Israel’s Home Front Command simulates chemical weapons attack on Tel Aviv. 3-day drill designed to increase first responder & civilian readiness.

A DRILL at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba tests responses to a chemical weapons attack. Photo: IDF Spokesperson/Jerusalem Post.

A DRILL at the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba tests responses to a chemical weapons attack. Photo: IDF Spokesperson/Jerusalem Post.

Israeli leaders continue to prepare themselves and their citizens for worst-case scenarios. Here’s the latest example.

“The IDF Home Front Command (HFC) launched a three-day exercise on Tuesday simulating a chemical and conventional missile attack on Tel Aviv,” reports the Jerusalem Post. “The drill is standard, was planned last year, and is unrelated to any current events.”

“During the exercise, the Home Front Command will distribute chemical protection kits in three areas — Tel Aviv, Bat Yam, and Holon,” the Post notes. “Local residents near the distribution centers have been notified by mail, and the names of the distribution stations are listed on the Home Front Command’s internet site. On Wednesday, the HFC will drill chemical missile attacks on IDF headquarters at the Kirya in Tel Aviv and on two east Tel Aviv residential neighborhoods, Bitzron and Ramat Israel. The drill will include voluntary evacuations of local residents who agree to cooperate in the exercise….City-wide sirens will be activated at 6:05 p.m. on Wednesday, and fireworks will be seen in the Tel Aviv evening sky as part of the exercise.”

“We’re holding this exercise in the context of a series of drills to improve our readiness,” a senior Home Front Command official told the Post. “A computer simulator was used to envisage the chemical attack, he added….The source acknowledged the fact that many Israelis still have not received gas masks, but urged Tel Aviv residents to take advantage of the drill to get hold of the kits. The drill will conclude on Thursday. In May, the HFC held a war drill based on the scenario of missiles pouring in from multiple fronts, with some carrying chemical warheads. The ‘targets’ included population centers and strategic facilities. Security officials say the risk of an actual chemical attack on Israel is very low.”

UPDATED: Israelis & Palestinians agree to direct peace talks. Or have they? Here’s what we know so far.

Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan.

Secretary of State John Kerry meeting with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Amman, Jordan.

(Washington, D.C.) — UPDATE: Now the Palestinians are saying peace talks are not going to be starting any time soon, that Secretary Kerry’s announcement was premature, that they have not agreed to sit down with the Israelis. Yet the U.S. State Department continues to insist that the Palestinians absolutely have agreed to the talks.

Are the Palestinian leaders trying to squeeze concessions out of the U.S. and the Israelis, or are they really not interested in face to face talks with Israel? Time will tell, but for the moment it sure seems that Kerry wants these talks to happen more than PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas does.

The real question is why is Kerry investing so much effort into these talks, when the Iran nuclear crisis is coming to head, there has just been a coup in Egypt, and Syria is imploding? The Israeli-Palestinian issue is important, but aren’t there more urgent issues to deal with at the moment?

—————-

ORIGINAL POST: After three years of rejecting direct, face-to-face peace talks with Israel — and after months of shuttle diplomacy by Secretary of State John Kerry — the leaders of the Palestinian Authority have agreed to come back to the table to sit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Kerry in Amman, Jordan, said an agreement has been reached that “establishes a basis for resuming direct final status negotiations between” Palestinians and Israel. “This is a significant and welcome step forward,” he said.

That much is clear.

What is not clear is what both sides secretly told Kerry that led to this development.

Israeli officials are insistent that they have agreed to negotiate with no pre-conditions regarding final borders, Jerusalem, settlements, refugees, water, or other issues. Nor have they required the Palestinians to accept Israel as a “Jewish state” before the talks even begin. The Palestinians, however, say they were promised by Kerry that the Israelis are agreeing to negotiate on the basis of returning to the pre-1967 lines. Israeli officials adamantly reject this notion, saying there is no way they are going to make such sweeping and historic concessions before the talks even begin. Most Israeli leaders in the current Netanyahu government are opposed to making such concessions at all.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • When will the talks start? They could start as early as this week here in Washington, D.C. (Haaretz)
  • How long will the talks last? 9-12 months. (Times of Israel
  • Who will represent each side? Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Netanyahu envoy Yitzhak Molcho will represent the Israelis, and Saeb Erekat will represent the Palestinians. (Times of Israel)
  • Are the Israelis making any confidence-building gestures? Yes, Israel said it would release some Palestinian prisoners in phases, but only if the peace talks actually begin and it would only release prisoners arrested before the Olso Accords were signed back in the early 1990s, thus only prisoners who have served at least 20 years or more. (Jerusalem Post)
  • Are the Palestinians making any confidence-building gestures? No, not that I’ve heard of.
  • Can Netanyahu and his Cabinet sign a final status agreement with the Palestinians? Not on their own. They would first need to hold a national referendum allowing the Israeli people to vote to approve or reject such an agreement. (Israel Hayom)

To be sure, many analysts are skeptical this new effort will last long, much less bear fruit. And there is much reason for skepticism. After all, the Palestinian Authority doesn’t even control the Gaza Strip — Hamas does. Mahmoud Abbas is currently serving the eighth year of a four year term and refuses to call new elections. Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza continue to fire rockets and missiles at Israelis (fewer than before, but it still happens). On top of all this, the much more important strategic issue for Israel and the world to face is stopping Iran from building nuclear weapons and launching a “War of Annihilation” as well as a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. What’s more, the Bible says in Joel chapter three that all nations that divide the land of Israel will face the judgment of the Almighty God. Dividing Jerusalem and Judea & Samaria to create a sovereign Palestinian state would be dividing Israel and would lead to divine judgment, not blessing.

That said, I choose not to be a cynic. The Bible teaches us to want peace and to pray for it and work for it. Psalmist tells us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” (Psalm 122:6). The Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” (Matthew 5:9). So I’m praying for peace. I am praying that the Israelis and Palestinians are one day able to live with each other in security and prosperity. I am praying that the Palestinians will have full autonomy to govern their own daily lives without interference by the Israelis. I am praying for all Israelis to be able to live free from the fear that Palestinians will create alliances with Iran and various terror groups to threaten the existence of the State of Israel. And I support all legitimate efforts to make a just and lasting peace according to Biblical principles of affirming the rights and responsibilities of all the inhabitants of the land. I would encourage you to do the same.

PAST BLOG ITEMS ON THIS SUBJECT:

>> Watch videos of the messages from the 2013 Epicenter Conference on “The Power of the Word” to bless both Israel and the Arabs

Upcoming events: I’ll be speaking in Colorado, the Adirondacks and New York. (Please register today.)

MA-logoWebSaveTheDate.indd>> Watch messages from the 2013 Epicenter Conference

After five weeks in Israel, I have just returned back to Washington, D.C. It was a fascinating time leading The Joshua Fund tour of 244 people from all over the world, hosting the 2013 Epicenter Conference, holding TJF Board meetings, and meeting with key government officials, Jewish leaders and Christian leaders.

By God’s grace, my family was able to join me for nearly four of those weeks. Now that we’re back, I’m hard at work on editing the latest novel I’m working on, set during the Holocaust in World War II. More on that in an upcoming post.

Meanwhile, I’m also looking forward to three specific upcoming public speaking opportunities and wanted to make you aware of them. I hope you’ll take time to learn more about each of these  exceptional events. Then please register today and join us.

  • August 8th in Denver — Topic: “The War Clouds Rising Between Israel & Iran.” — The occasion will be the annual fundraising event for Ministry Architecture, Inc., a ministry my parents (Len and Mary Rosenberg) started 13 years to provide architectural services for evangelical Christian ministries operating in developing countries who need orphanages, training centers, hospitals, and other facilities to show the love of Jesus. Before I speak, my folks will share about the exciting work God is doing through this ministry in countries such as Mexico, Nigeria, Zambia, Sudan, Romania, Haiti, Thailand, Turkey, Israel, etc. Then I will discuss the enormous economic and spiritual challenges facing the United States, whether we could face not just a decline but a collapse, and the prospect of a Third Great Awakening. And I’m especially looking forward to your questions as that is my favorite part of the evening! The event will take place at Calvary Chapel South Denver in Littleton, Colorado, from 7:30pm to 9:30pm. Doors will open at 6:30pm. A contribution of $25 per person is requested to help support Ministry Architecture. Contributions are tax deductible. Registration is required, and you can register at www.ministryarchitecture.com. Please join us — I hope to see you there.
  • August 11-17 in the Adirondacks — Topic: “Rediscovering the Purpose and Power of Bible Prophecy” — The occasion will be the Word of Life summer conferences. I am one of three teachers that week, including Dr. Mark Bailey, president of Dallas Theological Seminary. If you and your family have never attended a Word of Life camp, I highly encourage you to come. They are so encouraging and refreshing and I absolutely love spending time in the Adirondack mountains of upstate New York, where I have so many fond memories from my childhood.
  • October 3-5 in New York City — Topic: “The People, The Land, and The Future of Israel” — The occasion is a CPM conference that will be held at Calvary Baptist Church in Manhattan. Some of the leading theologians in the West on the subject of Biblical and prophetic Israel will be speaking. I am honored to be part of the event and I hope you will  register today and join us in October. For more details, please click here.

EU leaders issue anti-Israel directive aimed at dividing Jerusalem & forcing Jews out of Biblical heartland.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, during their meeting in Jerusalem, on June 20, 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO/Flash90/Times of Israel)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, during their meeting in Jerusalem, on June 20, 2013. (photo credit: Amos Ben Gershom/ GPO/Flash90/Times of Israel)

>> Watch messages from the 2013 Epicenter Conference — now online and on our mobile app

According to Bible prophecy, leaders in Europe will seek to impose a dangerous, ill-considered, unworkable “peace treaty” on Israel in the last days. It may be too soon to say we are there yet, but there is no question European leaders are turning increasingly anti-Israel and seeking to impose a final status agreement on the Jewish and Palestinian people.

Here is the latest example: On the eve of new Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, the European Union has made a sweeping and highly aggressive move to use its legal and financial muscle to force Israel to divide its capital city of Jerusalem and  abandon all of its activities in the Biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, commonly known these days as the “West Bank” of the Jordan River.

Specifically, the EU barring all of its 28 member countries from doing any business or any other activity with any Israeli company, NGO, college, school or other entity that operate in East Jerusalem or the West Bank. There is grave concern among Israelis that this could effectively become a boycott or a full embargo against any Israeli company that is based in “Israel-proper” but has a factory or offices or affiliates that operate in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. If so, this could have a devastating financial consequence given the level of business Israel currently does with Europe. [To read the full text of the EU directive, please click here.]

There is no legal basis for the EU’s move, as noted below. Understandably, therefore, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior officials are speaking out strongly against this “foreign dictate.”

THE EU DIRECTIVE

“A dramatic new directive published by the European Union bars its 28 members from all cooperation with Israeli entities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” reports the Times of Israel. “The directive, sent out on June 30 and set to take effect on Friday, extends to ‘all funding, cooperation, and the granting of scholarships, research grants and prizes’ to Israeli entities in East Jerusalem and the West Bank….It also requires that any contracts between EU member countries and Israel henceforth include a clause stating that East Jerusalem and the West Bank are not part of the State of Israel.”

“Sandra de Waele, the deputy EU ambassador to Israel, said the measure was designed to ensure that EU financial support ‘not benefit [Israeli] entities’ beyond the Green Line, because it was the EU’s position that such entities were illegal,” the Times reported. “She said there had been concern that these entities had indeed been benefiting from EU funds. She stressed that the directive would not affect private businesses. A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that the ruling was an ‘earthquake’ which unprecedentedly turns ‘understandings and quiet agreements that the Union does not work beyond the Green Line’ into ‘formal, binding policy….'”

“The European Union has been reported to be mulling sanctions against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem for some time, with new rules for labeling products produced over the Green Line on the table,” the Times noted. “The directive, to be in effect until 2020, is designed in part to stave-off a general boycott of Israel and to ensure that Israel’s participation in EU projects is ‘not put in question,’ the EU told Haaretz. Reportedly, the clause is already affecting negotiations over a proposed Israeli-EU youth project.”

NETANYAHU SPEAKS OUT

“As prime minister, I won’t allow hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in the West Bank, Golan Heights, and in Jerusalem — our united capital — to be harmed,” Netanyahu said, according to a separate article by the Times of Israel. “I expect those who really want peace and regional stability to deal with this matter [of West Bank settlements] after they solve more pressing problems in the region like the Syrian civil war and Iran’s race to get a nuclear weapon….We will not accept any foreign dictates about our borders. This matter will only be determined through direct negotiation between the [two] sides” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

EU DIRECTIVE’S FLAWED LEGAL BASIS

“This unprecedented and hostile EU fixation with Israel and its settlements, to the almost total exclusion of the other pressing issues in the Middle East, Europe, and throughout the world, is based on a series of long-standing and deliberately misleading and flawed legal and political assumptions regarding the illegality of Israel’s settlements and the status of the pre-1967 armistice lines as Israel’s border,” notes Ambassador Alan Baker, former legal advisor to the Israeli Foreign Ministry and Israeli ambassador to Canada, in an analysis for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

“These assumptions are all the more misleading and misguided in that they totally negate or deliberately flout the historic and legal rights granted by the international community, including Europe, to Israel and the Jewish people in a series of international agreements and commitments,” Baker argues. “The assumptions totally ignore the indigenous rights of the Jewish people in the area, as protected by international declarations. Similarly, they negate the very positions supported by the European states that endorsed UN Security Council Resolution 242 from 1967 calling for ‘secure and recognized boundaries,’ and negate the EU’s own commitments as signatory and witness to the Oslo Accords, to honour the content of those accords, and not to predetermine and undermine specific negotiating issues including the final status of the territories, borders, settlements, Jerusalem, and other issues. As such, the present EU policy, including the commission notice, specifically undermines the negotiating process by taking sides, and by pre-determining the negotiating issues of settlements, Jerusalem and borders. As such, this fixation prejudices and obviates any claim by the EU to impartiality, and precludes the EU from performing any function within the negotiating process.”

FINAL THOUGHTS

It is one thing to defend the right of the Palestinian people to have full autonomy and govern their own daily affairs. I wholeheartedly support and defend that right, as well. But the EU is trying to impose a final agreement on Israel and the Jewish people in defiance of international law and their own previously stated policies. The EU move is wrong-headed, reveals Europe’s increasingly anti-Israel attitude, and should make Israeli leaders wary about any EU involvement in the peace process.

The Times of Israel reviews “Damascus Countdown” & hopes it doesn’t come true.

damascuscountdown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Times of Israel recently reviewed Damascus Countdown.timesofisrael

WHAT WAR WITH IRAN COULD BE LIKE

By Ellis Shulman, Times of Israel

Israel launches a preemptive strike in Joel C. Rosenberg’s new novel, “Damascus Countdown”.

The war everyone has feared has begun. Israeli jets bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. In retaliation, Iranian missiles are launched at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, alongside massive rocket fire from Hezbollah and Hamas. The Arrow and Patriot anti-missile defense systems are put to the test. IDF ground troops move into Gaza and southern Lebanon, where they meet stiff resistance. There are casualties. Israelis wear gas masks as they sit nervously in their bomb shelters.

But there is more. The war described in Damascus Countdown, the latest political thriller by New York Times bestselling author Joel C. Rosenberg, takes place a short distance into the future. While Israel successfully destroys six Iranian nuclear warheads, there are still two left, unaccounted for. Iran, like most of the Islamic world, is led by a messianic zealot who won’t hesitate to drop an atomic bomb on the Zionist state to achieve his ultimate goal of ruling the world. A CIA operative is on the ground in Iran. His mission is to find the missing warheads and disarm them before they are launched at Tel Aviv.

Details of the war, and the behind-the-scenes political deliberations, are described so realistically that much of this novel could have been lifted straight from tomorrow’s front page headlines. The dangers that Israel faces in this work of fiction are very real, growing more threatening to the country’s existence every day.

Rosenberg has been described as a “modern Nostradamus” because his political thrillers have an uncanny way of coming true in some way, shape, or form. His second thriller, The Last Days, dealt with peace efforts in the aftermath of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s death. “Thirteen months after it was published, Arafat died, and two months later President Bush decided to make democracy in the Middle East the centerpiece of his second term agenda,” Rosenberg writes on his website. His book, The Last Jihad, was written 9 months before 9/11. The story is about terrorists flying a plane into a skyscraper in a major U.S. city.

Israeli and Jewish readers will not have an easy time reading Damascus Countdown, and it’s not only because of the many Israelis who lose their lives in its fictional war. The son of a Jewish father and a Gentile mother, Joel Rosenberg is an evangelical Christian with a passion to make disciples of all nations and teach Bible prophecy. His books can be categorized as Christian fiction, as faith and the fulfillment of Biblical prophecies play central roles in the plot.

Islam is described as an evil religion, and only true belief in Christianity can save the day for everyone. As a non-believer, I found it strange that undercover agents would read Scripture in preparation for operations, and that the only good Iranians in the book are those who have secretly converted to Christianity. But as long as Israel is saved from annihilation, I am not going to complain too loudly.

As former Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon says, Rosenberg is “a stalwart and faithful friend of Israel and a great writer. He understands the grave dangers posed by Iran and Syria, and he’s been a bold and courageous voice for true peace and security in the Middle East.”

I just hope that world leaders are intelligent enough to take the necessary actions to ensure that the deadly scenario portrayed in Damascus Countdown doesn’t come true.

————

Ellis Shuman is a writing professional who works in Ramat Gan. Born in Sioux City, Iowa, he made aliya to Jerusalem as a teenager, served in the IDF, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives on Moshav Neve Ilan. Ellis is the author of ‘Valley of Thracians’ a suspense novel set in Bulgaria, and of ‘The Virtual Kibbutz,’ a collection of short stories set in Israel. Ellis lived with his wife for two years in Bulgaria, and blogs regularly about Israel, Bulgaria, books, and whatever else comes to mind.

Putin orders Russia to conduct biggest war games since Soviet era.

Kremlin_Moskow_2“Russia is in the midst of its biggest war games since Soviet times, with 160,000 troops, 130 planes, 70 ships and thousands of tanks and armored vehicles participating in the country’s Far East,” reports CNN. “Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the drills last Friday and they began that night, according to reports from the RIA Novosti news agency. Putin flew to Sakhalin island off the eastern coast to oversee the games on Tuesday, Russia’s presidential press service reported.”

“The main purpose of the activities is to check the readiness of the military units to perform assigned tasks and evaluate of the level of personnel’s training and technical preparation as well as the level of equipment of units with arms and military equipment,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement reported by Russian Television….Some of the units involved in the exercises moved more than 3,000 kilometers (1,800 miles) from their bases to participate, according to the Russian media reports. The current drills, which are expected to last through the week, are the latest in a series of snap exercises conducted by the Russian military this year.”

“President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday that Russia can be proud of its military, which has shown a ‘high degree’ of combat readiness during the nation’s biggest war games in more than two decades,” reports AP.

“Today we can be proud of our army,” Putin said.

“The Kremlin has launched an ambitious arms modernization program that envisages spending over 20 trillion rubles (more than $615 billion) on new weapons through 2020,” notes AP.

Israel launched air strike on Syrian arms depot from Turkish military base, claims media reports.

An Israeli F-15I fighter jet (photo credit: Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash 90)

An Israeli F-15I fighter jet (photo credit: Tsahi Ben-Ami/Flash 90)

“Unconfirmed reports that Israel was behind a July 5 attack on a Syrian arms depot in the port city of Latakia continued to emerge Monday, with Russia Today quoting a source as saying that the IAF launched the attack from a Turkish military base,” reports the Jerusalem Post.

“Israeli planes left a military base inside Turkey and approached Latakia from the sea to make sure that they stayed out of Syrian airspace so that they cannot become a legitimate target for the Syrian air force,” RT quoted “a reliable source” as saying.

“The Sunday Times had previously quoted Middle East intelligence sources as saying that Israeli Dolphin-class submarines had been behind the attack, while CNN quoted US officials as saying the strike was the work of the IAF,” the Post noted. “Both CNN and The Sunday Times reported that the target of the alleged Israeli attack had been Russian-made Yakhont anti-ship missiles that could pose a threat to Israel. Russia Today’s source did not specify what the target of the alleged strike which originated at a Turkish military base had been. When asked Sunday about reports that Israel was behind the attack on Syria, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave an ambiguous answer, saying, ‘Oh God, every time something happens in the Middle East Israel is accused. I’m not in the habit of saying what we did or we didn’t do. I’ll tell you what my policy is. My policy is to prevent the transfer of dangerous weapons to Hezbollah and other terror groups. And we stand by that policy.'”

Has the end game begun? Privately, senior Israeli officials now warning Iran war could come in 2013. Netanyahu preparing public.

The Israeli PM appeared on CBS's "Face The Nation" on Sunday to discuss the Iran threat.

The Israeli PM appeared on CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday to discuss the Iran threat.

(Netanya, Israel) — Over the past several weeks, I have been hearing from current and former senior Israeli officials and advisors at the highest possible levels, that the showdown with Iran is entering the critical “end game” phase. I’m hearing from people with direct knowledge of the plans that war could come in 2013.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beginning to prepare the public in Israel and around the world for a “military option.” This is why he appeared on CBS’s “Face The Nation” on Sunday (see excerpt of transcript below).

The PM called the Iranian a “messianic, apocalyptic” regime bent on genocide, a reference to the Shia eschatology Khamenei holds that Iran must annihilate Israel and the U.S. to usher in the reign of the Twelfth Imam. Netanyahu also called the incoming Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, a “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” who has bragged in the past about negotiating with the West while secretly advancing nuclear enrichment. What’s more, Netanyahu vowed not to “wait too long” to stop Iran.

Expect more public diplomacy by Netanyahu and his team in the weeks ahead.

This is one of the reasons why the PM is sending his most trusted foreign policy advisor, Ron Dermer, to the U.S. to serve as Israel’s ambassador. Dermer will work to ensure U.S.-Israeli relations are strong at this critical moment. Dermer (who grew up in Miami Beach and is a native English speaker) will also explain Israel’s principles, objectives and actions to the American people before, during, and after any crisis with Iran.

Here’s the key: Israeli intelligence now believes Iran will likely have a “nuclear device” in as soon as four to six months, and an operational nuclear bomb or warhead within a year.

But top Israeli political and military leaders — up to an including the Prime Minister — do not believe they can afford to wait that long. Therefore, they are making final preparations for war, a war that they increasingly believe may have to be launched before this year is over.

Haven’t we heard warnings like this before? Yes, we have. But war was avoided in the past because various countries, including Israel, have used a wide range of covert operations to slow Iran’s progress towards building The Bomb. However, Israeli leaders are concerned that that they have few options left in their bag of tricks, and that with North Korea’s assistance, Iran is about to cross the red line.

Thus, officials here are running out of hope that war can be avoided. They want the U.S. and other world powers to intensify economic sanctions and all other measures necessary to force Tehran to abandon its nuclear plans, give up its enriched uranium, and shut down its enrichment facilities. But they are deeply concerned that the so-called “election” of Hassan Rouhani — widely but wrongly perceived to be a “moderate” and a “reformer” — will cause officials in Washington and elsewhere  to lower their guard and actually ease up pressure on the Khamenei regime, rather than crack down harder. And they see Iran running out the clock. Khamenei says no nuclear negotiations can happen before Rouhani takes office in early August. But then they will say Rouhani needs time to build a new team and get up to speed, and so forth.

Privately, senior Israeli officials are now saying if they don’t see decisive action by the world powers to stop Iran soon — at least by early fall — they are prepared to take action of their own. Indeed, it would appear that a majority of the Security Cabinet are now prepared to authorize such action. Meanwhile, Israel continues to run homeland security drills, preparing first responders and civilians alike to be ready for a barrage of missiles and terrorist attacks should war come soon.

To be clear: I’m not saying war will definitely come in 2013. For my part, I continue to pray for peace, even as I — and my colleagues at The Joshua Fund — prepare for war and other national crises here. We should be grateful a major regional war between Israel and Iran hasn’t occurred yet. It could be devastating. Hopefully, the regime in Iran will fall. Perhaps sanctions and/or diplomacy and/or covert operations will make war unnecessary. But I believe it is important to be honest with you about what I’m hearing and keep you informed.

  • Please pray for peace in Syria, and in Egypt, and in Israel.
  • Please pray for U.S., Israeli and other leaders to have wisdom to know just what to do.
  • Please pray for Christian leaders in the region to have courage and wisdom.
  • Please pray that all the people of the epicenter develop a deep hunger to read the Bible and discover the power of God’s Word, as we discussed in the recent Epicenter Conference.
  • Please pray for The Joshua Fund team and me to be able to keep providing food, medical equipment, and other humanitarian relief supplies for the poor and needy now, while also preparing for the crises that may lie ahead.

Thanks, and God bless you.

EXCERPTS FROM NETANYAHU INTERVIEW ON “FACE THE NATION”:

SCHIEFFER: And now to the big story overseas, the Middle East, where instability in Cairo, the still raging civil war in Syria, and the continued push for nuclear weapons in Iran has left Israel right in the middle. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joins us this morning from Jerusalem. Prime Minister, thank you so much. We’ll get to Egypt and Syria in a minute. But I want to start with Iran this morning because you said last September that Iran would have the capability to build a nuclear weapon by this summer. It is summer, are they there yet?

NETANYAHU: I said if they continue to enrich at the same rate they will get there. They have taken heed of the red line that I sketched out at the U.N. They’re still approaching it and they’re approaching after the Iranian elections. They’re building ICBMs to reach American — the American mainland — within a few years. They’re pursuing an alternate route of plutonium, that is enriched uranium to build a nuclear bomb. One route, plutonium. Another route, ICBMs, intercontinental ballistic missiles to reach you. They don’t need these missiles to reach us, they already have missiles that can reach us. They’re doing that after the election. So they haven’t yet reached it but they’re getting closer to it. And they have to be stopped.

SCHIEFFER: There are reports in Israel, and our sources confirm, Prime Minister, that you want the United States to harden its position on Iran immediately and convey to the new government there that if Iran does not halt the nuclear program, its regime will not survive.

NETANYAHU: I think the important thing is what the U.S. has said. They said the words won’t influence us, what really counts is what the Iranians do. And what they have to do is stop their nuclear program. They have to stop all enrichment of nuclear material, to take out enriched uranium, to dismantle the illegal — and shut down the illegal nuclear facility in Qom. These are the right demands and those should be back up with ratcheted sanctions. You should ratchet up the sanctions and make it clear to Iran that they won’t get away with it. And if sanctions don’t work then they have to know that you’ll be prepared to take military action. That’s the only thing that will get their attention.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do you believe that the United States, there are reports that you feel the United States has been too patient, a little too tolerant in dealing with the Iranians. Are you asking the United States to take a harder line?

NETANYAHU: I think we’ve spoken many times, President Obama and I, about the need to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons. I know that is the U.S. policy. What is important is to convey to them, especially after the elections, that that policy will not change and that it will be backed up by increasingly forceful sanctions and military action. Now mind you, there is a new president in Iran, he believes — he’s criticizing his predecessor for being a wolf in wolf’s clothing. His strategy is, be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Smile and build a bomb. He brags about the fact that he talked to the Europeans while completing a nuclear conversion plan in Isfahan. So I think they can’t be allowed to get away with it. They’re getting closer and closer to the bomb and they have to be told in no uncertain terms that that will not be allowed to happen. I think it’s important to understand that we cannot allow it to happen. You know, our clocks are ticking in a different pace. We’re closer than the United States. We’re more vulnerable. And therefore we’ll have to address this question of how to stop Iran, perhaps before the United States does. But as the prime minister of Israel, I’m determined to do whatever is necessary to defend my country, the one and only Jewish state, from a regime that threatens us with renewed annihilation.

SCHIEFFER: Well, the United States has said that we won’t tolerate a nuclear Iran. What else can we say?

NETANYAHU: I think it’s very important to make clear to them that you won’t allow them to have this weapon and to demonstrate that by action. That is, you can also make clear that the nuclear option which is — the military option which is on the table is truly on the table. The Iranians take note of that. Right now my sense is in the international community as a whole that because so many things are happening in the Middle East, things are happening, as you say, in Syria, in Egypt, with the Palestinians, there are many important issues that we have to deal with. And I have a sense that there’s no sense of urgency. And yet on Iran — and yet Iran is the most important, the most urgent matter of all. You should just talk to many of the leaders in this region and they will tell you that. Because all the problems that we have, however important, will be dwarfed by this messianic, apocalyptic, extreme regime that would have atomic bombs. It would make a terrible — a catastrophic change for the world and for the United States, of course, for my country as well. So I think we have our eyes fixed on Iran. They have to know that we’re serious. They have to know that there won’t be an alternative route that they could reach the bomb if they think that, and they think we’ll let them do it, if they think that Israel will let them do it, they’re sorely mistaken.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what — how close are they right now? Are they within a month? Are they within six months of having the capability? How close do you think they are?

NETANYAHU: They’re closer. The most difficult thing in making a bomb is making the fissile nuclear material that is at the heart of the bomb. That is really the 90 percent of the effort, if I have to just put a thumb’s rule on it. And they’re getting closer. They have now about 190 kilos out of the 250 kilos of 20 percent enriched uranium. They had six, seven months — eight months ago about 110 kilos. So they’re edging up to the red line. They haven’t closed — they haven’t crossed it yet. They’re also building faster centrifuges that will enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate, that is within a few weeks, once they get to that critical mass of 250 kilos.

SCHIEFFER: When will you make a decision on whether to attack Iran, because you have said, this will not stand?

NETANYAHU: Well, I can tell you I won’t wait until it’s too late.

SCHIEFFER: All right. I guess we’ll leave it there. Let’s talk a little bit about Egypt. You were worried when the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Egypt and installed Morsi as president. He’s now gone. Are you happy about that?

NETANYAHU: Well, look, we’ve been concerned with one thing. That is the maintenance of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty. It’s been — it’s been the cornerstone of peace between us and our neighbors, and it’s also been the cornerstone of stability in the Middle East. And our concern, through changing administrations — first Mubarak changed; Morsi came; now Morsi went, and we will see what develops in Egypt — our concern throughout has been maintain the peace treaty. That was and remains my principal concern.

SCHIEFFER: The United States — some here are saying we ought to cut off military aid to this interim government now until they have a democracy there. Do you think we should?

NETANYAHU: Look, that’s an internal American decision. But, again, our concern is the peace treaty with Egypt. One of the foundations of that peace treaty was the U.S. aid given to Egypt.

SCHIEFFER: Had you talked to people in this interim government? Can you deal with them? Do you trust them?

NETANYAHU: We maintain contacts with — formal contacts with the Egyptian government throughout the last two years, and including now. And the important thing from our point of view is not merely to maintain the peace but also stabilize the Sinai peninsula, which is Egyptian territory that is adjacent to our southern border, the Negev. It’s been fraying there. There are a lot of terrorists. There are jihadists. There’s Al Qaida, Hamas, you name it. They’re all over the place. And our — our concern is to prevent attacks against our territory and against our city, our southern city of Eilat. We’ve been doing that and will continue to do that. So our main concern in our contacts with the Egyptian government is to make sure that the peace is preserved and that terror is prevented. And this remains uppermost in my mind.

SCHIEFFER: Reports this morning that…

NETANYAHU: Well, not uppermost, Bob; uppermost in my mind — uppermost in my mind — uppermost in my mind is preventing the greatest terror of all. And that is that the radical Islamist regime in Iran gets the weapons of ultimate terror, nuclear weapons. That has to be prevented for the sake of peace, world peace, not only our survival but your vital interests. And I think the flow of history will judge us if we’re able or unable to prevent this catastrophe.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you just one question on the Syrian civil war. Reports this morning that Israel carried out an attack in Syria this month that targeted advanced anti-ship cruise missiles sold to the Syrian government by Russia — can you tell us anything about that?

NETANYAHU: Oh, God, every time something happens in the Middle East, Israel is accused. Most often, it’s accused — and I’m not in the habit of saying what we did or we didn’t do. I’ll tell you what my policy is. My policy is to prevent the transfer of dangerous weapons to Hezbollah and other terror groups, Hezbollah in Lebanon and other terror groups as well. And we stand by that policy.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, Mr. Prime Minister, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Wish you the best, and I’ll be back in a minute with some thoughts on Washington and why it can’t seem to get anything done.

With interest in Gog & Magog prophecies growing, Muslim scholar writes analysis from Islamic perspective.

gogmagog-islambook(Netanya, Israel) — Interest in the prophecies of Gog & Magog seem to be growing in recent years. With the Russian-Iranian alliance strengthening, and significant turbulence in the Middle East, I’m seeing more and more Christians and Jews — pastors, Rabbis, scholars and lay people — studying the prophecies found in Ezekiel 38-39, and the distinctly different but similarly named prophecy found in Revelation 20. I’m even seeing more people Tweeting about Gog & Magog.

When I wrote The Ezekiel Option as a novel in 2005 about how the “last days” prophecy involving a Russian-Iranian alliance might come to pass, I had no idea the depth of interest there would be. Nor did I anticipate the depth and breadth of interest I found when I wrote the non-fiction book, Epicenter (originally released in 2006, and later released in a paperback 2.0 edition), explaining the prophecies in more detail.

But what has really intrigued me is that there is also growing interest in the Muslim world. In part, this is because the Qur’an refers to these prophecies. Recently, I learned that an Islamic scholar published a free ebook in 2009 entitled, An Islamic View of Gog and Magog in the Modern World. I have only begun to read it, but I didn’t want to wait to bring it to your attention. The Islamic author, Imran N. Hosein, makes the case the war will be against Israel. He argue that Russia is “Magog.” He claims that “Gog” is the “Anglo-American alliance.” He believes the war is approaching, and bemoans the fact that not enough Muslim leaders are focused on this issue.

“I began my study of Gog and Magog more than fifteen years ago in the early 90’s while resident in New York,” writes Hosein. “My subsequent public lectures on the subject never failed to provoke keen interest from my Muslim audiences in several parts of the world. The evidence and arguments presented in the chapter on Gog and Magog in my book, ‘Jerusalem in the Qur’an’, succeeded in convincing many who read the book that we now live in a world dominated by Gog and Magog. They were easily convinced that the ‘town’ mentioned in the Qur’ān in Sūrah al-Anbiyāh’ (21:95-6) was Jerusalem and hence, that Gog and Magog (and Dajjāl) explained the ominously unfolding ‘war on Islam’ with slaughter and destruction of Muslims in so many parts of the world. As a consequence, such readers also understood Israel’s mysterious imperial agenda, and many have been making efforts to extricate themselves and their families from the embrace of Gog and Magog – an embrace that will take 999 out of every 1000 of mankind into the hellfire. Despite my best efforts, however, I failed miserably, again and again, to convince my learned peers, the scholars of Islam, that Gog and Magog were even released into the world. I earnestly hope and pray that this book might make a difference Insha’ Allah.”

Expect interest in Gog & Magog to keep growing around the world and in all three major monotheistic religions.

Who is Ron Dermer? He could emerge as the most influential Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. in a generation.

Ron Dermer (right) is Prime Minister Netanyahu's most trusted foreign policy advisor. Now he is heading to Washington at a critical moment.

Ron Dermer (right) is Prime Minister Netanyahu’s most trusted foreign policy advisor. Now he is heading to Washington at a critical moment.

(Netanya, Israel) — I was very encouraged to hear the news yesterday that Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu has formally named Ron Dermer, 42, to be the new Israeli Ambassador to the United States. Ron will begin in the fall, when the current ambassador, Michael Oren, steps down after four years of doing an excellent job.

Most Americans have no idea who Ron is, but I can tell you he is a great choice and I believe he will play a critical role at a critical time in U.S.-Israeli relations. He is a senior foreign policy advisor to Netanyahu and without question the PM’s most trusted and loyal advisor and strategist. When the PM meets with President Obama, Ron is always at his side. In the most difficult of moments between Jerusalem and Washington in the last four years, Ron was always in the room. He has Netanyahu’s ear, he knows his mind, and he speaks directly for the Prime Minister. In that context, he will be the ideal Ambassador, and perhaps the most influential Israeli emissary to Washington in a generation.

Ron and I first met in 2000 when he was an advisor to Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky, and I was hired to work for both men, as well. We have remained friends ever since. We have not always agreed, and have had some spirited arguments over the years. But I have great respect for him and consider him one of the sharpest minds in Jerusalem. When he was serving as economic attaché at the Israeli Embassy in Washington a few years ago, he invited me and my son, Jacob, to the bris of one of his five children. Last week we had lunch with a mutual friend at the King David Hotel. I greeted him as “Mr. Ambassador.” He said it wasn’t official yet and didn’t want me to get ahead of myself. But I had no doubt he would get the post, and am glad he did.

Israel is facing the meltdown of Syria, a revolution in Egypt, and Iran growing ever close to having nuclear weapons. War may be coming to the epicenter. If it does, the U.S.-Israeli relationship will be more important than ever. Ron Dermer is the right man to send to Washington for such a time as this. Please pray for him, his wife (Rhoda), and their five kids. Pray they have the divine wisdom to navigate choppy waters. Pray, too, for Christians to support Ron, the PM, and people of Israel — both Jews and Arabs — while we pray for peace, but prepare for the possibility of war.