Where from here? 22 years ago today, Jordan signed an historic peace treaty with Israel. Will other Arab countries follow? A few thoughts.

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Oct 272016



(Central Israel) — One of my regrets in life is that I never had the opportunity to meet Jordan’s King Hussein, truly one of the most courageous and compassionate Arab leaders of the 20th century.

Twenty-two years ago today — on October 26, 1994 — Hussein made history by signing a peace treaty with the State of Israel. In so doing, Hussein became only the second Sunni Arab Muslim leader to do so.

The first, of course, was President Anwar al-Sadat of Egypt, another of the great Arab leaders of our age.

Which Arab state will be next? What Arab leader will follow the lead of Sadat and Hussein in making peace with the Jewish State? And when?

Admittedly, I’m not holding my breath. Nor should you. But as I’ve been writing about on this blog for some time, there are, in fact, signs of encouraging behind-the-scenes cooperation between Israel and the Sunni Arab world, including a number of intriguing public meetings between prominent Israeli and Saudi notables. Why? In part because a growing number of Arab leaders in the region now recognize that the true existential threat to them is not the presence of a sovereign Jewish State but rather Iran’s menacing nuclear program and the genocidal, apocalyptic ambitions of the Islamic State.

King Hussein knew full well that he was taking an enormous risk when he signed the historic peace accord with then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin during an elaborate ceremony that was overseen by President Bill Clinton, held on the Israeli-Jordanian border, attended by some 4,500 guests.

Hussein had grown up in the bubbling cauldron that is the modern Middle East. As a teenager, he was standing at the side of his grandfather, King Abdullah I, when Abdullah was brutally assassinated by a Palestinian radical just outside the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount in the summer of 1951. Over the next four decades, Hussein survived literally dozens of plots against his life, including the effort by Yasser Arafat and the PLO to overthrow him in 1970 (what became known as “Black September.”) Hussein also knew all too well how his friend, Sadat, was cruelly assassinated by Islamic jihadists in 1981, just two years after Egypt made peace with Israel.

Yet remarkably, twenty-two years ago today, Hussein made the decision to proceed anyway, knowing all the history and all the threats and all the risks. He thus demonstrated his extraordinary wisdom and impressive drive to bring peace and prosperity and stability and opportunity to the people of Jordan.

Today, seventeen years after Hussein’s untimely death from cancer, the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty still holds. Why? Much of the credit goes to the equally-extraordinary leadership of his son, King Abdullah II, who continues to follow in his father’s impressive footsteps, steadily seeking to improve the quality of life for all Jordanians, while navigating ever-turbulent regional storms.

Indeed, Abdullah II seems born for this challenging moment. He strikes me as uniquely qualified to protect his kingdom from all threats foreign and domestic, and build on his father’s legacy of moderation, tolerance and strength, as a I wrote earlier this spring when Lynn and I had the humbling honor of visiting with His Majesty in Amman.

Today, thank God, Israel and Jordan are working quietly but closely on security, intelligence, agricultural, economic and energy matters. They are also working closely with other Sunni Arab countries like Egypt, the Saudis and the Gulf emirates on vital security issues, most notably the fight against ISIS and the effort to protect the region from emboldened Iranian aggression.

What’s more, just last month Israel and Jordan signed a 15-year, $10 billion agreement in which Israel will provide natural gas it is drilling in the Mediterranean to the kingdom at low prices. Some Jordanians are protesting the agreement, but it really is a win-win for both sides. Jordan is the first country to whom Israel has agreed to export its natural gas, and the deal will help the Hashemite Kingdom “$600 million a year from the state’s energy bill.”

Of course, the pressures on Egypt and Jordan to distance themselves from Israel, even to abandon their treaties, are enormous. Both Radical Islamists and Apocalyptic Islamists see Jordanian and Egyptian leaders as apostates, betrayers of the cause, and seek to bring them down as rapidly and violently as possible. Such are some of the themes in my most recent series of novels, The Third Target and The First Hostage. Such issues also play a significant element in my forthcoming thriller, Without Warning (though I’m not ready to go into any detail yet).

Israelis, Jordanians and Egyptians have been enormously blessed by these peace treaties. Without continuous war amongst us, we have all seen our economies grow and our children pursue their education and their dreams in a far better way than they could have. True, a fair and compassionate agreement must still be forged between Israelis and Palestinians — and for this I pray every day. I hope you do, too.

But on this day when we remember the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty (and its predecessor between Israel and Egypt), let us be likewise committed to standing with Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Egypt’s President el-Sisi. Let us be praying for them and their governments and their people. Let us be praying for peace, stability, and economic growth for Jordan and Egypt.

For if the jihadists succeed and Jordan and Egypt become destabilized, this would have catastrophic consequences for the region and the world. Such is the nightmare scenario I pray we only read about in novels, not see play out in real life.

[PHOTO: Front page of the New York Times reporting on the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty in 1994; and a photo of Jordan’s King Hussein sharing a smoke with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.]



HUGE LOSS FOR THE ISLAMIC STATE: Dabiq seized by coalition forces. What happened to all the Islamic prophecies of an apocalyptic, End of Days battle in which the West would be destroyed?

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Oct 212016


The false prophecies of ISIS have fallen flat.

As the battle to liberate the city of Mosul from the control of the Islamic State in Iraq was launched this week, coalition forces quietly liberated another key site from ISIS control in Syria — the Syrian town of Dabiq.

Few Westerners seemed to notice, but this was actually huge strategic and psychological loss for the Islamic State. Why? Because ISIS leaders have long proclaimed that Dabiq would be the site of an apocalyptic battle in the End of Days. Indeed, control of Dabiq is central to the eschatology of the Islamic State.

“The Islamic State’s magazine is called, Dabiq,” I noted on Fox News in January. “Most people have no idea what that means. [Dabiq] is a little town in the north of Syria. Why is that important? Because they believe, based on ancient Islamic prophecies, that the Western world — ‘the forces of Rome’ — will be drawn to that spot for the second-to-last battle of all history, and that the West will lose, and the Islamic State will win, and then they head to Jerusalem. The idea is that they believe that the End of Days has come, their messiah — known as the ‘Mahdi’ — will come reign over the entire world at any moment. The [leaders of ISIS] are driven by an Islamic eschatology that’s genocidal. And that’s why it’s so dangerous. And yet most leaders — including the President and our two front-runners on the Democrat and Republican side — they don’t understand it. They don’t talk about it. That’s a problem.”

[To read other articles I’ve written about the significance of Dabiq and why the next President and his or her advisors need to understand the eschatology behind it, please click here, here, and here.]

Yet as of this week, Dabiq has been seized from ISIS in what has to be one of the most anti-climatic battle of the ages. Now, ISIS leaders are furiously spinning that none of this really matters, that Dabiq was never really so important to them.

“It is without doubt that Dabiq was crucial to the Islamic State’s propaganda apparatus,” noted an analysis this week in the Washington Post. “Data from Google shows how its attacks in the West fueled the apocalyptic rhetoric, and the reverse. Search interest in the term ‘Dabiq’ first spiked in December 2014 when the magazine under the same title published strong criticism of al-Qaeda, referring to the apocalyptic battle that was assumed to be ahead. From that point onward, search interest always spiked when terrorist attacks in Western countries occurred: the Charlie Hebdo shooting, the Copenhagen attacks, and finally the devastating Paris attacks with more than 130 victims.'”

“It’s easy to conclude that ISIS’ leaders cited the prophesy cynically. They played it up when it was to their advantage and downplayed it when it was not,” wrote William McCants, author of “The ISIS Apocalypse” which was published last year. “But another theory I offered is that ISIS, like other apocalyptic groups, changes its understanding of prophecy’s fulfillment based on circumstances.”

“Other researchers have voiced similar doubts whether Dabiq’s loss implies the end of its prophecy being used in ISIS propaganda,” noted the Post. “Charlie Winter, a senior research fellow at London’s Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence, wrote that the apocalypse narrative had stalled, but was ‘not undermined.'”

Here’s coverage on how the (less-than-apocalyptic) battle for Dabiq played out:

COMING SOON: In the days ahead, I’ll post more coverage and analysis of the battle for Mosul.



Have you heard that Israeli leaders are urging Jews to read through the entire Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter? Amazing, but true. Here’s the latest.

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Oct 172016

netanyahu-biblestudyoct2016rivlin-launching929initiative(Central Israel) — You probably haven’t heard this in the mainstream media, but Israel’s most senior leaders are urging the Jewish people to read through the Bible, the whole Bible, verse by verse, chapter by chapter.

Can you imagine President Obama or any other U.S. leader calling on American people to read through the Bible? Neither can I.

Given the general trend here in Israel towards secularization, this is quite a surprising yet thoroughly encouraging development. I’m sure many of you are skeptical, but it really is true. Here’s the latest.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kicked off the new school year here by encouraging children to rediscover the Word of God and Biblical roots of their Jewish heritage.

“First of all, the study of the Bible,” he said in August. “Knowledge is a critical word. We want to give it [knowledge of the Scriptures] to every child in Israel, Jews and non-Jews as one, religious and secular. This is the basis of the new world, and the basis of Israel as a strong nation in the world.”

Last week, the prime minister and his wife, Sara, hosted another in a series of occasional Bible study groups at their official residence. They discussed — among other things — the Biblical connection Jews have to the Temple Mount, despite a recent U.N. vote denying Jews have any such connection.

The Netanyahus organized their first home Bible study group in December 2011, as I reported at the time. In so doing, they carried on a tradition first begun by David Ben Gurion and later by Menachem Begin but rarely repeated by other Israeli premiers. Their stated goal was to set an example for the nation and to “perpetuate a love of the Bible.” [See here and here for coverage of other Bible studies they have held.]

Meanwhile, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and several government officials have launched something they call the “929 Initiative.”

This is a wonderful and worthy effort to encourage all Israelis — even the most secular and non-religious among us — to read one chapter of the Jewish Scriptures a day, every day, until they have read all 929 chapters.

Rivlin and his colleagues kicked off the $12 million initiative in December 2014. Since then, they have been encouraging Israelis to continue reading verse by verse, chapter by chapter through the full Hebrew Bible or “Tanakh” until everyone finishes together in the summer of 2018 for the 70th anniversary of the prophetic rebirth of the Jewish State.

There is a pretty impressive and sophisticated website dedicated to the project, with Israelis of all kinds, from a wide variety of backgrounds, writing articles on what they think about the Bible verses they are reading. There is also an app that helps Israelis remember what chapter they’re supposed to read each day and help them mark their progress.

Here are several article about the initiative. I commend them to your attention.

I especially wanted to bring this all to your attention as we celebrate Sukkot, or the Feast of Tabernacles (aka, “Feast of Booths”). Why? Because in the Torah, Moses commanded the people to read through all the Scriptures in their entirety every seven years. Sadly, this is a commandment many if not most of my fellow Jews have forgotten, or never were aware of in the first place.

10 Then Moses commanded them, saying, “At the end of every seven years, at the time of the year of remission of debts, at the Feast of Booths, 11 when all Israel comes to appear before the Lord your God at the place which He will choose, you shall read this law in front of all Israel in their hearing. 12 Assemble the people, the men and the women and children and [a]the alien who is in your [b]town, so that they may hear and learn and fear the Lord your God, and be careful to observe all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 31:10-12)

Some of my favorite stories in the Bible are when King Josiah called the nation of Judah together to hear the Word of the Lord read to them in its entirety, and when Ezra and the priests read the entire Bible to the nation of Israel after their return to the Land from Babylonian and Persian captivity.

Several years ago, we organized an Epicenter conference with the theme, “The Power of The Word.” Several of the speakers taught on this largely forgotten history of Jewish leaders calling the nation back to the Scriptures — if you’re interested in watching the videos of those and other messages, please click here.

I’m grateful to Netanyahu and Rivlin and to the other Israeli leaders who are calling our people back to reading the Bible cover to cover. Will you join me in praying that more Jews (and Gentiles) heed their call? Thanks so much, and Chag Same’ach — happy holidays from Israel!