UPDATED: Here is video of the Fox News interview I did last week. One segment is on “The Auschwitz Escape.” The other is on the breakdown of the Mideast peace talks.

Discussing "The Auschwitz Escape" on the Fox News Channel.

Discussing “The Auschwitz Escape” on the Fox News Channel.

(Washington, D.C.) — On Saturday, Fox News Channel anchor Uma Pemmaraju interviewed me for two segments.

Here is the video of us discussing the latest developments in the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Here is the video of us discussing The Auschwitz Escape and the true stories that inspired the novel, including the fascinating story of the evangelical Christians in Le Chambon, France, who rescued many Jews during the Holocaust.

Hope you find them interesting.

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

The White House is trying to impose a Mideast peace deal. Here’s what you need to know.

Is the Obama administration trying to divide Jerusalem?

Is the Obama administration trying to divide Jerusalem?

(Washington, D.C.) — A fascinating but dicey and possibly dangerous moment is rapidly approaching in the epicenter.

The Obama administration is about to tell the Israelis and Palestinians how to solve their problems. The White House is about to pressure both sides to agree “in principle” to an interim agreement, and then work on a final peace treaty. How the two sides will react is anyone’s bet. Could the dynamic actually lead to a peaceful resolution of an ancient conflict? Seems unlikely. Could it lead to a calm and quiet at least for a while? Sure, theoretically. But to be candid, it could also lead to political chaos, or even to renewed violence.

Let me explain as concisely as I can.

Within days, or at most a few weeks, Secretary of State John Kerry will present both sides with what he calls a “framework agreement.” Essentially, this is an American-crafted peace plan. Yes, it will be based on month after month of discussions with both sides, and with the Jordanians. But make no mistake: it’s the plan President Obama wants to impose on the two parties. It is supposed to create the context for the final peace treaty, which the White House wants negotiated, completed, and signed by the end of 2014.

There will be much in the “framework agreement” both sides don’t like. For example, the plan reportedly calls for dividing Jerusalem and turning into East Jerusalem into the Palestinian capital, something the Netanyahu team adamantly rejects. The plan also keeps Israeli troops helping patrol and secure the Jordan Valley for a period of years, something the Abbas team adamantly rejects. Nevertheless, the two sides are supposed to say “yes” to this interim deal, and then use it to craft a final and supposedly ”better” deal.

But this where the problems lie. There are many. Let’s consider just two.

First, the Obama team could inadvertently make the situation worse. It could accidentally set into motion events that lead to renewed Palestinian terrorism (i.e., a “Third Intifada”) which would force the Israeli Defense Forces into a combat mode. Casualties could escalate, and things could get out of control. It’s happened before. In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton tried to pressure the Israelis and Palestinians to make a final deal at Camp David. Then-Israeli PM Ehud Barak finally agreed to make sweeping concessions to PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat. Barak offered the Palestinians all of Gaza, 93% of the West Bank, and half of Jerusalem for their capital, in return for a final peace treaty and the end to all claims. But wanting much more, Arafat said no. He quit the talks, left Camp David and then supported the Second Intifada, which unleashed a wave of suicide bombers who kept killing Israeli civilians, and caused the IDF to invade cities and towns in the West Bank to find and crush these terror cells.

Let’s pray this doesn’t happen. We all want peace. We certain don’t want violence to break out again, especially on such a wide scale.

Second, trying to force both sides to accept an American peace plan could blow up either or both governments.

If the Netanyahu government says “yes” to this interim Obama peace plan, his coalition may revolt. Already the right-wing parties fear that Netanyahu will make dangerous concessions in the final negotiations. He has made major concessions before, giving the ancient city of Hebron to the Palestinians, for example. If Netanyahu looks like he’s agreeing to more painful and arguably unwise concessions, certain Israeli political parties may quit the coalition, or Netanyahu might fire them. Political tensions in Jerusalem have been spiking all week for these very reasons. Saying “yes” might mean the Netanyahu government has be significantly reshuffled (i.e., replacing defecting right-wing parties with one or more left-wing parties). But it also could collapse all together. If so, then new elections would have to be called, which would further delay if not derail the “peace process.”

But if Netanyahu’s government says “no” to the Obama plan, there could also be repercussions.

  • Israel’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid warns European countries could impose a boycott on Israeli goods to punish Israel for saying “no” to the American plan. Lapid says this could cost Israel billions of dollars in lost exports and  “hit every Israeli citizen directly in his pocket.”
  • Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz says Lapid’s concerns are overblown, and Israel could weather the storm.

Given that no one knows which side of that debate is right, there is a great deal of pressure on the Netanyahu team not to inadvertently create an economic nightmare for the Israeli people.

Yet there is also great pressure on Netanyahu not to make concessions that threaten the long-term security of the Jewish state.

  • What if Hamas Islamists seize control of the West Bank government from the more secular Fatah faction, like it did in Gaza? Then what?
  • If the IDF stops operating in the West Bank — arresting terrorists and shutting down rocket factories — then the security situation in the West Bank could devolve into the nightmare that we see in Gaza, with rockets being fired at Israeli towns and cities, and even at Israel’s airport. Then what?
  • If the IDF stops overseeing security in the West Bank, what if al Qaeda and Hamas and other jihadist groups (such as the 30,000 jihadists that are operating in Syria right now) turn the territory into yet another base camp for suicide bombers and other forms of terrorism?
  • What if Christian holy sites in Jerusalem are turned over the Palestinian Authority, but Hamas eventually comes to power? Will Christian tourists feel safe visiting those sites under Hamas supervision? Would the Hamas government even allow Christian tourists to visit?
  • The “framework agreement” reportedly would put 75% to 80% of Israeli Jewish settlements in the West Bank under Palestinian control. Would the Jews living in the rest of the settlements be safe in such a scenario?

That said, you and I have not actually seen the Obama/Kerry plan yet. There is no need to rush to judgment. We’ll see all the details soon enough. I just want you to be aware of the dynamic, and the tensions that are building.

Like many of you, I am praying for peace. I want Israelis and Palestinians to live in freedom, security, prosperity and with full religious freedom. 

I don’t want to be a cynic. But I must be honest — I am skeptical.

The interim agreement this administration just struck with Iran — on the way to a full, comprehensive agreement — is a terrible deal. Dangerous for the U.S. Dangerous for Israel. Dangerous for all our allies in the Middle East.

Will this interim deal be similarly flawed, or even dangerous? Time will tell. But there are real reasons to be concerned. Let that drive us to prayer all the more.

What’s the latest with the “framework agreement”? Here are excerpts from useful story published by the Times of Israel:

  • “The Obama administration will soon present a framework for an Israeli-Palestinian agreement that the sides may accept with reservations as a basis for a final deal by year’s end, the top US negotiator told Jewish leaders.
  • Martin Indyk, the State Department’s lead envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, told the Jewish leaders on Thursday that under the framework agreement about 75-80 percent of settlers would remain in what would become Israeli sovereign territory through land swaps; he added that it was his impression that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not averse to allowing settlers who want to remain as citizens of the Palestinian state.
  • This was because Indyk and Secretary of State John Kerry consulted closely with the leaders of both governments as Indyk’s team drafted the agreement.
  • Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas would be expected to accept the agreement, with reservations, as the basis of continued negotiations, Indyk apparently said.
  • Making it a US-drafted framework permitted the leaders to distance themselves from politically sensitive issues, Indyk said. “There may be things we need to say because they can’t say them yet,” he said, according to the notes of one participant.
  • Broadly, Indyk said, the agreement will address: mutual recognition; security, land swaps and borders; Jerusalem; refugees; and the end of conflict and all claims.
  • A request for comment from the State Department was not returned.
  • On some sensitive issues — particularly the status of Jerusalem — the framework would be vague, but Indyk went into detail on other issues that participants said was surprising.
  • Among these was the security arrangement for the border between Jordan and the West Bank: Indyk said a new security zone would be created, with new fences, sensors and unmanned aerial vehicles.
  • Indyk also said that the framework would address compensation for Jews from Arab lands as well as compensation for Palestinian refugees — another longstanding demand by some pro-Israel groups but one that has yet to be included in any formal document.
  • He said that the framework would describe “Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and Palestine as the nation state of the Palestinian people,” a nod to a key demand by the Netanyahu government that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state.
  • He said the framework would address the issue of incitement and Palestinian education for peace.


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Top Five most important events in the Mideast in 2013.

Middle-East-map

This column — originally posted on December 31st – is getting a lot of response, so I’m reposting it for those who may have missed it.

(Washington, D.C.) — It was a dramatic year in the Middle East. Here is my list of the Top Five most important events in the epicenter in 2013:

  1. Syrian death toll keeps climbing amidst horrific civil war & chemical weapons use in Damascus.
  2. Iran beguiles West with “charm offense” as it moves closer to the Bomb.
  3. Saudis preparing to purchase Pakistani nuclear warheads.
  4. Egypt’s counter-revolution brings down the Muslim Brotherhood.
  5. Israeli leader declares Bible prophecies coming true in our lifetime.

What follows is a brief explanation of each development and why I believe they are so significant.

1.) SYRIAN DEATH TOLL KEEPS CLIMBING AMIDST HORRIFIC CIVIL WAR & CHEMICAL WEAPONS USE IN DAMASCUS — Far and away, the greatest tragedy and humanitarian disaster in 2013 in the epicenter was the continued implosion of Syria.

A terrible evil has been unleashed. Syria is collapsing. It is hard to imagine putting the country back together any time soon. Indeed, we may be witnessing the beginning of the end of the geopolitical nation-state we have long known as “Syria.”

In August, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that chemical weapons had been used in Syria. “What we saw in Syria last week should shock the conscience of the world. It defies any code of morality,” Kerry said. “Let me be clear. The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable. And despite the excuses and equivocations that some have manufactured, it is undeniable. The meaning of this attack goes beyond the conflict on Syria itself. And that conflict has already brought so much terrible suffering. This is about the large-scale indiscriminate use of weapons that the civilized world long ago decided must never be used at all, a conviction shared even by countries that agree on little else. There is a clear reason that the world has banned entirely the use of chemical weapons. There is a reason the international community has set a clear standard and why many countries have taken major steps to eradicate these weapons. There is a reason why President Obama has made it such a priority to stop the proliferation of these weapons, and lock them down where they do exist. There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences. And there is a reason why no matter what you believe about Syria, all peoples and all nations who believe in the cause of our common humanity must stand up to assure that there is accountability for the use of chemical weapons so that it never happens again.”

There was a moment when it looked as if the U.S., France and Britain were going to take military action against the Assad regime in Syria. Then President Obama and the Western powers backed down. As the year ends, Assad remains in power.

“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his security cabinet are mortified by what they are seeing unfold – not in Damascus, but in Washington,” I noted in September. “To be sure, Israeli leaders are concerned but not surprised by the horrific blood-letting that is underway between the evil Assad regime and the demonic forces of al-Qaeda and their radical Islamic partners. But the Israelis are stunned and dismayed by the vacillating, lurching, confused, and chaotic approach to decision-making of President Obama and his top advisers.”

Fortunately, in 2013 we did not see the absolute destruction of the city of Damascus, as foretold by ancient Bible prophecies. Still, interest in those prophecies — notably Isaiah 17 & Jeremiah 49 – grew this year and millions learned about the prophecies that may not have been familiar with them before. This was in part because of my novel, Damascus Countdown, and in part because of media coverage of the prophecies, both positivenegative, and comical.

2.) IRAN BEGUILES WEST WITH “CHARM OFFENSIVE” AS IT MOVES CLOSER TO THE BOMB – The good news in 2013 was that there was no evidence that Iran has yet finished building or deploying nuclear warheads, and war did not break out between Iran and Israel. The bad news is that the West blinked in its effort to derail the Iranian nuclear program, making a Persian Bomb more likely.

In June, Iran held rigged presidential elections. As I noted at the time, 686 candidates registered to run for president, but the regime allowed only eights candidates to actually compete. Then, two of those eight candidates suddenly dropped out of the race. In the end, Iranians had only six candidates to choose from, all of whom were carefully vetted, were deeply loyal to the Ayatollah Khamenei, and were fully committed to advancing Iran’s nuclear program. In the end, Hassan Rouhani was declared the winner. He was certainly no “moderate,” despite what the Western media said. Indeed, this former Iranian nuclear negotiator once boasted about deceiving the West while Iran steadily built its nuclear capabilities. 

What was so stunning and disappointing, therefore, wasn’t that Rouhani launched a “charm offensive” to beguile the West while Iran moved closer to building an arsenal of nuclear weapons. That was fully expected. What was so painful to watch was that the West took Rouhani’s bait — hook, line, and sinker. The Obama administration, along with the rest of the world powers, seemed determined to strike a deal with Iran no matter what the cost. The agreement ostensibly reached in early November was described by the media as “historic,” yet it did not require Iran to stop enriching uranium, or dismantle a single centrifuge, even though economic sanctions on Iran will begin to be eased. What’s more, no sooner was the deal supposedly completed than Iran immediately began to refute the White House as to the substance of the deal. Then, the White House conceded that the agreement with Iran wasn’t actually finished, that there were a number of “technical” details that remained to be ironed out, that no deal had actually been signed in Geneva, and that implementation of the deal — merely an “interim agreement,” at that — wouldn’t begin until early 2014, at the earliest.

Israeli officials at the highest levels were stunned by how much the U.S. and Western powers gave away in the deal. Several leading Mideast analysts said there were real reasons to worry about the deal. As the year ends, Iran is increasingly close to the point of building not just an operational nuclear warhead but an arsenal of them.

3.) SAUDIS PREPARING TO PURCHASE PAKISTANI NUCLEAR WARHEADS – One of the biggest fears in the Middle East is that if Iran actually gets operational nuclear weapons that this will spark a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Such fears began to be realized in 2013.

As details emerged of the deal the West cut with Iran, Arab leaders were horrified. They deeply fear a nuclear-armed Iran and have long pressed the White House to do everything necessary to stop this from happening. Now they fear they are being betrayed. “A deal with Iran would be like discovering your partner of many years is cheating on you with someone he or she claims they hate,” a senior Arab official from a U.S. ally in the region told the Wall Street Journal.

Then came the news that the Saudis are in the process of purchasing nuclear warheads from Pakistan, so convinced they have become that the Obama administration has no idea how to stop Iran. “Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will,” the BBC reported. “While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic….Earlier this year, a senior NATO decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery. Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, ‘the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.’ Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran crossed the threshold, ‘we will get nuclear weapons,’ the kingdom has sent the Americans numerous signals of its intentions….Gary Samore, until March 2013 President Barack Obama’s counter-proliferation adviser, has told Newsnight: ‘I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan.’”

If that weren’t enough, we began hearing reports that the Saudis are so fearful of an Iranian nuclear arsenal that they have been building a secret alliance with Israel to take military action against Iran if diplomacy fails. “Riyadh has agreed to let Israel use its airspace in a military strike on Iran and cooperate over the use of rescue helicopters, tanker planes and drones,” reported the Times of Israel and the Sunday Times of London. “The Saudis are furious and are willing to give Israel all the help it needs,” said an unnamed diplomatic source.

4.) EGYPT’S COUNTER-REVOLUTION BRINGS DOWN THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD — One of the most positive developments in 2013 was a counter-revolution in Egypt that crushed the Radical Islamic leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The rise of the Brotherhood to power in Egypt in 2012 caused darkness to fall on the land.

After more than 22 million Egyptians sign petition calling for President Mohamed Morsi to step down, the Egyptian military mobilized troops and tanks, arresting Morsi and top Muslim Brotherhood leadership, outlawing the Brotherhood, and promising new elections and a new constitution. Morsi and his fellow Radicals had come to power after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak calling for the imposition of Sharia law and new hostilities with Israel. Shortly before being elected in 2012, Morsi had given a speech saying, “The Koran is our constitution. The Prophet Muhammad is our leader. Jihad is our path. And death for the sake of Allah is our most lofty aspiration….This nation will enjoy blessing and revival only through the Islamic sharia [law].” He adds: “I take an oath before Allah and before you all that regardless of the actual text [of the current Egyptian constitution], Allah willing, the text will truly reflect sharia law, as will be agreed upon by the Egyptian people, by the Islamic scholars, and by legal and constitutional experts. Rejoice and rest assured that these people will not accept a text that does not reflect the true meaning of the Islamic sharia as a text to be implemented and as a platform. The people will not agree to anything else.”

  • Perhaps they didn’t truly understand the Brotherhood’s objectives at first, but as the Egyptian people watched Morsi and his team operate, they were horrified by the direction they were being led and they made their voices heard.
  • The region’s oldest Radical Islamic jihadist organization was toppled in 2013 and the military continues to crack down on the Brotherhood.
  • General Sisi is working hard to fight Islamist terrorism, including launching a major series of offensives against terror groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula.
  • The Egyptian military is also fighting arms smuggling into Gaza, which is putting a stranglehold on Hamas, the Palestinian branch of the Brotherhood.
  • An Israeli think tank reports that “Egypt has finally decided to tackle the security threat from the Sinai Peninsula, a region that was nearly under the control of jihadist organizations with links to al-Qaeda and Hamas. The Egyptian army’s ultimate goal is clear: to recover Egypt’s sovereignty in Sinai. In order to succeed in its mission, the Egyptian supreme command understands that it must neutralize Hamas, which it sees as partly responsible for the security situation in Sinai during the last few years. For the first time since it was founded, Hamas is showing signs of panic. Egyptian newspapers quoted Palestinian sources as saying that 90 percent of the smuggling tunnels along the border with Gaza have stopped functioning as a result of Egyptian measures, leading to the potential loss of nearly 40 percent of Hamas’ revenues. With the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt counting its dead by the hundreds and the campaign being waged by the Egyptian army against them far from over, and with its relations with Turkey and Qatar faltering, Hamas has instructed its spokesmen to avoid making any comments about the crisis in Egypt so as not to evoke the wrath of Egyptian army Commander in Chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. Since the Egyptian military ousted President Mohamed Morsi in early July 2013, it has embarked on a punitive campaign against Hamas, the self-declared offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood.”
  • Whether Sisi and his generals will be a positive force in Egypt going forward remains to be seen, but for now they have rescued their country from a Radical Islamist nightmare.

5.) ISRAELI LEADER DECLARES BIBLE PROPHECIES ARE COMING TRUE IN OUR LIFETIME“In our time the Biblical prophecies are being realized,” Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu declared before world leaders gathered at the United Nations General Assembly in September. “As the prophet Amos said, they shall rebuild ruined cities and inhabit them,” Netanyahu said. “They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine. They shall till gardens and eat their fruit. And I will plant them upon their soil never to be uprooted again. Ladies and gentlemen, the people of Israel have come home never to be uprooted again.”

Netanyahu also alluded in the speech to the Biblical prophecies of a Persian king named “Cyrus” that would rise up one day and set the Jewish people free from captivity. “The Jewish people’s odyssey through time has taught us two things: Never give up hope, always remain vigilant. Hope charts the future. Vigilance protects it,” Netanyahu said. “Today our hope for the future is challenged by a nuclear-armed Iran that seeks our destruction. But I want you to know, that wasn’t always the case. Some 2,500 years ago the great Persian king Cyrus ended the Babylonian exile of the Jewish people. He issued a famous edict in which he proclaimed the right of the Jews to return to the land of Israel and rebuild the Jewish temple in Jerusalem. That’s a Persian decree. And thus began an historic friendship between the Jews and the Persians that lasted until modern times.”

Isaiah was the Hebrew prophet who prophesied that a great Persian king named “Cyrus” would emerge one day to bless the Jewish people, release them from captivity, send them back to the land of Israel, and rebuild the city of Jerusalem. (See Isaiah 44:28 through 45:13.)

A Persian king named “Cyrus” did, in fact, emerge to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecies.

  •  See 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 – “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia – in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah – the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord His God be with him, and let him go up!”’”
  • See the Book of Ezra – “Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia – in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah – the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may His God be with him! Let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel; He is the God who is in Jerusalem. Every survivor, at whatever place he may live, let the men of that place support him with silver and gold, with goods and cattle, together with a freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:1-4)

I don’t personally recall a single other Israeli leader in the modern era who has spoken so clearly of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Netanyahu’s interest in the Scriptures has been growing significantly in recent years, as I have noted on the blog, and are increasingly pronounced in his public statements. At a speech at the Auschwitz death camp in 2009, for example, Netanyahu declared that the prophecies of Ezekiel 37 — the dry bones of the Jewish people coming back together miraculously to form the State of Israel — had come to pass in his lifetime.

The declaration by an Israeli leader of the importance of the Bible to Jewish lives, and to all humanity, in our modern times should not be underestimated.

During the 2013 Epicenter Conference we held in Jerusalem in July, I noted in my opening message that “amidst the terrible geopolitical crises in Syria and Egypt — and the nuclear threat growing from Iran — the Middle East faces a far greater crisis: the absolute disconnect between the people and the Word of God. Israel and the Middle East is the land where the Bible was written. Yet most of the people in the epicenter have never read the Word of God.” How sad.

Only 16% of Israeli Jews say they ever read the Hebrew Bible known as the Tanakh (the five books of Moses, the prophets and the writings), according to a sweeping survey of Israeli attitudes towards faith conducted by the Guttmann Institute and the Israel Democracy Institute in 2009. The vast majority of Arab Muslims have never even seen a Bible, much less read one. Is there really any wonder then that if the half billion people in this region don’t know God’s Word, that they are not experiencing His peace, much less peace between nations and ethnic groups?

This is why the theme of the 2013 Epicenter Conference was, “The Power of the Word.” Only the Bible — the very words of the Living God — has the power to save souls, change lives, bring hope, and bring “peace that passeth all understanding.”

As you begin the new year, I would encourage you to watch or listen to the messages from the conference, all of which are posted online at http://www.epicenterconference.com/.

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

In scathing memoir, former SecDef Bob Gates describes his “seething” anger against the President & his approach towards leadership and Mideast wars.

bobgates-book(Washington, D.C.) — “In a new memoir, former defense secretary Robert Gates unleashes harsh judgments about President Obama’s leadership and his commitment to the Afghanistan war, writing that by early 2010 he had concluded the president ‘doesn’t believe in his own strategy, and doesn’t consider the war to be his. For him, it’s all about getting out,’”  reports Bob Woodward in the Washington Post.

What’s striking to me about the excerpts that Woodward pulls from the book – Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary At War – is how angry Gates, 70, describes himself as being at President Obama, Vice President Biden, and the White House inner circle over their muddled, dysfunctional, confused and condescending approach towards leadership generally and towards national security policy in particular, especially  the wars in the Middle East.

At various points Gates — widely seen a calm, unflappable, non-ideological, bipartisan advisor to presidents going back to the Nixon administration – writes that he was “seething” and “angry” and “running out of patience on multiple fronts.”

Woodward calls the book a “highly emotional account.”

Notably, while Gates has gone public with his feelings and the reasons for them, I hear this same sense of deep frustration with the President and his national security team from a steady stream of generals, special forces operatives, intelligence operatives, and other national security officials up and down the line. They are leaving government service, or actively contemplating leaving. They are losing respect for the Commander-in-chief. They believe he is leading a retreat from America’s role as the world’s only superpower, and creating a vacuum in very dangerous places, the epicenter chief among them. Few of them want to speak publicly. Perhaps Gates is speaking not just for himself, but for them as well.

Looks like a book worth reading.

Excerpts from Woodward’s article, and from the book:

  • It is rare for a former Cabinet member, let alone a defense secretary occupying a central position in the chain of command, to publish such an antagonistic portrait of a sitting president.
  • The sometimes bitter tone in Gates’s 594-page account contrasts sharply with the even-tempered image that he cultivated during his many years of government service, including stints at the CIA and National Security Council. That image endured through his nearly five years in the Pentagon’s top job, beginning in President George W. Bush’s second term and continuing after Obama asked him to remain in the post. In “Duty,” Gates describes his outwardly calm demeanor as a facade. Underneath, he writes, he was frequently “seething” and “running out of patience on multiple fronts.”
  • Lack of trust is a major thread in Gates’s account, along with his unsparing criticism of Obama’s aides. At times, the two threads intertwine. For example, after the devastating 2010 Haitian earthquake that had left tens of thousands dead, Gates met with Obama and Donilon, the deputy national security adviser, about disaster relief.
  • Donilon was “complaining about how long we were taking,” Gates writes. “Then he went too far, questioning in front of the president and a roomful of people whether General [Douglas] Fraser [head of the U.S. Southern Command] was competent to lead this effort. I’ve rarely been angrier in the Oval Office than I was at that moment. . . . My initial instinct was to storm out, telling the president on the way that he didn’t need two secretaries of defense. It took every bit of my self-discipline to stay seated on the sofa.”
  • Though the book simmers with disappointment in Obama, it reflects outright contempt for Vice President Biden and many of Obama’s top aides. Biden is accused of “poisoning the well” against the military leadership. Thomas Donilon, initially Obama’s deputy national security adviser, and then-Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the White House coordinator for the wars, are described as regularly engaged in “aggressive, suspicious, and sometimes condescending and insulting questioning of our military leaders.”
  • Leveling one of the more serious charges that a defense secretary could make against a commander in chief sending forces into combat, Gates asserts that Obama had more than doubts about the course he had charted in Afghanistan. The president was “skeptical if not outright convinced it would fail,” Gates writes.
  • Obama, after months of contentious discussion with Gates and other top advisers, deployed 30,000 more troops in a final push to stabilize Afghanistan before a phased withdrawal beginning in mid-2011. “I never doubted Obama’s support for the troops, only his support for their mission,” Gates writes.
  • As a candidate, Obama had made plain his opposition to the 2003 Iraq invasion while embracing the Afghanistan war as a necessary response to the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, requiring even more military resources to succeed. In Gates’s highly emotional account, Obama remains uncomfortable with the inherited wars and distrustful of the military that is providing him options. Their different worldviews produced a rift that, at least for Gates, became personally wounding and impossible to repair.

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>> New novel, “The Auschwitz Escape,” will release March 18th. Inspired by true story of the greatest escape of all-time.

>> Here’s my list of the Top Five most important events in the Mideast in 2013.

>> www.joshuafund.net


Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog

Here’s a summary of what we discussed on the Hannity radio show about Egypt, Iran & the Mideast peace process.

jerusalem-siloutte(Washington,  D.C.) — I just finished a very interesting conversation with Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, who was guest hosting for Sean Hannity on his radio show. Pastor Michael Youssef of “Leading The Way,” originally from Egypt, also joined us on the program. Thanks to both of them for the questions they asked and the points they made. I appreciated being included in the conversation.
Here is a brief summary of what we discussed:
  • We talked about the dramatic changes in Egypt this past year, including the counter-revolution last July when the military arrested President Mohamed Morsi and most of the top leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Now General Sisi and his forces are fighting the Brotherhood throughout Egypt, and fighting against al Qaeda in the Sinai. It’s still not an easy life for Egyptian Christians, or anyone in Egypt.
  • It’s too early to say whether Sisi will prove to be a positive force for Egypt over the long haul.
  • We need to keep praying for all Egyptians, and especially for the persecuted Christians there. But the three of us agreed that the situation is much improved from 2012.
  • [For more on this, see my recent blog, “Here’s my list of the Top Five most important events in the Mideast in 2013.”]
  • We discussed the dangers of the Shia Muslims in Iran and elsewhere who believe their messiah, the “Twelfth Imam” (or “Mahdi”), is coming soon. We discussed how determined Iran’s Twelver leaders are to annihilate Israel (the “Little Satan,” in their view) and the U.S. (whom they call the “Great Satan.”)
  • We also discussed the Mideast peace process and Secretary Kerry’s visit to Jerusalem today. This is a very important and very sensitive topic. We all want peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I definitely do. I believe we need to keep praying and working towards peace. After all, the Lord Jesus Christ told us in Matthew 5, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” The Psalmist told us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). We must be faithful to those commands.
  • That said, Rep. Gohmert asked me about two specific Bible prophecies. One prophecy he quoted is from Jeremiah 31:1-6. This passage indicates that Israel will be reborn as a country and will resettle the land of “Samaria,” the territory many call the “West Bank.” The second prophecy he quoted was Joel 3:2. In this passage, the Lord vows to bring into judgment all nations that divide the Land of Israel.
  • I noted that it’s not often we talk about Bible prophecy on the Hannity show, but I’m glad we did today. It’s important.
  • Presidents, Prime Ministers and diplomats don’t like to discuss prophecy, but it’s important that they are aware of and understand these important Biblical truths.
  • Yes, ancient Bible prophecy tells us Israel would be reborn in the last days, and it has been.
  • Yes, prophecy tells us the Jewish people will resettle Samaria. That is happening, though I realize it deeply angers the Palestinian people, including many Arab Christians.
  • Yes, prophecy tells us that all nations (including the U.S.) that divide the Land of Israel will be judged.
  • These are not easy passages for everyone to hear. They are not easy to teach since many are upset by them. But as Christians we know there are consequences for ignoring or opposing the Scriptures. 
  • As Christians, we must be particularly aware that these are sensitive issues. We as evangelicals need to be careful in how we handle these prophecies. Many of our friends in the Mideast don’t agree with them. Some are angered when these topics are raised. I don’t want to hurt my Palestinian friends. I don’t want to be insensitive to their very real day-to-day challenges and concerns. I know the Israeli government and military are not made up of believers. They make serious mistakes that affect the Palestinians in very real ways. Indeed, both sides have long lists of grievances against each other. 
  • That said, as a lay person who does not work in or for the U.S. or Israeli government, or any government, I don’t have the ability to affect the geopolitical state of affairs in the epicenter.
  • Rather, as an author and speaker I see my role as helping people understand what is happening in the Middle East; teaching the Scriptures, including the prophecies; and helping Christians (and all people) in the U.S. and around the world understand the Biblical importance of loving Israeli Jews, Israeli Arabs, Palestinian Arabs, Arabs throughout the Mideast, Persians, and all the people of the Middle East.
  • I want to encourage people to pray for peace, and to invest in ways to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. We need to proactively show love to both sides. We need to encourage persecuted believers. We need to help local pastors teach the Word of God. We need to provide food, clothing and medical supplies to those in need, both Jews and Arabs.
  • God doesn’t tell us to love Jews OR Arabs. It’s not “either/or.” It’s “both/and.” We must love Jews AND Arabs. That’s what Jesus did. That’s what He commands us to do.
  • Let’s work together to be faithful to the task.

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Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog