Interview with Joel C. Rosenberg

Shalom, dear friends.

We are living in sensational days! Along with our concerns about COVID-19, the economy, political division, social unrest, the aftermath (hopefully) of wildfires, hurricanes, and more, we also see the unfolding of a new day for Israel and her relationships with her neighbors in the Middle East.

Perhaps this is a reminder that God’s plan for our world marches on in the midst of it all! It reminds me of the verse I latched onto as my guide during these last eight months. The writer of Proverbs says to each of us, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).

Therefore, we always have hope, and no matter what happens, we know the Lord will fulfill His promises in Scripture. Those of us who know Him as our Savior and Messiah can count on His leading and caring for us throughout this life (Romans 8:28)! I take great comfort in knowing that He never loses control and that His Spirit is never locked down!

We can tangibly know this truth because tiny Israel remains at the very center of God’s prophetic plan. The events in the Middle East are unfolding quickly, and Israel is becoming even more established. I see this as the next phase of the fulfillment of end-times prophecies.

With everything else going on, I would not want us to miss the significant realignment of nations in the Middle East regarding Israel.

There is no one better to give us the backstory of these recent landmark events than our friend, Joel C. Rosenberg. Joel lives in Jerusalem, and we have partnered with him on more conferences than I can count. Joel agreed to let me interview him, so we dedicate the rest of this newsletter to the interview.

Joel is a best-selling author and founder of The Joshua Fund and the brand-new media outlet, Near East Media. I asked him to enlighten us on the importance of the recent Abraham Accords between Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain.

So, strap in, and off we go!

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Joel, thank you for taking the time to tell us part of the backstory behind the recent peace agreements signed by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain on September 15, 2020.

First of all, can you clarify the different terminology used to describe the nature of the agreements recently signed?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

In effect, the Abraham Accords are peace treaties and full normalization treaties between the State of Israel, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Bahrain, with the United States as the broker and witness to the agreements. Those who criticize the accords, saying that these are not “real peace treaties,” are mistaken. It is narrow-minded to think, after a century of hostility in the Middle East, that two Arab states making real, warm peace treaties with Israel—the first two Arab countries to make peace with Israel in more than a quarter of a century—is somehow illegitimate or not serious. If you think about it, it is an offensive thought. I think it reflects more of the partisan nature of what is going on in Washington right now than the reality. Regardless of how one feels about President Trump, he deserves enormous credit for brokering these deals.

The most important element is that these agreements will lead to far warmer and far fuller peace relationships with Israel and these two Arab states than with the two previous peace treaty signers, Egypt and Jordan.

The one key difference is that Egypt and Jordan were in direct military conflict with Israel, and those peace treaties ended that. The 1979 and 1994 treaties kept those borders quiet for decades. While the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain never actually entered a military conflict, they were at war with Israel. They participated in the economic sanctions and embargoes against Israel. They constantly voted against Israel with the rest of the Arab world at the United Nations. They fully participated in the isolation and de-legitimization campaign against Israel for many years, though not recently. There has been real warming of those relationships in recent years, but they have decided to go public and make it formal. It is very exciting.

The flags of the United States, United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Bahrain flutter along a road in Netanya, Israel, September 14, 2020. REUTERS / Alamy Stock Phot

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

What practical differences do you think the treaties will make economically, politically, and even to tourism between the Gulf states and Israel?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Well, if you notice, the first set of memorandums of understanding and other legal documents signed in the days leading up to and following the signing of the Abraham Accords were very practical. They indicate how much benefit both sides will get—or all sides are going to get—from these agreements. There are agreements on civil aviation. For instance, there will be direct flights between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and between Israel and Bahrain. Those are, by the way, going to go through Saudi airspace. The Saudis are not yet ready to make peace with Israel, but they have agreed to let Israeli, Emirati, Bahraini, and other planes fly through their airspace. This concession is a huge step forward.

The other agreements are regarding banking, private property rights, and setting up small business agreements. The United Arab Emirates has now required every hotel in the country to have kosher meals. That has not happened in Egypt; it has not happened in Jordan. We are talking about major financial deals already in motion.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Do you think that Oman and some of the other Gulf states are going to follow suit?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yes, I think there is a list of countries that are actively considering this. Oman would certainly be near or at the top of the list. The Sultan of Oman invited Prime Minister Netanyahu to visit two years ago, and then publicized that trip with photos and video. That was very dramatic. That sultan has since passed away. There is a new sultan in power, but there is no reason to think that he disagrees with his predecessor. But, does he feel like he has solidified his leadership and is ready to make such a big decision? That is a good question. I do not have an answer for that yet; we will see.

If Sudan were now to make peace with Israel, that would be exciting. It would be dramatic, but I would note that Sudan also figures prominently in a prophecy of a future war against Israel—the conflict known in Ezekiel 38 and 39 as the War of Gog and Magog. I would not hold your breath for a full normalization, but maybe that prophetic war is many, many years off. No one knows for sure, of course.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

We do not know when these prophetic events will take place, right? So, we should take peace when we can get it!

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Exactly.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Have the UAE, Bahrain, or even some of the other countries you have mentioned considered Israel a place where they can invest funds? Such an investment would boost the Israeli economy.

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yes. In talking to officials from both countries over the last few weeks since the signing of the Abraham Accords, I know that there are numerous business deals and venture capital deals in the works. Again, this is the most significant transformation in Arab-Israeli relations, I think, in the history of the modern State of Israel. These treaties will surpass the peace deals of Egypt and Jordan in the sense that the Abraham Accords are going to set the new model of what peace and normalization can be and what they should be.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Joel, I was privileged to follow your travels at times, as your friend, and was even invited to be part of one of those trips to visit some of the Middle Eastern countries. You brought several key evangelicals to visit, get to know, and extend goodwill to those countries. You were able to see the backstory unfolding in a lot of these nations. Can you tell us a little about what you have discovered?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

I would be happy to. It is extraordinary that evangelicals have had a front-row seat to what has been developing over the last several years. The Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, commonly known by his initials, MBZ, invited me to bring a delegation of evangelical leaders to visit him in the capital of Abu Dhabi in the fall of 2018. I took a group of about ten evangelical leaders with me. Among other meetings that we had in the country, we spent two hours in the palace in an off-the-record meeting with MBZ. There are many things, unfortunately, that I cannot share, but I can share this now:  We communicated to the crown prince that, when it came to the issue of peacemaking and Israel, there were three things we, as evangelicals, wanted him to know.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Bahraini Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the United Arab Emirates Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, acknowledge applause and wave to the crowd after delivering remarks at the Abraham Accords signing, September 15, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House, Washington, D.C. Geopix / Alamy Stock Photo

Number one, we love Israel, and we love the Jewish people, and, for evangelicals, this is a theological position, not a political position. He needed to know that we are deeply committed to Israel’s security, freedom, prosperity, and sovereignty. We wanted him to know that. Number two, Jesus commands us to love our neighbors. We did not want him to think that, because we love Israel, we hate the Palestinians, or Arabs, or Muslims more broadly. Some evangelicals have struggled with language or even positions that are not reflective of Jesus’ command. We wanted to communicate to him that we are commanded to love our neighbors. We do not always know how. We find our way, but we wanted him to know that we do not see it as either/or, that we love both. And while we believe that Israel has a special and unique place in God’s plan and purpose in the region, we want there to be peace today, and we want to build better relations with the Arab and Muslim world.

The third point we made to him was that we are commanded in the Scriptures to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Sixty million evangelicals in the United States alone are praying for the peace of Jerusalem, and we are looking at who will be the next Arab leader to make peace with Israel. As the leader of the delegation, I was the one that made these three points and stressed a little on the third one, “We would love it to be you.” He shocked us by saying, “Joel, I’m ready. I am ready to make peace with Israel, and I believe that the time is coming very soon.” That shocked us because—and I am not saying that we would say these three things in some pro forma way—we did not expect anyone to say back to us what MBZ said. We have said this to numerous Arab leaders in the region; he was the first to say that he was ready.

The question we began to discuss with him is, “How did you get to that point, and where do you go from here?” In these last two years, I have stayed in very close communication with the inner circle around the crown prince. Even up through the summer, I was in direct communications with them because I am writing a non-fiction book that will come out in the fall of 2021, timed with the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Twenty years after 9/11, the book looks at who the bad guys were, who the good guys were, and how our fight with radical Islam is going. It also looks at which Arab countries are fighting radical Islam very actively, and which countries want a much closer relationship with the United States and are even trending toward peace with Israel. The third section will address, “What is the state of the Church and religious freedom in the Middle East?”

I have been working on this book with a lot of exclusive material from these six delegations that I have led. All that to say, it became clear in July, when I was here in Washington meeting with the UAE ambassador, that they were ready, that they had actually put an offer on the table for Netanyahu, through the White House, and that those negotiations were in motion. I said to myself, “You have got to be kidding me.” I knew they were heading in that direction, but it was dramatic.

I will say that I was surprised by how quickly things accelerated this summer, especially when the big topic in Israel was whether Netanyahu would annex or apply Israeli sovereign law over large swaths of Judea and Samaria, which the world commonly knows as the West Bank. That was Netanyahu’s objective all summer, and that seemed to preclude any possibility of peace with the Arab states.

I was making the argument that, while I support the expansion of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria—the biblical heartland—over time, I believed that a peace treaty with one of the Gulf states was a higher objective for Israel in the near term. And I was making that case publicly and in quite a lonely fashion. It is in part because I knew it was possible, but it still stunned me. It is like when you have been praying, as Christians, as Messianic Jews, for decades for the peace of Jerusalem. It is a little like praying for Peter to be released from prison, then he knocked on your front door, and you cannot even believe that he is standing there.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

You are a bit stunned by it all.

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yeah. We know that God can answer these prayers, but we do not always expect the answer to come so quickly! This summer was a game-changing moment.

The flags of Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and the United States light up the Old City Walls of Jerusalem to celebrate the signing of the historic peace treaties in Washington, D.C. Nir Alon / Alamy Stock Photo

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

How are the Palestinians reacting to all of this? Then, if you could also tell us, how is the person-on-the-street, the average Israeli, responding to these new events?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

I have not seen any polling yet. Remember, and actually, it is hard to remember at times, that the Palestinian territories are not free societies. They really do not have the freedom to say whatever they want. It does not mean that you will not find Palestinians who tell you, but there, in Gaza, Hamas—the terrorist organization—is in charge. It is very hard to get somebody’s real, direct opinion. In the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, this is tyranny. Mahmoud Abbas is now serving, I think, the fifteenth year of his four-year elected term. There is no freedom there.

I think we are beginning to see fissures inside Palestinian society. And so, we need to pray, as Christians and as Messianic Jews, for the Palestinian people.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Could you take one minute and tell us all about All Arab News and All Israel News, and your role as President and CEO of Near East Media?

Joel C. Rosenberg:

Yes, I am continuing my work to advance the Joshua Fund, which is essentially a mutual fund to invest in the growth and the strength of the Church and the Messianic body in Israel and throughout five neighboring Arab countries, as well as the Palestinian territories. We also believe that the media bias against Israel, against peace, against the values that we hold dear—anti-Christian media—is so bad that I decided to launch two new websites. One is called All Israel News, and the other is All Arab News. All Israel News is allisrael.com, and the Arab news is allarab.news.

We will provide links to all the really good and credible coverage in the Israeli press, Arab press, and American and other media. There is good reporting out there, but most Christians and Messianic Jews do not have the time to go sifting through dozens of websites to figure out what is real, what is important, what is credible. These sites will become what I call one-stop shopping. We link to all the most important stories in the region. We are also providing original reporting, exclusive interviews, and analysis: what is happening, why is it important, and how do we fit it into the larger picture as evangelicals. We are very distinctly and specifically focused on communicating to the world’s 600 million evangelicals what is happening in Israel and the region and why it matters.

Dr. Mitch Glaser:

Joel, thank you so much. I appreciate it, and we pray God’s blessings on All Israel News and All Arab News, and we thank you for your time, so shalom and blessings.

I am grateful for the time you were willing to speak with me. I know that those who read The Chosen People newsletter will appreciate this insightful information and pray for Israel, the Palestinians, the Middle East, and you.

Joel C. Rosenberg:

My pleasure.

I hope you enjoyed the interview! I hope it will help you continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. And please remember to pray for our staff who are bringing the gospel to Jewish people worldwide, including Israel.

We are so grateful for you!

Your brother in the Messiah,

Mitch Glaser

P.S. There is much more to this conversation! To hear the full interview, visit ourhopepodcast.com.

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Filed under Israel, Joel Rosenberg, Middle East, Palestinian

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