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How did my visit with Jordan’s King Abdullah come about & what did I learn about this Sunni Arab ally? My interview with Fox News.

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2016 at 1:11 pm

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — On Sunday, I was interviewed on the Fox News Channel to discuss President Obama’s latest trip to the Middle East, my recent visit to Jordan to meet with King Abdullah, the op-ed I wrote for the Jerusalem Post about that trip, and The First Hostage.

You can watch the video of the interview by clicking here. Also, here is a transcript of the conversation I had with Fox anchor Shannon Bream:

SHANNON BREAM: Germany is the last stop on President Obama’s three-country tour. He began the week, of course, with a bit of a tense trip to Saudi Arabia, as that region faces numerous critical challenges.

Tucked in the midst of all the trouble is Jordan, where King Abdullah II is not only managing the influx of more than a million refugees, but also waging a constant battle against the threats from ISIS. There are growing questions about why the U.S. and — in that region — more Arab nations aren’t stepping up to do more to help the man who has been viewed as our most faithful Sunni Arab ally.

Joel Rosenberg, best-selling author…met days ago with King Abdullah and came away with some key insights and joins us now live from Jerusalem. Welcome to you, Joel.

ROSENBERG: Great to be with you, Shannon. Shalom from Jerusalem.

BREAM: And listen, let me ask you — you had an unbelievable amount of access, a special invitation from King Abdullah. Tell us a little bit about what you saw, and what kind of viewpoint it gives you now, on exactly what Jordan and that region is facing.

ROSENBERG: It was fascinating. King Abdullah in January was given a copy of my recent novel, The First Hostage, which is about ISIS — the Islamic State — trying to capture chemical weapons in Syria and launch an attack against the United States, Israel and Jordan, and even try to topple King Abdullah. A friend of his, an advisor to him, gave him the book, and he read it in just a few days. And rather than banning me from the kingdom, invited my wife and I on a five day visit. It was fascinating.

Look, King Abdullah is our most faithful Sunni Arab ally, and yet he faces enormous challenges. All of us in this region face the threat of ISIS, but Jordan, you know — ISIS’s roots run deep in Jordan. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the man who invented ISIS — then called Al Qaeda in Iraq — was from Jordan. So the king faces a huge challenge, but I think he is up for it. I spent time with him, having lunch with him, having dinner with him, meeting with many of his top generals. He’s a Special Forces guy. He was the head of Special Forces in Jordan before he took the throne. But he needs more American, Arab and international help.

BREAM: Yeah, and we have such a delicate score of relationships across that region, as you know. You know about the visit to Saudi Arabia this week, the tensions that are there. We also have word this week that the U.S. has spent more than $8 million purchasing heavy water nuclear materials from Iran, and some people see a link there between the meetings with Saudi Arabia, the pressure regarding Iran, and now this new purchase at a time when a lot of people here still aren’t sold on the overall nuke deal that we just made with them.

ROSENBERG: Yes, what is surprising almost every Sunni Arab leader in the region — and certainly Israel, as well — is why is the President of the United States tipping away from our historic allies — Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Gulf emirates, and again obviously Israel, as our most faithful ally in the entire region — and tipping all this effort to help Iran? And not taking decisive measures to destroy ISIS once and for all? ISIS and a nuclear Iran pose existential threats to every leader, and every person, in this region, as well as to the United States. And yet the President keeps tipping — when push comes to shove, he’s going with Iran these days. This is a huge mistake. It bothers me. It bothers many in this region.

BREAM: Well, Joel, we thank you so much for giving us some insights. You’ve written an op-ed that gives even more about that amazing trip you had with the King. And you know how I feel about The First Hostage. I can understand why after reading it he would have invited you. It is a great read. People will be entertained, as they always are with your books, but they will learn a lot about what we’re really facing, as well. Joel, thank you for joining us live from Jerusalem.

ROSENBERG: Thank you.

[NOTE: During the interview, Fox News I identified me several times as a “former advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.” While it’s true that I worked as an aide to him in 2000, that was more than 15 years ago. I want viewers to be clear that I don’t claim to speak for Mr. Netanyahu in any way. My views are wholly my own.]

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Lessons on Leadership: Moses, Passover and the Call of God. (Thoughts on Exodus 3 & 4.)

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2016 at 12:09 pm

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In late March, as readers of this blog know, Lynn and I had the joy of visiting the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at the invitation of King Abdullah II. On our second day, we went up to Mount Nebo. This was Lynn’s first trip to Jordan, so what a special thing to do. But this was my seventh, and yet I had never gone up to the mountain where the Lord took Moses to show him the Promised Land.

Wow! What a view. It was a beautiful, clear, crisp Spring day. Lynn and I could see the entire range of the Jordan River Valley. We could see Jericho, and Bethlehem, and — in the distance — the Judean Hills, the eastern sides of the Mount of Olives and Mount Scopus, and the lights of the holy city of Jerusalem.

In the weeks that followed, I found myself thinking a great deal about Moses — about the tremendous miracles the Lord accomplished through him, to be sure; about his great courage before Pharoah, the evil tyrant of the Middle East at that time; and about the powerful prophecies that Moses both proclaimed as God directed him, and those that he fulfilled, as well. At the same time, I also found myself reflecting on the sadness Moses must have felt at not being allowed by God to enter the Promised Land with his people, the nation of Israel. This was Moses’ own fault. He had been unable to control his anger, and there were consequences, even for such a great Biblical leader.

Fortunately, of course, Moses eventually made it to Israel. In Matthew 17, we read the remarkable account of Moses standing on the Mount of Transfiguration, talking with the Lord Jesus Christ and the prophet Elijah. Amazing. Talk about an exciting first visit to the Holy Land!

That said, I also found myself meditating a great deal on the man Moses was when the Lord first called him to this important mission to set His people free. I began studying Exodus chapters three and four day after day, trying to understand God’s call on Moses’ life, and why Moses resisted it so intensely.

Last Friday night, Lynn and the boys and I gathered with dear Israeli friends and celebrated our second Passover here in the Land of Israel since moving to the Land in August 2014. Yet again, like every year, we spent an evening thinking about what God did to rescue and save His people. The following morning, I preached at a congregation not far from Tel Aviv. The message the Lord put on my heart came from Exodus three and four. Here are my sermon notes. Hope you find them helpful and take some time to answer the questions below. God bless you, and Happy Passover from Israel!

WHEN GOD CALLED MOSES: Lessons on Leadership from Exodus 3:1-22 and 4:1-17

Today, we think of Moses as a great hero of the faith, and the Passover story as his most dramatic accomplishment. That’s true. But let’s step back and see the man God called into His service.

To begin, please read Exodus 3:1-22 and 4:1-17 in full.

Then, let’s look at a series of excuses Moses made, telling the Lord why he couldn’t possibly respond to God’s divine call.

1.) Moses asked God, “Who Am I?”

Exodus 3:11 – “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?”

Translation:

  • I am nothing.
  • I am no one special.
  • I have failed many times.
  • I’m not the right one to do this.

So, how did God answer Moses? Read here.

2.) Then Moses asked God, “What Shall I Say?”

Exodus 3:13 – “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”

Translation:

  • I don’t know what to say.
  • I don’t know God well enough to speak for Him.
  • I’m not the right one to do this.

So, how did God answer Moses? Read here.

3.) Then Moses asked God, “What if they won’t believe me?”

Exodus 4:1 – “What if they will not believe me or listen to what I say?”

Translation:

  • No one is going to listen to me.
  • No one is going to believe me.
  • I’m not the right one to do this.

So, how did God answer Moses? Read here.

4.) Then Moses told God, “I’m not eloquent.”

Exodus 4:10 – “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.”

Translation:

  • I’m not a good public speaker.
  • I’m slow to form my words. (Note: it is widely believed that Moses stuttered.)
  • I get “tongue-tied.”
  • I’m not the right one to do this.

So, how did God answer Moses?

5.) Finally, Moses essentially told God, “No.”

Exodus 4:13 – “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”

Translation:

  • I’ve heard everything you’ve told me, but it doesn’t persuade me.
  • I don’t know what to say.
  • I don’t know how to say it.
  • I can’t do this,
  • I won’t do this.
  • I’m not the right person.
  • Find someone else.

How did God respond? Read here.

In Exodus 4:14, we read: “Then the anger of the Lord burned against Moses…”

Still, the Lord showed tremendous grace and mercy to Moses. He provided Aaron, the older brother of Moses (by three years), to assist Moses in this vital mission. And despite Moses’ lack of faith — his sinful obsession with his own flaws and faults rather than trusting in the Lord’s love and power and greatness — the Lord redeemed him and used him in spite of himself to save the nation of Israel and bring them out of terror and tyranny and into freedom.

God’s Grace

Have you ever stopped to consider that all of Moses’ excuses were essentially true? He didn’t really know the Lord well. He didn’t know what to say? Pharoah didn’t listen to him or believe him. And after forty years on the backside of the desert, tending sheep, thinking about his worst failure — murdering an Egyptian and having to flee for his life — perhaps it’s no wonder Moses was not eloquent, and perhaps even someone who stuttered.

But have you also ever stopped to consider that maybe all of Moses’ weaknesses and failures were precisely why the Lord chose him to be His servant and His spokesman? By choosing a weak and sinful and desperately self-conscious person, the Lord showed Himself great and powerful, loving and wise. This way the Lord — not Moses — could receive all the praise and glory and honor, because it wasn’t possible for Moses to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt on his own. He wasn’t capable. And he knew it.

What does the Bible say about the man that Moses eventually became?

  1. “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than any man who was on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)
  2. “Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, for all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12)
  3. Moses was included in the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews chapter 11.

Questions For Us Today

I was deeply moved by these passages. They contain some tremendous lessons on leadership for all of us.

  1. What is God calling you to say?
  2. Where is God calling you to go?
  3. What excuses are you giving to the Lord?
  4. What promises has the Lord made in His Word to those who love Him and want to obey Him?

The Bible is clear: the Lord is calling you to serve Him and take His Word — the special message of the Scriptures — to people who need rescue and salvation, freedom and redemption. He is calling you and I to “go and make disciples of all nations” and to be His “witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth.” Will we be faithful to this high calling? Or will we give God a list of excuses why we’re the wrong people for the job?

May you study Moses carefully, and learn from the lessons he learned the hard way.

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Meeting Jordan’s Warrior King. (In March, Lynn and I were invited to Jordan to meet King Abdullah II. Here’s a report on our trip and the threat ISIS poses to Jordan & the West.)

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2016 at 7:23 am

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Last month, Lynn and I were blessed with the tremendous honor of spending several days in Jordan to meet with King Abdullah II. Our visit included tours of various military bases and the Zaatari refugee camp, briefings from senior military officials, and an up-close look at how His Majesty is dealing with the Syrian civil war, a tidal wave of refugees, and the growing threat of the Islamic State. We were deeply grateful for the opportunity and came away even more impressed with the king’s leadership than when we arrived. But we also saw how urgently Jordan needs more help from the West and the Arab world — before it’s too late.

This morning, The Jerusalem Post published an op-ed I wrote on my observations from the visit. Here it is in full. Please feel free to share it with others, and please keep the king, his family, and the people of Jordan in your regular, faithful prayers. Thanks.Jordan-HMK-militaryuniform

MEETING WITH JORDAN’S WARRIOR KING

A first-hand look at how the West’s most faithful Sunni Arab ally is confronting Islamic State.

By Joel C. Rosenberg, The Jerusalem Post, April 18, 2016

It isn’t often a novelist with dual US-Israeli citizenship has the opportunity to meet a Sunni Arab monarch, but last month I had the honor of spending time with Jordan’s King Abdullah II. It was absolutely fascinating to spend time with a moderate Muslim leader so deeply committed to defeating Islamic State (ISIS) and the forces of violent jihad.

The king invited my wife and me on a five-day visit to the Hashemite Kingdom after reading my latest political thriller, The First Hostage. The novel focuses on a plot by ISIS leaders to launch catastrophic chemical weapons attacks against the US, Israel and Jordan, target the king and seize Jordan to become part of its caliphate.

Upon arriving in Amman, my wife and I had a private luncheon with Abdullah at the National Crisis Center, a high-tech war room reminiscent of Jack Bauer’s fictional Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) headquarters in the TV series 24. From there, the king invited us to join him at a live-fire military exercise of Jordanian air and ground forces near Zarqa.

The trip included visits to several Jordanian military bases – including one just a few miles from the Syrian border, and the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center – and briefings from various generals and military officials. It also included a tour of the Zaatari Refugee Camp, home of some 80,000 Syrians who have fled from the Assad regime, ISIS and a seemingly never-ending civil war. One of the most special elements of the trip was a two-and-a-half-hour private dinner with the king and several friends at Beit al-Urdon, his personal palace.

After getting a first-hand look at the king and his national security team, I came away with three observations.

First, Jordan’s king is sitting on a volcano, nearly surrounded by a raging forest fire, bracing for a massive earthquake.

To his north, Syria is imploding. To his east, Iraq has been massively destabilized.

Some 1.3 million refugees have poured into Jordan from Syria alone, and more are coming every day, putting enormous pressure on Jordan’s struggling economy.

ISIS leaders have publicly vowed to invade Jordan, “slaughter” the king, whom they denounce as an “ally of the Crusaders,” and raise their black flags over Amman. So far, some 3,000 Jordanians have joined ISIS, including the son of a Jordanian member of Parliament.

“This is a message to the tyrant of Jordan,” the young man declared in a video he released just before going on a suicide bombing mission in Iraq. “Know, O Abdullah, son of Hussein, that you are an apostate….

Even if you manage to escape our punishment, you will not manage to escape Allah’s punishment.”

A poll released in 2015 found that 74 percent of Americans fear a major ISIS attack inside the US, and 73% fear a major ISIS attack in Israel. But nearly two-in-three Americans (65%) also fear ISIS “will try to overthrow the King of Jordan – an important, moderate Arab ally of the United States – and use Jordan as a base camp to launch terrorist attacks against America and Israel.”

I pray such scenarios never come to pass. But the threat is real and growing.

Second, King Abdullah was born for this moment.

As a 43rd-generation direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, the 54-year-old monarch has real credibility with his people when it comes to countering the radical and apocalyptic theological narratives espoused by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and other ISIS leaders. His majesty not only strenuously opposes the ISIS claim that Muslims are required to engage in violent jihad – and even genocide – to re-establish the caliphate and bring about the End of Days, he is also one of the Islamic world’s leading reformers, working with clerics and scholars throughout Jordan and the region to define and advance a moderate, tolerant, peaceful vision of Islam.

What’s more, as a career soldier trained at the best British military schools, and a natural leader who rose through the ranks to become the commander of Jordan’s Special Operations forces prior to ascending to the throne, the king is uniquely qualified to protect his people from the ISIS threat. He regularly meets with – and occasionally even trains with – his special forces commanders and units, and is directly involved in operations against extremists in Jordan and in the tactical leadership of Jordan’s efforts against ISIS in Syria.

At his direction, Jordanian commandos, General Intelligence Directorate operatives and elite police units are taking down an ISIS or related cell inside Jordan every week. As a result of excellent intelligence and security work, Jordan hasn’t had a major terrorist attack inside its borders since 2005, certainly nothing like the recent jihadist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, San Bernardino and elsewhere. This is directly attributable to the king’s impressive leadership at home, as well as his close working relationship with Israeli, Egyptian, Saudi and Gulf security and intelligence forces.

Third, the king is ready, willing and able to be even more actively engaged in the fight against ISIS, and to continue caring for so many Muslim and Christian refugees, but he needs more US and international assistance to do this effectively.

One example: Jordan currently has eight Blackhawk military helicopters, which it recently received from the US in early March, and for which it is very grateful. However, to conduct effective missions against ISIS jihadists in Iraq and Syria, Jordanian forces need at least 12 Blackhawks. Another eight Blackhawks have been promised by the US, but they aren’t expected to be delivered until the end of 2017. Why? Shouldn’t Washington immediately provide its most faithful Sunni Arab ally with as many military helicopters as it needs to wage war on ISIS? At the same time, while the international community has pledged billions in financial aid to help Jordan shoulder the enormous refugee burden, it is not delivering on its promises.

In 2014, only 28% of the promised aid was delivered. In 2015, the number was only 35%.

In this regard the US is doing far better than others. In 2012, the US gave Jordan $460 million in foreign aid.

This year, Congress and the Obama administration will provide $1 billion in aid. But why isn’t President Obama pressing other countries to do more? Neither the Europeans nor wealthy Arab nations want millions of Syrian refugees living in their countries.

Nor can they afford to see a moderate country like Jordan destabilized. They need to step up, now.

I was already intrigued with Jordan’s warrior king before I met him. That’s why I made him a central character in both of my recent novels about ISIS. But spending personal time with him and his generals, and seeing the extraordinary lengths to which the king is going to defeat the forces of Islamic extremism, deeply impressed me.

King Abdullah II is, without question, the West’s most faithful Sunni Arab ally. But as he engages in a hot war against a genocidal enemy he needs far more help from the US and the international community – and he needs it now. Let’s give him what he needs, before it’s too late.

The author is a New York Times best-selling author. He has written two novels about the threat of Islamic State, The Third Target (published in January 2015) and The First Hostage (published in December 2016). He can be reached at www.joelrosenberg.com.

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