daily lives — but not sovereignty, which would allow the Palestinians to build an air force, army and Navy and alliances with Iran, Syria, etc.

I’ll post more analysis later today. But for now, let me share some of the highlights of today’s coverage from the region.

>> Remarks by President Obama and President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority in Joint Press Conference

“U.S. President Barack Obama is meeting Palestinian officials on the second day of his Mideast tour to emphasize the importance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal, a message underscored Thursday when Palestinian militants in Gaza launched rockets into southern Israel,” reported the Associated Press. “After a visit to Israel’s national museum — where he inspected the Dead Sea Scrolls, which highlight the Jewish people’s ancient connection to the land that is now Israel — Obama headed to the West Bank to tell the Palestinians that the creation of a Palestinian state remains a priority for his administration.”

“Four rockets were fired at Israel out of Gaza Thursday morning, as red alert sirens rang out in south, breaking a tense several month calm in the area,” reports the Times of Israel. “One of the Kassam rockets landed in a residential courtyard in Sderot, causing no injuries but some damage to the home of the Hazizu family. Another landed in an open area in the Sha’ar Hanegev area with no reported injures or damage, and two more landed within the Strip, near the fence with Israel, according to initial reports. “'[President Barack] Obama should come and see how we live here,’ said Sara Hazizu on Army Radio. ‘We live in nice homes, but that means nothing. Really, we live in our security rooms. He should see how our 8-year-old daughter has to dash for the safety of the security room [when the rocket alarms go off].'”

“We condemn violence against civilians, no matter where it originates,” Abbas was quoted as saying. “We are in favor of establishing mutual and comprehensive calm in the Gaza Strip, and therefore I supported the agreement Hamas and Israel reached through Egyptian mediation.”

Timeline of the President’s trip to Ramallah (from Haaretz):

  • 1:32 P.M. local time — Obama-Abbas joint press conference begins.
  • 1:20 P.M. — Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh tells Ma’an: “We believe American policies perpetuate the Israeli occupation and settlements in Palestine under a slogan of peace… The PA must realize that they have to abide by national principles and reconciliation.” (Haaretz)
  • 1:10 P.M. — Obama-Abbas meeting continuing for longer than expected. (Haaretz)
  • 1:00 P.M. — Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad joins Abbas’ meeting with Obama, along with Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki, Minister for Prisoner Affairs Issa Qaraqe, Fatah Central Committee member Mohammad Shtayyeh and Abbas’ economic adviser Mohammad Mustafa. (Haaretz)
  • 12:23 P.M. Palestinians present Obama with a picture of him and Abraham Lincoln.
  • 12:15 P.M. Ma’an news agency reports scuffles between some 150 Palestinian demonstrators and security forces in Ramallah, as protesters hold up shoes, shouting anti-Obama slogans and calling for the U.S. president to leave Palestine.
  • 11:56 A.M. At the Jerusalem Convention Center, press and invited students are already lining up outside, a full five hours before Obama is set to take the stage. In the parking lot, scores of military police and soldiers are lolling around, snacking, and chatting, taking it easy before the action begins and the president arrives to address the people of Israel. (Debra Kamin)
  • 11:30 A.M. The official Palestinian Wafa news agency quoted Abbas condemning the rocket fire: “We condemn violence against civilians regardless of its source, including rocket firing,” he said. (Retuers)
  • 11:15 A.M. Obama, Abbas begin their meeting in Ramallah. Following the meeting, the two leaders will attend a joint press conference. (Jack Khouri)
  • 11:00 A.M. U.S. officials say Obama will speak with Abbas about the rockets fired from Gaza on Thursday morning. (Barak Ravid)
  • 10:59 A.M. Abbas greets Obama after he emerges from Marine One. Obama reviews honor guard of American-trained soldiers. (Haaretz)

Podcast of Gov. Huckabee interview w/Joel Rosenberg on Obama trip to Israel.

Huckabee: "Way too close to reality."

Huckabee: “Way too close to reality.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Governor Mike Huckabee interviewed me today on his nationally syndicated radio program for about 15 minutes. We discussed the following questions:

  • What is being said behind closed doors between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel right now?
  • How close is Iran to getting The Bomb?
  • Would President Obama order military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities?
  • Can/should Israel trust President Obama to move decisively to neutralize the Iran nuclear threat?

I’m grateful the Governor called Damascus Countdown “fascinating and compelling” and “way to close to reality for a novel.”

To listen to the podcast of the interview, please click here.

Day One: Analyzing the Obama-Netanyahu press conference. Here are the key points made. Question remains: How will U.S. handle Iran, Syria threats?

U.S. President Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu speak at a news conference in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. (Photo by Reuters)

U.S. President Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu speak at a news conference in Jerusalem, March 20, 2013. (Photo by Reuters)

>> Text of full official transcript of the Press Conference with PM Netanyahu and President Obama

>> Three critical questions Obama needs to answer during his Israel trip: My op-ed for Fox News website

10:00pm Israel time — A few observations about the two leaders:

  • Much warmer chemistry that at any time in the past four years.
  • President kept calling Netanyahu by his nickname, “Bibi.”
  • They made jokes, even about each other.
  • It was clear both men were working to improve their relationship, and the perception of their relationship.
  • It struck me that Netanyahu was deeply grateful the President of the United states was in Jerusalem, what he called Israel’s “historic capital,” honoring him and the nation of Israel.
  • Nothing contentious was raised, except by the press, and the leaders deftly maneuvered around such questions and insinuations of past troubles.
  • The real question, of course, is: What is really happening behind closed doors?
  • But the day certainly gave the appearance of an alliance that is closer and stronger than it has been in years.
  • It is even possible — to early to be sure, but possible — that the two men are seeing the Iran issue more closely than they have in the past.
  • To be determined….

9:12pm Israel time — Press conference ends.

Here are the Tweets I posted during the presser:

  • Netanyahu: glad to be able to reciprocate the President’s hospitality
  • Netanyahu leads with Iran threat, but says “so far diplomacy and sanctions have not stopped Iran.”
  • Netanyahu says Israel can “never cede” the right of self-defense — even to the U.S. — in face of “existential threat”
  • Netanyahu now turns to Syria, mourning death of so many civilians, discussing WMD
  • Netanyahu says Israel is “fully committed” to peace, “two states for two peoples.” Calls for “historic compromise.”
  • Netanyahu notes this is the 10th mtg with President Obama. “Deeply appreciated,” especially on eve of Passover.
  • President Obama thanks Netanyahu, Sara, and their two sons. Says Bibi’s sons clearly got their good looks from their mother. LOL.
  • President says he has “spent more time” with Netanyahu “than with any other leader”
  • President says Israel’s security needs are truly unique and is “measured in miles and minutes.”
  • President is repeatedly referring to Israeli PM as “Bibi,” effort to make relationship more personal.
  • President commits to continuing to fund Iron Dome system so Israel can defend itself, by itself.
  • Interesting: President leads with Palestinian issue, while Netanyahu began with Palestinian issue.
  • President now discussing Syria threat, only now — last — Iran nuclear threat.
  • President says US doesn’t have policy of containtment, but prevention. “Still time” to use diplomacy.
  • President makes no news on Iran issue — except that he is there, affirming Israel’s right of self-defense.
  • President says US will “investigate thoroughly” the allegation of chemical weapons use in Syria. “What can we prove?”
  • “We know the Syrian government has the capacity to use chemical weapons” and some in govt have expressed willingness to use them.
  • President says he is skeptical of claims the rebels have used chemical weapons, when it is the Syrian govt that really has the stockpile.
  • President: “Assad regime has lost all credibility” and “Assad must go.”
  • President: If Syria uses chemical weapons, this would be a “game changer,” but won’t specify next steps until facts are known.
  • President being asked by reporter about “red lines” and Iran nuclear threat.
  • Netanyahu: “I’m absolutely convinced that the President is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear bombs.”
  • Netanyahu: “A nuclear Iran is a grave threat.”
  • President: stresses intelligence cooperation w/Israel as “unprecedented” and there is “not a lot of daylight” between assessments.
  • President: Each country has to make its own decisions about its security, and wouldn’t expect Israel to “defer” decision to U.S.
  • Noteworthy: President Obama said there isn’t much “daylight” between him and Netanyahu, but conceded there is some.
  • Obama: “What was already a tough neighborhood has gotten tougher.” But Israel has a friend in U.S., and “America has your back.”
  • Netanyahu: “There is a misunderstanding about time.” If Iran decides to build The Bomb, it would take about a year.”
  • Netanyahu says Iran “hasn’t yet reached the red line…but is getting closer.”
  • Netanyahu: “Whatever time is left, there isn’t a lot of time.”
  • Interesting: “settlements” never mentioned in this press conference.

8:30pm Israel time — Press conference begins — see live tweeting — @joelcrosenberg.

8:25pm Israel time — While we’re waiting for the press conference, a bit of light-hearted news. The President’s limousine, nicknamed by the Secret Service “the Beast,” wouldn’t start this morning. Why? Some staff person apparently filled it with diesel, not unleaded gas. Air Force One was actually inbound for Tel Aviv when the Secret Service realized the problem. So they had to call their staff in Jordan and have them rapidly send another presidential limousine that had been prepositioned for the next leg of the trip. Fortunately, the backup limo arrived in time. Never a dull moment.

8:15pm Israel time — Press conference with two leaders will begin shortly.

7:00pm Israel time (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC) — Governor Mike Huckabee just interviewed me for about 15 minutes about the President’s visit to Israel and current developments in the epicenter. I’m grateful the Governor called Damascus Countdown “fascinating and compelling” and “way to close to reality for a novel.”

Here are some of the points I made on his nationally syndicated radio program:

As I noted in my oped for the Fox News website today, there are three critical questions the president needs to answer on this trip:

    1. Have diplomacy, sanctions and covert operations failed to stop Iran from  building nuclear weapons?
    2. If so, will President Obama order airstrikes against Iran, or give Israel  the “green light” to hit Iran’s nuclear sites since other measures have  failed?
    3. If not, why not?
  • It is likely that these questions are being asked during the private dinner Netanyahu and Obama are having as we speak.
  • There appears to be daylight between Shimon Peres and Netanyahu on the “trust factor.” Peres said earlier today that Israel trusts Obama and his policies to bring about a peaceful resolution of the Iran nuclear threat. It is unlikely that Netanyahu could say such a thing, or mean it. The Prime Minister does not trust the President — he wants to; he would very much like to see the U.S. take the lead on decisively neutralizing the Iranian nuclear threat, but he has not see concrete actions that give him confidence.
  • Perhaps the President has new intelligence, or a new plan, that he is unveiling tonight that could change the equation.
  • I would expect the optics and body language of this trip to be very positive for the two leaders.
  • We may not know for several days, or weeks, if there is true unity between Netanyahu and Obama on the Iran issue.

6:30pm Israel time — Who is in the room? Meeting with the Netanyahus and President Obama this evening are:

  • Secretary of John Kerry
  • US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro
  • Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon
  • International Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz
  • Yitzhak Molcho, senior advisor to the PM
  • Ron Dermer, senior advisor to the PM

5:21pm Israel time (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC) — Peres says Israel trusts Obama on Iran. Will Netanyahu say the same thing?

“Peres calls Obama a true friend and says he has faith that the U.S. president’s dream can be achieved, and that it can change the face of the Middle East,” reports Haaretz.” He says the two agree that Iran is the greatest threat, and that Israel trusts the U.S. policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon – believing it is in Obama’s interest to do so without force and with clear declarations.”

>> NOTE: I’m tracking coverage from the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Times of Israel, AP, Reuters, CNN, Fox News, and numerous other journalists, analysts and friends.

>> NOTE: I’m going to be live Tweeting the next few days through the President’s visit to the epicenter — Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. I’ll also be re-Tweeting key tidbits, stories and analysis I’m seeing from others. Please send me stories you find interesting, and please follow along — @joelcrosenberg

Obama arrives in Israel.

AAA-ObamainIsrael[The live blog feed covering the President’s arrival is now closed.]

6:00pm Israel time — Private dinner begins at the Netanyahu residence.

“After hundreds of suggestions were received on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Facebook page, Sara Netanyahu has chosen the gifts that she will give to US First Lady Michelle Obama, to Sasha and Malia Obama and even to the presidential dog Bo,” notes the Prime Minister’s official website. “Ms. Netanyahu will give Michelle Obama a silver Passover seder plate that could be used at the traditional Passover seder that is held at the White House annually. To Sasha and Malia Obama, Ms. Netanyahu will give chains with silver medallions in the form of David’s harp set with Roman glass. Ms. Netanyahu will give Bo a rubber hamburger toy. Additionally, singer Idan Raichel has been chosen to appear at the dinner that Prime Minister and Sara Netanyahu will host in honor of US President Barack Obama at their residence tomorrow evening, Wednesday, 20 March 2013. Raichel will appear with several members of the Idan Raichel Project, including Maya Avraham and Kabra Kasai. They will sing “Mima’amakim” and “Min Nhar Li Mshiti”, and play an instrumental selection.”

5:58pm Israel time — “The U.S. ambassador to Syria said Wednesday the Obama administration has no evidence to support President Bashar Assad’s claims that U.S.-backed rebels used chemical weapons in northern Syria, but is looking carefully at the conflicting reports,” reports AP. “‘So far we have no evidence to substantiate the reports that chemical weapons were used yesterday,’ Robert Ford told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He later added that the administration was extremely concerned and trying to verify reports that such weapons were used in the Aleppo province and the Damascus suburbs.”

5:57pm Israel time — “The prime minister praises Obama for knowing ‘exactly when to come’ to Israel — once a government had been formed,” reports the Times of Israel. “Obama is seated at a small round table, with Netanyahu seated facing him. Sara stands to her husband’s left. Now she escorts him toward the other waiting dignitaries, including Secretary of State Kerry, Ambassador Dan Shapiro, and Netanyahu’s aides including Yitzhak Molcho and Ron Dermer. A brief chat with Netanyahu’s son, Yair, apparently talking about army service. What do you plan to study? ‘International relations.'”

5:45pm Israel time — Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, welcome President Obama and Secretary to their official residence for a working dinner. Topics: Iran threat, Syrian chemical weapons, and next steps with Palestinians.

5:30pm Israel time (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC)Full text of President Obama’s remarks upon arriving in Israel:

“Shalom. President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and most of all, to the people of Israel, thank you for this incredibly warm welcome. This is my third visit to Israel so let me just say tov lihiyot shuv ba’aretz.

“I’m so honored to be here as you prepare to celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free and independent State of Israel. Yet I know that in stepping foot on this land, I walk with you on the historic homeland of the Jewish people. More than 3,000 years ago, the Jewish people lived here, tended the land here, prayed to God here. And after centuries of exile and persecution, unparalleled in the history of man, the founding of the Jewish State of Israel was a rebirth, a redemption unlike any in history. Today, the sons of Abraham and the daughters of Sarah are fulfilling the dream of the ages — to be “masters of their own fate” in “their own sovereign state.” And just as we have for these past 65 years, the United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.

“As I begin my second term as President, Israel is the first stop on my first foreign trip. This is no accident. Across this region the winds of change bring both promise and peril. So I see this visit as an opportunity to reaffirm the unbreakable bonds between our nations, to restate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel’s security, and to speak directly to the people of Israel and to your neighbors. I want to begin right now, by answering a question that is sometimes asked about our relationship — why? Why does the United States stand so strongly, so firmly with the State of Israel? And the answer is simple. We stand together because we share a common story — patriots determined “to be a free people in our land,” pioneers who forged a nation, heroes who sacrificed to preserve our freedom, and immigrants from every corner of the world who renew constantly our diverse societies. We stand together because we are democracies. For as noisy and messy as it may be, we know that democracy is the greatest form of government ever devised by man. We stand together because it makes us more prosperous. Our trade and investment create jobs for both our peoples. Our partnerships in science and medicine and health bring us closer to new cures, harness new energy and have helped transform us into high-tech hubs of our global economy. We stand together because we share a commitment to helping our fellow human beings around the world. When the earth shakes and the floods come, our doctors and rescuers reach out to help. When people are suffering, from Africa to Asia, we partner to fight disease and overcome hunger. And we stand together because peace must come to the Holy Land. For even as we are clear-eyed about the difficulty, we will never lose sight of the vision of an Israel at peace with its neighbors.

“So as I begin this visit, let me say as clearly as I can — the United States of America stands with the State of Israel because it is in our fundamental national security interest to stand with Israel. It makes us both stronger. It makes us both more prosperous. And it makes the world a better place. That’s why the United States was the very first nation to recognize the State of Israel 65 years ago. That’s why the Star of David and the Stars and Stripes fly together today. And that is why I’m confident in declaring that our alliance is eternal, it is forever — lanetzach. Thank you very much.”

4:02pm Israel time — President Obama arrives at Israeli president’s residence, greets Shimon Peres, ready to begin reception and then private talks on Iran, Syria and the Palestinian peace process.

4:00pm Israel time — CBN posts news story on the presidential visit, including I did with their White House correspondent.

3:59pm Israel time — Obama motorcade moving through Jerusalem, en route to Peres residence.

3:40pm Israel time — Israeli President Shimon Peres told reception for the American President at his official residence in Jerusalem that will begin at 4pm local time, 10am Washington time.

2:40pm Israel time (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC) — “Haaretz analyst in New York Chemi Shalev points out that the American media is also providing extensive coverage of Obama’s visit to Israel. American commentators believe that the use of chemical weapons on Syria will be high up on the agenda during Obama’s meetings.”

2:31pm Israel time Israeli government releases full text of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s remarks welcoming the President(Haaretz):

“President Obama, This is an historic moment. You have chosen to come to Israel as the first foreign visit of your second term, you the leader of the United States, the world’s greatest democracy, have chosen to come to our somewhat smaller but no less vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East, the one and only Jewish state of Israel. On behalf of the government and the people of Israel, I come here today with a simple message for you and the American people: Thank you. Thank you for standing by Israel at this time of historic change in the Middle East. Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself by itself against any threat. Thank you for enhancing Israel’s’ ability to exercise that right through generousmilitary assistance, revolutionary missile defense programs, and unprecedented security and intelligence cooperation. Thank you, Mr. President, for upholding the Jewish people’s right to a Jewish state in our historic homeland, and for boldly defending that right at the United Nations. And thank you for strengthening the unbreakable alliance between our two nations during your Presidency.

“In an unstable and uncertain Middle East, the need for our alliance is greater than ever. It is the key to thwarting dangers and advancing peace; it’s the key to achieve a the stable and secure peace that the people of Israel yearn for with our neighbors with our all hearts. We seek a peace with our Palestinian neighbors. I look forward to working with you over the next four years to make the alliance between our two countries even stronger. Mr. President, on this historic visit, you will have an opportunity to see a different side of Israel. You will see past, present, and future in this tiny land which has left such a huge imprint on the course of civilization. You will see the ancient Dead Sea Scrolls, the world’s oldest text of the Bible, written in Hebrew here 2,000 years ago, scrolls that bear witness to the timeless bond between the Jewish people and the Land of Israel. You will meet the young men and women of Israel who make it one of the most creative and dynamic societies on earth. And you will see Israeli technology and innovation which is fundamentally transforming the way we live. Mr. President, Barack – on a lighter side, I had an opportunity to see your interview on Israeli television the other day. I took note of your desire to go incognito, so if you have a few free minutes, and you can arrange to slip away from your security – a daunting task – well, we picked out a few cafes and bars in Tel Aviv, as we even prepared a fake mustache for you.

“Mr. President, the people of Israel are honored to have you visit our country. We warmly welcome you as a cherished guest. We deeply appreciate your friendship. And we share your hope that the Middle East will enjoy a future of freedom, prosperity and peace. Mr. President, Baruch HaBa L’Yisrael: welcome to Israel.”

2:15pm Israel time —  There are three critical questions the president needs to answer on this trip:

1) Have diplomacy, sanctions and covert operations failed to stop Iran from  building nuclear weapons?

2) If so, will President Obama order airstrikes against Iran, or give Israel  the “green light” to hit Iran’s nuclear sites since other measures have  failed?

3) If not, why not?

To read my full op-ed on the Fox News opinion page, please click here.

2:10pm Israel time — I’m glad the President will also be visiting Ramallah and Bethlehem on this trip to the epicenter. It is important to honor the Palestinian people, listen to their hopes and dreams and concerns and seek ways to make peace. After all, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9)

2:05pm Israel time — What is former CIA Director Porter Goss watching for on this Presidential trip to Israel, and does he believe war will erupt between Israel and Iran in 2013? Read my interview with him.

2:00pm Israel time — CNN reports “high probability” that chemical weapons were used Tuesday in Syria….White House chief of staff calls development a “game changer” if proven true….developing.

1:52pm Israel time — Marine One lands in Jerusalem.

1:42pm Israel time Just a thought: if this is how Israelis greet the President of the United States when he touches down in Tel Aviv, imagine what it will be like when the Messiah touches down on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. (Zechariah 14:3-5 and Acts 1:1-12)

1:36pm Israel time — President Obama now aboard Marine One for helicopter ride to Jerusalem.

1:15pm Israel time — PM to Obama: “Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel’s sovereign right to defend itself against any threat.”

1:10 PM Israel time Jordanian King Abdullah makes news by saying it’s just a matter of time before Assad’s regime falls in Syria.

1:07 PM Israel time — Obama and Netanyahu enter motorcade — driving over to see Iron Dome anti-rocket battery on the grounds of the Tel Aviv airport. “Obama meets with Iron Dome soldiers. Obama tells Iron Dome crew: All of you are doing an outstanding job. We’re very proud of you. (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz)”

1:05 PM Israel timeFox News correspondent Ed Henry notes the Obama recently said he wished he could put on a fake mustache and slip away from his Secret Service detail to sit at a cafe and chat with Israelis in person. Netanyahu jokes with Obama upon arrival that he’s willing to help Obama accomplish this desire and that Israel has even created a fake mustache for him.

1:00 PM Israel time — President Obama opens remarks in Hebrew, “Tov lihyot ba’aretz” — it’s good to be in Israel. Then says U.S.-Israel alliance is “eternal, forever.” Says it is in America’s national interest to stand with Israel.

12:57 PM Israel time — President Shimon Peres makes opening remarks (reported by Haaretz):

” President Barack Obama, Dear Friend — Welcome to Israel. We welcome you as a great President of the United States of America. As a remarkable world leader. As a historic friend of Israel. Of the Jewish People. Your visit here is a crown demonstration of the profound relationship between our two nations. The people of Israel welcome you with open hearts. From the depth of our hearts, From the depths of our history, “תודה רבה” Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, America. Thank you for what you are. Thank you for what you do. Thank you for the hopes you carry with you. In a few minutes you will be on your way to Jerusalem. Our ancient capital. The cradle of all believers, of all prayers. You will see the hills and mountains where our prophets preached. Where the soul of the Jewish People was born. Where the State of Israel was created.

“America and Israel are somewhat different in size. In size, not in destiny. The American dream stems from the bible. The Israeli spirit is inspired by American exceptionalism. We are separated by an ocean and united by the commitment to freedom, to justice, by the ongoing struggle for peace. We face the same dangers. We share the same hopes. Mr. President, the United States became great by giving. Not by taking. Your generosity enabled freedom to prevail all over the world. A world without America’s leadership, without her moral voice, your moral voice, would be a darker world. A world without your friendship, will invite aggression against Israel. Mr. President, your story reflects the history of the world as it is. Your vision reflects the future as it should be. You have offered the American people and the peoples of the world a leadership of vision, a leadership of values. A leadership dedicated to a brighter tomorrow. In times of peace, in times of war, your support for Israel is unshakable. You enabled our security in an extraordinary way, to project strength. To strive for peace. Strengthening security is the best way to strengthen peace. We long to see end the conflict with the Palestinians. To see the Palestinians enjoy freedom and prosperity in their own state. We extend our hand in peace to all the countries of the Middle East. America stood by our side from the very beginning. You support us as we rebuild our ancient homeland and as we defend our land. From Holocaust to redemption. From Truman to Obama. Mr. President, wherever you go in our land, you will meet the friendship and warmth of the people of Israel. Mr. President, the people of Israel want you to feel at home. So, welcome home Mr. President.”

12:52 PM Israel time — President Peres: “A world without America would be a darker world.”

2:42 PM Israel time (6 hours ahead of Washington, D.C.) — President’s first comment to Netanyahu, “It’s good to get away from Congress.”

12:26 P.M. Israel time — Prime Minister Netanyahu greets the President.

12:13 P.M. (Israel time, 6:13 A.M. Eastern time) — U.S. President Barack Obama lands at Ben-Gurion Airport.

12:09 P.M. — Israeli airspace has been closed as Air Force One is expected to land at 12:30 P.M.

Interesting notes:

  • The White House entourage and Secret Service have taken over all of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem — no other guests allowed to stay there
  • The press corps is staying around the corner at the Inbal Hotel
  • 15,000 Israeli police officers are protecting the President during this visit.

** Please be praying for the Lord to protect the President, the nation of Israel, and all who are involved on this important state visit.

>> NOTE: I’m tracking coverage from the Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, Times of Israel, AP, Reuters, CNN, Fox News, and numerous other journalists, analysts and friends.

>> NOTE: I’m going to be live Tweeting the next few days through the President’s visit to the epicenter — Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. I’ll also be re-Tweeting key tidbits, stories and analysis I’m seeing from others. Please send me stories you find interesting, and please follow along — @joelcrosenberg

What does Bible prophecy say about the future of Syria? My interview on CBN’s Stakelbeck Report

Discussing "What is the future of Syria?" with CBN's Erick Stakelbeck.

Discussing “What is the future of Syria?” with CBN’s Erick Stakelbeck.

>> BREAKING: CNN reports “high probability” that chemical weapons were used Tuesday in Syria….White House chief of staff calls development a “game changer” if proven true….developing…..

On this week’s edition of the “Stakelbeck on Terror” show, CBN correspondent Erick Stakelbeck and I sat down for 30 minutes to discuss the current civil war underway in Syria, the President’s visit to the epicenter, and my new novel, Damascus Countdown.

Most interestingly, he asked my views on Isaiah 17 and Jeremiah 49 and the Bible prophecies that indicate Damascus will be judged and destroyed in the last days of human history. We also discussed where Syria fits in — if at all — in the prophecies of Ezekiel 38-39, what scholars call the “War of Gog & Magog.”

To watch the program online, please click here.

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>> UPDATED NOTE: I’ll be in Austin on Friday for meetings, but I won’t be speaking at an event. However, I will be speaking at Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas on Palm Sunday morning (March 24th). Then I’ll be discussing Bible prophecy, Mideast trends, and my new book, Damascus Countdown, during their Sunday evening service. Please join us if you can. Also, on Wednesday evening, March 27th, I’ll be speaking in Tucson. On Wednesday evening, April 3rd, I’ll be speaking on Sanibel Island, Florida. On April 6-7, I’ll be speaking in Naples. Would love to have you join us and love to say hi to you and sign your books. I’ll be posting other speaking events soon.

>> INVITATION: The President is making his first state visit to Israel this week. How about you? Have you ever visited the Holy Land? Come with me and The Joshua Fund this summer as I lead our tour and the 2013 Epicenter Conference in Jerusalem. The tour will go from June 25 to July 7. The Epicenter Conference will take place on Friday, July 5th. We would be deeply honored to have you join us.

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