Are there differences between how American Evangelicals and Israeli believers view Netanyahu and his reelection? Yes, significant ones, as I explain in this CBN News interview.

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Apr 112019
 

FaithNation-Joel-Apr2019

(Jerusalem, Israel) — In the wake of our national elections, I did a series of interviews yesterday with American media outlets discussing the results, including with John Jessup and Jenna Browder, hosts of the “Faith Nation” program on the CBN News Network.

We certainly discussed Israelis’ reaction to the results, and the possible impact on the peace process. But they also asked me an especially interesting and perceptive question: How do Israel’s Messianic Jews and Evangelicals perceive Israel’s Prime Minister, and do their perceptions differ with American Evangelicals? 

Here is a transcript of our discussion. To watch the full interview, please click here. (Note: The segment begins at 11 minutes and 30 seconds into the program.)

JOHN JESSUP, CBN NEWS: What is the mood there as Israeli react to the news of another Netanyahu term?

ROSENBERG: Well, first, I think people are stunned — either stunned with excitement, there were very few people that were sure that he was going to win reelection; in fact, the polls showed that he was behind for most of the campaign. The polls certainly showed that he and the Likud Party were closing the gap in the final week, but even the exit polls did not indicate with any assurance that Netanyahu was essentially going to perform a magic trick. They call him a magician. He pulled a rabbit out of the hat, again. Most people didn’t see it. Even people who were for him went to being thinking, “I don’t know.” But there is also a whole swath of the country that is thinking, “Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me. He’s here forever.” So, it’s a mixed view here right now. 

JOHN JESSUP, CBN NEWS: Joel, what does Netanyahu’s reelection mean for the United States, and also for the Middle East peace process?

ROSENBERG: Great question. The first thing I would say is that with Prime Minister Netanyahu being reelected — and almost certain to be able to put together a coalition government; we’ll see that over the next few weeks — there will be continuity for the Trump team. President Trump knows Netanyahu well. Obviously, the Trump peace team — the architects like Jared Kushner and the rest — they know the Netanyahu team well. So, there will continuity and they’ll be very happy about that. They won’t have to change the game plan for Benny Gantz or the others who could have come in and been the new leaders here.

In terms of how it will actually affect the peace process, look, I’m of the view that the Palestinian leadership under Mahmoud Abbas has absolutely no intention of saying yes to any plan that President Trump puts forward. They will probably read the plan, but I wouldn’t even put it past them not to read it. I’m sure they will, but I’m just saying there’s no indication that Abbas and his team are even open at all. So, the question remains: Does the plan allow for the Gulf states’ Arab leaders to say, “Why would the Palestinians reject this plan? It’s not perfect, but it’s reasonable. It’s credible. It’s a serious plan. The Palestinians should sit down and negotiate.” And if the Palestinians don’t, then in theory it could open up an opportunity [for the Gulf states to move towards peace with Israel without waiting for the Palestinians.]

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JENNA BROWDER, CBN NEWS: I want to talk to you about believers there in Israel. How do they perceive Netanyahu?

ROSENBERG: Well, there’s about 30,000 Messianic Jewish believers in Jesus here in Israel now. There’s another 4,000 to 5,000 Arab Evangelicals. And there are, you know, another 10,000 or more Christians of various other kinds, mostly Evangelicals, living, working, serving in the country in various capacities. It’s interesting, Jenna, I think there is quite a divide between how American Evangelicals perceive Netanyahu, and how believers see him here.

I think American Evangelicals see the best of Netanyahu — which is true about him, but he is a complicated man. American Evangelicals see him as a statesman, as a visionary, as a strategic thinker. [For example,] I don’t know who else could have stared down President Obama and taken on and resisted and refuted the Iran nuclear deal, and then gone on to persuade President Trump to scrap that nuclear deal and reimpose crippling economic sanctions on the Iranian regime. That was the right thing to do. Netanyahu resisted President Obama’s efforts almost to force Israel to relinquish strategic territory to Israel’s sworn enemies. So, Evangelicals see that in Netanyahu and they like that. Netanyahu is also opening diplomatic bridges to China, to Brazil, to India, to the Arab countries. And this is Netanyahu at his best.

But local followers of Jesus here see that, but they see other things, too. They see, for example, that he gives an awful lot of power and money to ultra-Orthodox religious parties that are hostile to Christians, and hostile to Messianic Jewish followers of Jesus — I mean, very hostile. They see that Netanyahu has said very unkind, very harsh things to Arabs here in Israel, Arabs citizens we’re talking about, even saying recently that a new law made it clear that only Jews were real citizens of Israel, and no one else really was.

I share that deep disappointment with Netanyahu on some of these matters, including the fact that Netanyahu brought into his political coalition in recent weeks — honestly, and I say this with deep disappointment because I worked for Netanyahu nineteen years ago — but he brought in a party called Otzma Yehudit, Jewish Power, that is a racist, bigoted, anti-Arab, anti-peace party, that was really associated with a violent, extremist party that was outlawed here 25 years ago. So, these are things that have caused Israeli Jewish believers and Evangelicals here mostly to vote for center and center-right parties, but not for Bibi. And I will tell you that I was one of them who struggled because I see both sides of Bibi, what he’s very, very good at, and the mistakes that he makes that are very disappointing. And I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him this time around, though I respect him. I pray for him. But I guess I’m becoming a little more Israeli than I was when I could only see him from a distance.   

To watch the full story and interview, please click here. (Note: The segment begins at 11 minutes and 30 seconds into the program.)

Note: The comments above represent my personal views only. The Joshua Fund does not get involved in any electoral, political or legislative matters.

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BREAKING: Netanyahu, “the magician,” pulls another rabbit out of the hat. Winning 35 seats, he’s on track to be Israel’s longest serving Prime Minister, though his legal troubles remain.

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Apr 102019
 

Netanyahu-wins2019-2

(Jerusalem, Israel) — For most of the night, it was too close to call. 

But in a stunning turn of events, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and his Likud Party surged from behind in the wee hours of the morning, stunning the press, the pundits, and millions of his fellow citizens who went to bed thinking his career might be finished. 

Like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, as he has done so many times before, Netanyahu defied all predictions — including his own — that the end was near. He and the Likud Party won 35 seats in the next session of the Knesset (parliament). This represented a net gain of five seats, Likud’s best showing since 2003 when they held 38 seats, all but assuring Bibi that he will remain Israel’s Prime Minister.

With 97% of the vote counted, it appears that Bibi’s main challenger — former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz, centrist leader Yair Lapid, and their Blue & White Party — also won 35 seats. This was a huge and dramatic success for the newly-founded political party. In their maiden effort, they captured more than one-quarter of the Knesset and believed for most of yesterday evening that they were on track to unseat Bibi. Indeed, around 1:00am local time, Gantz delivered a victory speech on live national television.

But in the end, Blue & White’s effort to deliver “change” wasn’t enough.

The reason? The center-right bloc of parties, including Israel’s Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox religious parties, won at least 65 seats. The leaders of these parties have long been loyal to Bibi. Overnight, most publicly indicated that they prefer Netanyahu to remain in his post.

Barring some unforeseen twist, therefore, Bibi — who has already served 13 total years as Israel’s premier, including the last ten consecutive years — appears on track to become the longest serving prime minister in Israeli history, outlasting even the country’s founder, David Ben Gurion.

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That said, as I wrote on Monday, Netanyahu’s legal troubles remain, and are gravely serious. He faces a judicial hearing in July. Unless Bibi’s lawyers can get the cases dismissed, the three indictments against him in three separate criminal corruption cases will become final. 

At that point, Netanyahu’s governing coalition could face new problems, even unraveling. Moshe Kahlon, leader of the Kulanu Party and Israel’s current Finance Minister, said last month that if Netanyahu’s indictments are finalized in July, he and his team would have to resign. If they keep to that threat, they would complicate Bibi’s coalition math. If another party also refused to serve with a fully-indicted premier, the coalition could collapse.

To be sure, expect many plot twists and turns in the days and weeks ahead,. Among them: President Trump promises to unveil his “deal of the century” peace plan soon, which could put new stresses on the P.M. and his governing coalition. Please continue keeping Israel’s leaders and people — Jews and Arabs — in your prayers during this critical time, and as always, please keep praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

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Romans 5:6-8

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Apr 092019
 
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Hebrews 1:3

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Apr 082019
 
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”

Israeli election way too close to call. But let’s be clear: Netanyahu faces real legal and political jeopardy. Here’s the latest.

 Bible Prophecy, Christian World View, Israel  Comments Off on Israeli election way too close to call. But let’s be clear: Netanyahu faces real legal and political jeopardy. Here’s the latest.
Apr 082019
 

Bibi-Gantz

(Naples, Florida) — As I write this, I’m preparing to board a series of flights to get me home to Israel after a six week book tour for The Persian Gamble. I’m eager to see my wife and sons, and eager to join millions of my fellow Israelis who will turn out to vote on Tuesday in one of the most fiercely-contested and potentially most-consequential national elections in a generation.

No one really has any idea who will win, but many political analysts and most in the media believe we are about to enter a “post-Bibi era.” I certainly have no idea what the outcome will be, and I take the media’s predictions with a grain of salt. Most in the Israeli media hate Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu and have for years. They are rooting for Bibi’s chief rival, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz and his centrist Blue & White Party.

That said, let’s be clear: Netanyahu does, in fact, face serious legal and political jeopardy that could bring his long and storied political career to an end sooner than most on the Israeli right (or American Evangelicals) think.

Here’s the short version…..

LEGAL JEOPARDY

  1. Netanyahu has been indicted in three separate corruption, bribery and fraud cases.
  2. Sara,  his wife, has been indicted in a fourth and completely separate case.
  3. Bibi and his closest friends and supporters dismiss this all as a “witch hunt” and say they will eventually be exonerated. Hopefully. But the indictments came not from a political enemy but from Netanyahu’s hand-chosen Attorney General Avichai Mandelbilt. He’s widely regarded in Israel as a fair and able lawyer. What’s more, he took a full year to review the initial recommendation by Israeli police authorities to prosecute Netanyahu based on some 800 pages of evidence.   
  4. Worth noting: In 2014, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was convicted on corruption charges and was sent to prison
  5. Also worth noting: In 2010, Israeli President Moshe Katsav was convicted on multiple charges of raping a woman on his staff, and he was sent to prison.
  6. Yes, we absolutely should give the Netanyahus the legal presumption of innocence. I hope and pray that they are exonerated. Bibi has been an excellent prime minister in so many ways. But I want my readers to be aware of just how serious are the charges and how seriously Israeli courts deal with senior officials if they are convicted.

POLITICAL JEOPARDY — TWO SCENARIOS

  1. For months, polls have indicated that Bibi and his Likud Party have been losing to the Blue & White Party, led by Benny Gantz.
  2. Some late polls suggest Netanyahu and Likud have closed the gap and are neck-and-neck with Gantz. However….
  3. The final published poll suggested Gantz’s team would win 32 Knesset (parliament) seats, while Bibi and his team would win only 27. 
  4. If Gantz and his party do, in fact, win the most seats on Tuesday, Gantz will likely be tapped by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin with the opportunity to form a coalition government. If Gantz can cobble together a coalition of 61 or more seats of the 120-seat Knesset, then he will become the country’s next premier. This would be a nightmare scenario for Netanyahu, and would likely spell the end of his political career. He would likely step down from Likud and enter private life.
  5. However, there is a second nightmare scenario for Netanyahu. He and Likud could eke out a victory and win more seats than Gantz. But what happens if even one leader of a right-wing party — one of Bibi’s natural coalition partners — says, “Bibi, we love you. We’re sure you and Sara are innocent of all these charges. However, we can’t sit in a government with an indicted Prime Minister who needs to spend as much time thinking about how to defend himself and his family as about defending the country. You need to step aside, fight these charges, clear your name, and then re-enter the political arena”? If one or more center-right party leader refuses to sit in a Netanyahu-led government, this could block him from becoming Prime Minister, and this, too, could potentially spell the end of his career.

I’ll be providing updates and analysis on Twitter. In the meantime, please pray for all of Israel’s leaders, our people, and our future. Never a dull moment in our part of the world.

Full disclosure: I worked on Bibi’s “come back campaign team” in the year 2000 for a few months. However, I don’t work for him now, and haven’t met with him personally in at least ten years.