So far, Trump’s emerging national security team is encouraging. Pro-Israel & serious about confronting Radical Islam. But Tillerson at State? Close ties to Putin raises serious concerns. [Video & transcript of my interview on Fox News]


(Washington, D.C.) — On Sunday, I was interviewed on the Fox News Channel by anchor Shannon Bream on a range of foreign policy and national security topics, including:

  • the tragic terrorist attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt over the weekend
  • the future of US-Israel relations under a Trump-Pence administration
  • the President-elect’s emerging national security team, including concerns over ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as a possible Secretary of State, given his very close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin

To watch the video, please click here. Here, too, is the transcript of the interview.

SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Joining us now is the author of The First Hostage and many other best-sellers. He also served as a top advisor to leaders both here in the U.S. and in Israel, where he now lives. Joel Rosenberg, always good to see you.

ROSENBERG: Great to be with you.

BREAM: Let me start by getting your reaction to the bombing of the Coptic Christians in Egypt. We’ve often talked about the threat to religious minorities in that area, and Egypt had really been working towards stability. This is a setback.

ROSENBERG: It is. Look, Radical Islam is trying to destroy Christian communities in Syria, in Iraq, and now in Egypt. President el-Sisi has got his hands full. But it’s interesting when you think about President Trump — as then candidate Trump — who were the two leaders he met with at the U.N. [in September]? Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President el-Sisi. I think that strengthening a Sunni Arab ally like el-Sisi, like the king of Jordan and others is going to be important. But this is a devastating blow, and as an Evangelical — an Israeli Evangelical, in that sense — my heart goes out to our Christian brothers and sisters in the Coptic Church. We need to be praying for them, and as a country — both America, Israel and our other allies — we need to be standing with Egypt in a very challenging moment.

BREAM: And by the way, one of our allies, Israel — where you now live full time — are taking delivery of a couple of F-35s, and talking about how that will give Israel different ways to probe, to gather surveillance, to go into places undetected, and they live in a very, very rough neighborhood.

ROSENBERG: There has been a lot of criticism by conservatives that President Obama has been horrible towards Israel. Look, there has been a horrible relationship between President Obama and Netanyahu, but we do have a Memorandum of Understanding of $38 billion of military cooperation over the next ten years, and these F-35s are critical both to U.S. national security and to Israel’s, especially with the Iran threat rising.

BREAM: And, as you know, many people say that our administration has been generally supportive of Israel but maybe there was a lack of chemistry between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu….

ROSENBERG: (laughing) yes, maybe….

BREAM: ….that’s a nice way to put that — but here is what Prime Minister Netanyahu had to say in a 60 Minutes interview that’s coming up later. We have a clip of him talking about how he views incoming President Trump.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU: I know Donald Trump. I know him very well. And I think his attitude to support Israel is very clear. He feels very warmly about the Jewish State, about the Jewish people, and about Jewish people. There’s no question about that.

BREAM: He talked about how Trump will be truly supportive and understand the situation that Israel is facing there.

ROSENBERG: I was just with Netanyahu when he gave a briefing to about 400 foreign diplomats — ambassadors and defense attaches — in Jerusalem, just a week and a half ago. Netanyahu described himself as “supremely optimistic” about Israel’s future. He didn’t mention Trump in the speech, but the context seemed to be very strong, “I now have a friend and an ally in the White House.” And, of course, Vice President Mike Pence, I know him well, is strongly pro-Israel.

This is the first time that Netanyahu has ever had a Republican in the White House while he’s been a Prime Minister, and he’s the longest serving Prime Minister in the history of Israel. So he’s encouraged. And 83% of Israelis now say they believe that Trump will be pro-Israel.

You look at the Cabinet picks that are coming — General Mattis [at Defense], Mike Pompeo at CIA. Those are strong if you’re looking for someone who will focus on Radical Islam and taking on both Iran and ISIS.

I’m concerned about [Rex] Tillerson. Obviously, you just had that segment [talking about the pros and cons of Tillerson]. I think President Trump should be talking to a CEO of ExxonMobil and someone who knows Putin well. But Putin is a serious challenge — a challenge to the Middle East in Syria, a challenge to NATO, Georgia, Ukraine, Crimea, the Baltics that I’m concerned about. Tillerson does not strike me as a conservative, good choice to draw a line in the sand with Putin.

BREAM: Plenty of Senators asking questions….

ROSENBERG: ….and rightly so…

BREAM: …and there will be a thorough vetting of him, if he is the pick.

ROSENBERG: This could be a head fake to make us feel better about somebody else.

Compare [this with] how Trump is dealing with China where he’s talking tough, but he sends Terry Branstad — the Governor of Iowa — as a friend to China [to be the new Ambassador] to say you’ve got someone you can talk to. That’s not how he’s approaching Putin, and he needs to.

BREAM: All right — Joel Rosenberg — always good to see you.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.