One of the most adept analysts of current events regarding Israel and the Middle East from a biblical perspective is Joel C. Rosenberg, a New York Times best-selling author of novels based on prophetic scenarios
By Robert D. Onley, Jerusalem Post Christian Edition, November 15, 2010
Students of Bible prophecy know that in “the last days” the eyes of the world will be drawn to Israel. After Israel’s confrontation with the Turkish “humanitarian aid” flotilla on May 31, we saw how quickly the international community turned against Israel for its actions.
One of the most adept analysts of current events regarding Israel and the Middle East from a biblical perspective is Joel C. Rosenberg, a New York Times best-selling author of novels based on prophetic scenarios. Besides his writings, he hosts an annual teaching conference under the name “Epicenter” – taken from the title of his recent non-fiction book. Rosenberg has also launched The Joshua Fund, a non-profit Christian ministry that donates toward humanitarian needs in Israel. In addition, he formerly served as an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In late June, we interviewed Rosenberg at his latest Epicenter Conference, as over 1,500 Christians gathered in Philadelphia to hear the latest on Israel’s place in world affairs. Here are excerpts…
Christian Edition: With the Islamic Republic of Iran moving closer to obtaining nuclear weapons every day, the probability of an Israeli pre-emptive strike on its nuclear facilities is very high. However, if Iran obtains nuclear weapons, “all bets are off” as to what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad might do. Your next novel is called The Twelfth Imam, referring to the [Shi’ite] “Islamic Messiah.” Iran’s president is on record as being committed to hastening the return of the Twelfth Imam. What are the implications with respect to Israel?
Joel C. Rosenberg: Ahmadinejad is a devout Shia Muslim, a true believer in every sense of the term. Religion for him is not some sort of political force; he believes that the end of the world is at hand. He believes that the Islamic Messiah is returning “imminently,” and that the way to hasten the coming of this Twelfth Imam is to annihilate Israel, which he calls the “Little Satan,” and the United States, which he calls the “Great Satan.”
How might Ahmadinejad’s apocalyptic beliefs affect negotiations with Iran?
Well, if you ask Ahmadinejad what he wants, and don’t study who he is, you’re going to come to erroneous conclusions. What he wants is his Islamic Messiah to come, and what he believes is that what he has to do is destroy Judeo-Christian civilization. Period.
Once you understand that, then you know negotiations will be fruitless. He wants to bring about the end of humanity as we know it, and if he gets nuclear weapons, he will use them.
As negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program have progressed, the Iranian leadership has repeatedly flip-flopped on uranium enrichment, raising serious concerns about Iran’s true intentions. Some commentators have linked Iran’s deceptiveness to the Islamic doctrine of taqiyya, which permits and even commands Muslims to deceive “infidels” in the service of a ‘holy cause’ such as jihad. Is taqiyya affecting dialogue with Iran?
Taqiyya is absolutely affecting the dynamic of dialogue with Iran. Ignorance of taqiyya is part of an almost willful lack of understanding by the American, European and other officials, which means they just don’t understand how Ahmadinejad’s brand of Islam affects such things as negotiations.
President [Barack] Obama has been engaging in sporadic dialogue with Ahmadinejad for over 18 months while the Iranian government flip-flops. Is the US administration even aware of the taqiyya doctrine?
Aware? Yes. They’re all bright people. Paying attention to taqiyya? No. Clearly, the West is buying the notion that Iran wants to engage, and that the West just hasn’t found the key, so they’re flipping through our key rings thinking: “Which one will open the door?” All the evidence tells us the Iranians don’t want to negotiate.
The question is: Why bother? When somebody tells you, “I’m cheating at cards, that’s my doctrine. I cheat, now let’s play poker,” you probably should be thinking: “Maybe I shouldn’t be playing poker with you. Maybe I should take all your cards away, along with that gun in your pocket, and the cannon I know you’re building in the back room.”
Why are we playing poker with people who tell us in their own documents that they cheat?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly stated that he’s prepared to protect Israel against the Iranian nuclear threat. How do you believe Netanyahu perceives Ahmadinejad’s threats and posturing?
Netanyahu believes that Ahmadinejad and his superior, Ayatollah [Ali] Khamenei, both mean what they say. He continues to be bewildered, to put it mildly, that nobody else sees this. He is coming to the conclusion that nobody is going to see Iran the way that he does, and this is leading him to a very lonely place. He’s going to have to make a decision soon; not within years, but probably within months. He has to decide to launch a preemptive war against Iran. Look at the ferocity of international reactions when Israel defended its own borders by boarding the Turkish “aid” ship in May. Now think about what the world’s reaction will be if Israel sends hundreds of planes to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The world will go crazy, and Netanyahu is aware of this. He’s got to make decisions. We need to be praying for him, for wisdom, for courage, that Netanyahu will be like one of the son’s of Issachar described in the Old Testament – a man who understands the times and knows what Israel should do. (1 Chronicles 12:32)
Do you believe Netanyahu is really willing to undertake unilateral pre-emptive air strikes and perhaps covert action as well against Iran?
That’s a tough question. I think that if anyone in the history of modern Israel would take preemptive action against Iran, it would be Benjamin Netanyahu. That doesn’t tell us for certain that he will. It also doesn’t tell us whether God is going to intervene for Israel. For example, God could cause Khamenei and/or Ahmadinejad to retire, to be fired, to be deposed or to die. Then there’s the option of a regime change. The questions in Iran are: Are the people who will replace them worse? Just as bad? A little bit better? Or significantly better? We don’t know yet. One thing that Netanyahu hopes is that the facts on the ground in Iran change in ways that he cannot do himself. First, Netanyahu has to assess whether there’s still a possibility for regime change. Second, can covert operations delay or stop Iran from getting the Bomb? I don’t think they can ultimately stop it, but they have slowed things down. Third, does he have the ability to make the most difficult decision in the history of the modern state of Israel?
You are actively involved in humanitarian work in Israel through The Joshua Fund, which provided supplies to poor Israelis and Palestinians during the Gaza War in 2009. What is the greatest challenge facing The Joshua Fund?
The biggest challenge is the enormous need in Israel, as well as among the Palestinians, one out of four of whom live under the poverty line. But this goes back to the theme of the Epicenter Conference, which is to build a global movement of Christians to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. What does that really mean? It means this shouldn’t be a North American-only effort… It needs to be worldwide… The point is: What is God doing? God loves the people of [Israel]. They are the focal point of human history, and increasingly the focal point of our times.
OTHER HEADLINES TO TRACK:
- Ahmadinejad proposes establishment of Asian Union
- Iranians begin 5-day, nationwide air defense drill
- Obama offers Israel 20 F-35 fighter just worth $3 billion for free if Netanyahu agrees to 90 moratorium on building
- Obama: Netanyahu willingness to freeze settlements is promising — Israeli political source says PM likely to win narrow approval from cabinet for U.S. package of incentives in exchange for 90-day settlement freeze.
- Washington Post Analysis: U.S. pinning its Mideast hopes on 90-day settlement freeze