Tensions spiking after two serious terrorist attacks in Israel, including one on the Temple Mount. Please pray for calm.

 Bible Prophecy, Christian World View, Israel  Comments Off on Tensions spiking after two serious terrorist attacks in Israel, including one on the Temple Mount. Please pray for calm.
Jul 222017
 

Palestinian-Murders3Israelis

Tensions are flaring again in Israel and the disputed territories in the wake of two shocking sets of murders by Radical Islamists terrorists:

  • Last night, a Jewish grandfather and his son and daughter — having Shabbat dinner and celebrating the birth of a new grandson — were savagely stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist who broke into their home.
  • One week ago, three Palestinian terrorists smuggled firearms onto the Temple Mount and launched a surprise attack against three Israeli Druze police officers, killing two of them before they were stopped.

Please pray for comfort the families and friends of those who were murdered. Pray for healing and comfort for those who were wounded in the attacks.

Please pray, too, for wisdom for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to know best how to calm the situation before it explodes into widespread violence, as well as for the U.S. administration, Jordanian leaders and other regional leaders who have influence.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas could start by denouncing these terrorist acts, and working harder to arrest terrorists and prevent future attacks.

At the same time, there needs to be a quick consensus on how best to prevent violence on the Temple Mount. Israel needs to work closely with the Jordanians and Palestinians on this. After the attack on the Temple Mount last week, the Israelis installed metal detectors and are now requiring every Muslim who wants to go up on the Mount to go through those detectors. This is already required of all Jews and Christians who want to visit the holy site. Yet Palestinian leaders are denouncing the move and demanding the Israelis remove the metal detectors. Other Arab and Islamic leaders are doing the same.

Why? Metal detectors are used to protect visitors to Mecca, the Vatican and in sensitive religious and political sites all over the world. If there is a better way, fine, make the case. But to criticize Israeli leaders for trying their best to protect a site sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians in the wake of a terrorist attack is nonsensical and hardly creates and atmosphere conducive to peace and security.

Developing….

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Dispatch from Berlin: President Trump deserves credit for pushing NATO to increase defense spending in face of growing threat posed by Russia.

 Bible Prophecy, Christian World View, Israel  Comments Off on Dispatch from Berlin: President Trump deserves credit for pushing NATO to increase defense spending in face of growing threat posed by Russia.
Jul 222017
 

Germany-Joel-BrandenburgGate2

(Berlin, Germany) — Over the past few days, I’ve been in Berlin for a series of meetings with my 20 year old son, Jacob.

We’ve visited the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Pergamum Museum (housing priceless archaeological treasures from the Middle East, including the famed Ishtar Gate from ancient Babylon), and a memorial built to honor the Jews murdered during the Holocaust. We also saw a section of the Berlin Wall. Neither of us had ever been to the German capital before and I must say it’s been a bit surreal to be in a city that was once the epicenter of such evil and yet is now safe, and free, and the capital of a major American (and Israeli) ally.

In between meetings, I’ve been working on the edits of the manuscript for my latest international political thriller, The Kremlin Conspiracy, which releases next March. In that novel, a new American President faces an increasingly dangerous and volatile Russian leader who is plotting a military attack against the NATO alliance.

More on the novel in due time. For now, let me make a few comments on the actual American President and how he is handling NATO and the Russia threat.

Readers of this blog know that last year I was quite critical of then-candidate Donald Trump. One of my concerns was that Mr. Trump did not appear serious about strengthening NATO to protect America and our European allies from the grave and growing threat posted by Vladimir Putin and the Russian military. Indeed, Mr. Trump made numerous comments during the campaign highly critical of NATO. He also suggested he might not honor Article 5, the mutual defense pact that says an attack on one NATO member will be regarded as an attack on all, and that all members will come to that member’s aid.

Six months into the new administration, however, I need to commend President Trump. Pundits may criticize his tactics, but the facts are clear: the President has persuaded most NATO leaders to significantly increase their annual defense spending. He has chosen a Vice President, Defense Secretary, CIA Director, Director of National Intelligence and other senior national security officials who are serious about the threat of Russia and serious about strengthening NATO. The President has also wisely proposed a $93 billion increase in U.S. defense spending and (finally) made it clear he supports Article 5.

NATO-spending-graphic

This is a big deal. Previous efforts by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama to persuade NATO to increase military spending failed. Indeed, for many years, defense budgets in most NATO countries — including the U.S. under Mr. Obama — were declining precipitously, even though Russian defense spending has grown 23% since 2000.

Consider the facts:

  • NATO just announced it will increase defense spending by $46 billion in 2017.
  • This represents a 4.3% increase.
  • In fact, 25 of the 28 NATO members have announced they are increasing their annual defense budgets.
  • Currently, only 5 of the 28 members spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense, even though in 2014 all the NATO members promised to do so. These five are the U.S., Greece, Estonia, the U.K., and Poland. (To see what each country spends, click here.)
  • That said, Romania has just announced it will be the 6th country to hit the 2% mark, and other countries are finally moving towards that goal.
  • What’s more, Latvia and Lithuania — two Baltic states who (along with Estonia) feel deeply threatened by Putin — have just announced they are dramatically increasing their defense spending and will both hit the 2% target by 2018.

“We are moving in the right direction when it comes to burden-sharing and defense spending,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters.

Even Germany — whose leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, has been highly critical of President Trump’s insistence that each NATO member pay its fair share — has decided to increase its military budget. (see here, here, and here.)

“Germany, under fire from U.S. President-elect Donald Trump for not meeting NATO’s defense spending goal, is boosting military budgets,” reports Reuters. “German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen….said Germany was boosting military spending by nearly 2 billion euros in 2017 to 37 billion euros, or 1.22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). It is due to reach 39.2 billion euros by 2020.”

President Trump is absolutely right to call out NATO countries for making a public commitment to mutual defense spending of at least 2% of GDP yet not doing their fair share. The European countries that comprise NATO have large, modern economies. They have a combined annual GDP of some $20 trillion. They face a serious and growing threat not only from Russia but from the Islamic State and other radical Islamist terror groups. They can afford to more. They’ve promised to do more. Yet right now they are leaning heavily on the U.S., which invests 3.61% of GDP on defense spending — almost double its fair share — and is in the process of investing substantially more.

One last point for now: Radical Islam is not the only threat we face in the West. Radical Russian nationalism and imperialism may prove to be an even more serious threat, especially given that Moscow has nuclear weapons while the violent Islamists do not (yet). Thus, while I’m encouraged that the Trump-Pence administration is persuading NATO to finally move in the right direction, I remained deeply concerned that most NATO leaders are insufficiently concerned by the magnitude of the threat posed by Vladimir Putin and the Russian military. Putin has invaded and occupied parts of Georgia, Crimea and eastern Ukraine in recent years. Putin is selling arms to the ayatollahs in Iran, and has sent military forces into Syria to bolster the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a mass murderer who is presiding of the destruction of his entire country. Do we really believe Putin’s aggression has run its course? A recent study by the RAND Corporation found that the three Baltics States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) are currently so poorly defended by NATO troops that Moscow could launch a surprise attack and capture at least two of them in just 60 hours.

I will write more about such concerns in the weeks and months ahead. But given my time here in Berlin, I thought it would be worth bringing up some of these topics now.

ARTICLES WORTH NOTING:


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Philippians 2:9-11

 Daily Readings  Comments Off on Philippians 2:9-11
Jul 122017
 
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”