Monthly Archives: March 2013

Obama’s Visit to Israel

I read through President Obama’s speech given on March 21, 2013, as carefully as I  could in order to try to discern the heart of our president’s message. You can read the transcript in many places – including the New York Times.

Most people who heard the speech appreciated the president’s passion, friendliness and directness. Mr. Obama assured his Israeli audience of American support for Israel and affirmed the common Judeo-Christian and democratic values shared by both nations. The president clearly affirmed the right of the nation of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, though later in the speech he emphatically encouraged the creation of a separate Palestinian state as well.

If you are a believer in Jesus and take the Bible seriously as your guide for life and the filter through which you view all matters of earthly and heavenly importance, then you will probably be disappointed to find that the president’s speech does not refer to any biblical passages, outside of relating his trip to the Passover season!

He did not, for example, say that he recognizes that the Bible is true and the reason the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people is because of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants, promised in Genesis chapter 12:1-3.

The president did look back into the history of the Jewish people and even to the Holocaust as part of the background for the formation of the state of Israel. Actually, he has done this in the past as well – but at least this time he made more of an effort to demonstrate that the Jewish people had arrived to the land of Israel, historically, prior to the post-Holocaust years.

Obama tried to point the young people listening to his speech towards the future, praising Israelis for being entrepreneurs in technology, biomedical sciences and much more. He commended the Palestinians for much of the same.

He emphasized three major agenda points: security, peace, and prosperity.

I’d like to focus on how we — and when I say we, in particular young people — can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times: security, peace, and prosperity.

When it came to his comments on security, the president assured the Israelis that the United States would do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He also called attention to the United States’ position on Syria and the threat the Assad regime poses to Syria’s own citizens as well as to Israel. He specifically mentioned the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria against its own population as well as the potential threat these weapons represent if they get into the hands of terrorists.

The fact that Hezbollah’s ally, the Assad regime, has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency. We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger.

He specifically singled out Hamas as a terrorist organization, expressing his opposition to their practices as well as the need for Hamas to recognize Israel in order for peace talks to continue. He said,

And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

He added, with resounding words that I can only hope and pray will guide our president’s thinking and U.S. policy in the years ahead,

That’s why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important; it cannot be taken for granted. But make no mistake: Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist — they might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel’s not going anywhere.

It is in his section discussing peace in the Middle East that Obama clearly reveals his agenda – not that it was particularly hidden! He calls for what he views as fair treatment of Palestinians.

It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own — living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements, not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank — or displace Palestinian families from their homes. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.

The president unfortunately paints Israelis as aggressors who do not want Palestinian children to grow up, go to college, get married, receive a great education and have a prosperous and peaceful life.

The president ignores the history of terrorist attacks on Israelis who are trying to secure the safety of their children. Does the president really believe that the level of security in the territories is the result of Israeli cruelty? Or were these necessary security measures taken to prevent further terrorist bombings and missile attacks on Israeli citizens?

He failed to mention the many instances when Israeli officials apprehended and prosecuted Israelis who had attacked Palestinians. Nor did the president mention the displacement of Israeli settlers from Gaza, who were asked to leave their homes and farms and move to other parts of Israel, so that Palestinians could have control of the region. The idea of land for peace was already tried, but was unsuccessful as Hamas took over Gaza and did more harm to the peace process than good.

In the years since the Israelis left Gaza, thousands upon thousands of missiles have been showered upon innocent Israelis in southern Israel, and the security threat resulting from Hamas-controlled areas is the rational basis for the checkpoints and presence of the Israeli Defense Forces in “the territories.”

Unfortunately, innocents on both sides of the crisis are suffering due to the sins of the more militant and aggressive Palestinians and their supporters who have been committing terrorist acts against innocent Israelis for more than a decade. If they were to stop, then the security measures taken by the Israeli security forces would diminish or go away completely – as had been the case before the first intifada.

Obama affirms the fact that Hamas is an unworthy peace partner, but expresses perhaps too much confidence in the Palestinian Authority, especially in light of the veneration still shown by the PLA for Yasser Arafat, an unrepentant terrorist who is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from his own people and from the governments that had given generously to the Palestine cause.

Now, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who’s dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.

The PLA and Abbas have yet to show themselves to be the more willing and flexible peace partner our president believes them to be. I too hope that Abbas and the PLA will renounce terrorism and refrain from taking further unilateral action as they did in applying for observer status with the United Nations – as that was not an act of good faith.

Finally, the president shows his true agenda for peace when he says,

But it’s possible. Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead: two states for two peoples — two states for two peoples.

In effect, the president’s solution to the problem is to charge John Kerry, our Secretary of State, to negotiate a Two-State solution with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. At this stage, this would be a negotiation without the participation of Hamas, which would leave Gaza completely out of the process.

The president said,

Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security.

Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace and that an independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be drawn. I’ve suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for these talks.

So what has changed? Not much. I am glad that the president affirmed his overall support of Israel, but I sincerely hope and pray that he does not somehow make the support of the U.S. contingent upon the success of a two-state solution. After all, some of the hardest issues were not even mentioned. There was no discussion of the division of Jerusalem within a Two State Solution, which would be one of them most difficult political challenges to face.

He also did not mention the ongoing U.S. financial and military support of Egypt, which is deeply troubling to Israel and to those who understand the level of animosity the Muslim Brotherhood has against Israel and the Jewish people. This has been well documented.

Still, it is good that the president visited Israel for the first time in five years! It is also good that he reiterated his concerns over Iran, Syria and both Hezbollah and Hamas. This was to be expected, of course. Israel is still the only true ally American has in the Middle East.

Where do we go from here? I would suggest three agenda items as well.

We need to pray for Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)

The Middle East crisis is complex, and Prime Minister Netanyahu and the leaders of Israel will need God’s wisdom in the days ahead – perhaps as never before – in light of the nuclear threat and the continuing political and social changes in the Middle East.

We need to pray for President Barack Obama

Personally, I am praying that he comes to terms with the scriptural truths regarding God’s plan for Israel and the Jewish people. I pray that he will be driven by Scripture and understand that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people not simply because of the U.N. mandate, but because God made a promise and He will keep his promise to the Jewish people (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18-21). I am praying that the Lord would give our president wisdom and empower him to use his great gifts of rhetoric for holy purposes.

We need to pray for the Palestinians and their leaders

I am praying that that God will give Mr. Abbas and Khaled Msshal (the political leader of Hamas) wisdom and a spirit of cooperation so that any peace that can be humanly developed can be effective and lasting.

Most of all, I am praying for Israelis and Palestinians to know that the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob loves them dearly and sent His only son Jesus the Messiah – an Israeli Jewish person – to live a perfect life and to die for their sins and rise from the dead.

I pray that Israelis and Palestinians will know the hope of the resurrection and recognize that the day is coming soon when Jesus the Messiah will return to reign on His rightful throne in Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace.

And in that glorious day, there will no longer be a Middle East crisis. Palestinians and Jewish Israelis will live in peace… the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and the weapons of war will turn into instruments of peace.

Our friends at the Jerusalem Institute for Justice recently sent out a video that I believe presents some very helpful information in an intriguing way. I hope that you will enjoy it and pass the video as well as this blog entry to your friends.


Filed under Middle East

Are We Arming the Enemies of Israel for Armageddon?

I usually try to stay away from directly addressing political issues – even those involving the relationship between the United States and Israel – as the focus of Chosen People Ministries is bringing the Gospel to Jewish people and to help Christians become more effective in telling their Jewish friends about the Lord. This is our priority.

Yet the modern state of Israel is also a deep concern for us at Chosen People Ministries…as I am sure it is for you. And since our president, Barack Obama, is travelling to Israel this month, I think it is important for us to pray for some of the issues that might come to the surface during his trip.

Additionally, hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians have intensified over the last few weeks because a Palestinian prisoner recently died in an Israeli jail. The circumstances of his death are currently under investigation. Palestinian authorities claim that he was tortured, and the Israelis dispute this claim. Nevertheless, the controversy over his death has sparked protests by Palestinians that are heating up, leading to protests in the West Bank and Bethlehem, and it will probably be a critical issue during Obama’s visit.

The protests and responses have been so strong that some leaders on both sides fear that another intifada might take place, and are doing what they can to keep matters calm.

Washington Post reporter Joel Greenburg reports the incident as follows:

A Palestinian prisoner who died in an Israeli jail was given a hero’s burial with military honors in the West Bank on Monday amid signs that Palestinian and Israeli leaders were working to prevent days of street clashes from triggering a wider eruption of unrest.

The surge of protests, which had stoked Israeli fears of a third Palestinian uprising, was sparked by an extended hunger strike by four Palestinian prisoners and fueled by Saturday’s death of another detainee, Arafat Jaradat, who was under interrogation by Israel’s Shin Bet security agency. (Washington Post, Feb. 25, 2013)

The New York Times adds the following,

Adnan Damiri, the spokesman of the Palestinian security apparatus, said Palestinian officials were committed to prevent fighting, saying that his forces had recently detained members of the militant Hamas group who were planning “violent confrontations.”

“The only one(s) seeking violence in West Bank is Netanyahu and Hamas, but we will not be dragged to that,” said Damiri. “Our struggle will always be peaceful.”

The clashes come weeks before Obama is scheduled to arrive in Israel and the West Bank, his first presidential visit to the region. U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the U.S. has asked Israeli and Palestinian officials to exercise “maximum restraint” at this time of high tension in the West Bank. (Feb. 26, 2013; New York Times)

Clearly, the visit of the American president to Israel will focus Americans and the rest of the world on the rising tensions in the Holy Land. And as believers in Jesus, we need to remind one another to pray even more intensively for the “peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6)

Additionally, as believers in Jesus we must learn how to think carefully about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians and not believe everything we read!

For example, the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas is leveraging the current conflict and blaming Hamas for escalating violence. Of course, they are blaming Israel for her role in the conflict as well. This is clear from the following statements reported in the Jerusalem Post – note how Abbas turns the conversation towards his agenda to return Israel to the pre-1967 borders and to return Jerusalem to Palestinian control.

Referring to the current violence in the West Bank, Abbas accused the IDF of using live ammunition to kill Palestinian children. He also said that he would not allow Palestinians to remain in Israeli prisons for the rest of their lives “for no crimes they had committed.” The PA president reiterated his call for a “just and comprehensive peace” that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state on the pre- 1967 lines with Jerusalem as its capital. “Without Jerusalem, there will be no peace or state,” he stressed. (Jerusalem Post, Feb. 25, 2013)

I view the political agendas of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas as much the same although their strategies and tactics might seemingly differ. The PA continues to use the media to advance its cause yet have done little to de-escalate the violence of the situation. They seem to create an environment that urges conflict, and when the conflict erupts, they blame it on Hamas.

Hamas certainly deserves much of the blame for whipping up the average Palestinians into violent protest and to act in ways that lead to their arrest and detainment.

No one, including me, is claiming that Israel never makes a mistake. War never brings out the best in people! But most of what is protested could be stopped if Hamas and the PA sought a more peaceful process at this time. Israel continues to do whatever she can to protect the security of its citizens.

In the midst of all that is happening, another missile was fired from Gaza, falling in the town of Ashkelon. According to the Jerusalem Post,

Palestinian terrorists broke a three month ceasefire on Tuesday and fired a rocket from Gaza into southern Israel. The rocket fell on a road south of Ashkelon causing some damage to a road, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Al- Aqsa Martyrs Brigades took responsibility for the attack, Palestinian news agency Ma’an reported. The terrorists fired a Grad rocket in response to the “liquidation” of the prisoner Jaradat, Ma’an reported. The IDF Spokesperson said there were no injuries in the incident.

This is unfortunate, as it was the firing of missiles into Israel (and the city of Ashkelon is quite a bit north of Gaza) that caused the Israeli Defense Force to mobilize a few months ago.

We are sad whenever an Israeli or Palestinian dies in the midst of this conflict – whether they are young or old, in prison or out of prison, in an army uniform or dressed as a civilian.

The Messiah of Israel loves His chosen people – the Jewish people – and the Palestinians whom He also created. He died an atoning death for both… and for the whole world!

There are no winners in this conflict – only losers. There’s no difference between the tears shed by a Jewish mother or Palestinian mother.

I do pray and hope that the conflict will end. Yet, as those who love the Bible, we need to allow Scripture to inform our analysis and guide our thinking and the ways on which we pray for peace in the Middle East. The Bible does tell us that we can only hope for temporary solutions to this conflict today, as it will continue in one way or another until the end of the age when the Messiah returns and establishes His throne of Shalom in Jerusalem as prophesied in Isaiah 2:4,

And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.

We need to continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem as a day without conflict or death is a good day, and worthy of our fervent prayers.

We should also pray for the U.S. president’s visit to Israel. I am concerned about some of the policy decisions made by our own country recently, especially our supplying the Egyptian Air Force – the fourth largest in the world – with F-16 fighter planes.[1]

As Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Middle East subcommittee, recently stated,

“Recent violent outbreaks and the volatile situation in Egypt should give the US reason to pause when considering continuing to provide foreign assistance to the government of Egypt,”

She continues,

Even more disconcerting are Morsi’s views toward our closest friend and ally, the democratic Jewish State of Israel.”She said that his statements “clearly reveal a man who holds Jews and Israel in such contempt that it would not be out of the realm of possibility to believe he is capable of turning his aggression toward Israel.” Ros-Lehtinen was referring to video footage from 2010 in which Morsi referred to Jews as “the descendants of apes and pigs” and urged Egyptians to “nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred” of Jews and Zionists. (Jerusalem Post, Feb.3, 2013)

This is an anti-Jewish statement in the Koran that has been often quoted by Arab leaders, but not by an Egyptian leader in recent days. His statement is just one further indication of the Muslim Brotherhood’s position and exposes the shift in Egyptian policy against Israel.

As a student of the Bible, I believe a day is coming when the nations of the world will turn against Jerusalem and against Israel (Zech. 12:1-12) and I fear that at this moment in time, we might be arming the enemies of Israel for Armageddon.

I hope and pray that this not true. I want our country to stand by the nation of Israel, as God promised the land to the Jewish people and blessings to those who bless the Jewish people (Gen. 12:1-3). I also want our country to be an instrument of peace – even if the peace is only temporary.

As our Messiah Jesus also said,

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)

Let’s hope and pray that peace will increase as a result of these discussions.

This brings me back to where I started. We are called by God to preach a message of peace, and it is our goal to bring the Prince of Peace to the Jew first and also to the Gentile; whether they be part of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority or another group that is hostile to God’s purposes in the world. We cannot and should not lose our focus – yet we are still commanded to pray for peace, and I hope you now have a better idea as to how to pray.

Thanks for your prayers on behalf of Israel. Please ask God to give our president wisdom from above as he meets with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.


PS. Speaking of bringing the Good News to people… we are offering our book Isaiah 53 Explained, which I wrote, for free to any follower of Jesus who will read the book and pass it along to a Jewish friend. The best way to get the book is to go to our website and request a copy.

I hope that you will take advantage of this opportunity and encourage others to do the same. If you would like us to send a book directly to your Jewish friend – just let us know and we will take care of it.

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Filed under Middle East