Gaza Aftershocks: Hamas fires 460 rockets. Netanyahu chooses cease-fire rather than invasion. Israeli Defense Minister resigns. Now, early elections look imminent. Here’s the latest.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — It’s been a dramatic week here in the Holy Land. But buckle up. Far more drama lies ahead. Here are the highlights, followed by some analysis.

MONDAY:

TUESDAY

  • The terrorist group, the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, fires 460 rockets at Jewish civilians in southern Israel in less than 24 hours.
  • Never have so many rockets been fired at Israel in a single day — at times, they are being fired one per minute.
  • Thankfully, the Iron Dome system shoots down many of the incoming rockets. Others fall harmlessly in empty fields, but some do real damage.
  • By God’s grace, no Israelis are killed.
  • However, 108 Israelis are hospitalized due to injuries, anxiety and shock.
  • The IDF retaliates with air strikes, hitting 160 Hamas targets.
  • Then, to everyone’s surprise, both sides accept a cease-fire that was negotiated behind the scenes by the Egyptians and the United Nations.
  • The rockets stop falling. The IDF stops retaliating.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Israeli parents, children and elderly re-emerge from bomb shelters, and “normal” life slowly begins again.

WEDNESDAY

  • Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigns from the government to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to accept the cease-fire.
  • “What happened yesterday, the ceasefire, together with the deal with Hamas, is a capitulation to terror. There is no other way of explaining it,” Liberman says. “What we are doing right now is buying quiet for a heavy price with no long-term plan to reduce violence toward us….Our response was drastically lacking to the 500 rockets fired at us.”
  • Netanyahu in not apologetic for accepting the cease-fire, saying Hamas “begged for a cease-fire, and they know very well why.” 
  • “Leadership is not doing the easy thing,” Netanyahu says. “Leadership is doing the right thing, even if it’s difficult.”
  • Right-wing Education Minister Naftali Bennett demands to be named Defense Minister, saying if he does not receive this position he and his political party will also resign the government.
  • At present, elections aren’t scheduled until November 2019. But speculation is now rampant throughout the Israeli media that early elections are all but inevitable.
  • With the departure of Liberman and his party, Netanyahu has a coalition of only 61 of the 120 seats in the Knesset (parliament). If Bennett leaves, and Netanyahu cannot find a party in the opposition to join his coalition, the government will fall and snap elections will be triggered. 

ANALYSIS

  • Many Israelis — especially those who live in the south near the Gaza border — are angry at Netanyahu and the government for agreeing to a cease-fire too quickly. They want the IDF to bombard Hamas far more heavily. Some are calling for the IDF to invade the Gaza Strip and crush Hamas once and for all.
  • My heart goes out to all those in the south who are exhausted by the Hamas attacks and want this conflict to be over and done with. I’m praying that a true and lasting calm and stability can be established for them, as well as for the Palestinians in Gaza who are suffering terribly under the wicked tyranny of Hamas.
  • That said, let’s keep a few things in mind:
  • First: Despite 460 rockets, not a single Israeli died in the attacks. (Sadly — and ironically — a Palestinian from the West Bank who was working in Ashkelon was killed by one of the rockets.)
  • Second: Hamas knows they cannot defeat the IDF via conventional warfare. Instead, they are trying to use rocket fire to lure the IDF into a bloody ground war in the Gaza Strip. During such a war, many Palestinians would die. This would make headlines around the world. Israel would be roundly condemned and Hamas hopes to win the war for public opinion.
  • Third: An invasion of Gaza would lead to the death of many Israeli soldiers. To what end? Having evacuated from Gaza in 2005, Israel does not want to re-occupy the Strip. Should Israel lose Jewish lives, and suffer international condemnation, in order to help the Palestinian Authority re-take control of the Strip? Is that in Israel’s interest? 
  • Fourth: True, there are no easy, simple answers here. But getting lured into a ground war in Gaza under the current circumstances is unwise. Could circumstances change, necessitating a ground war? Yes. But we’re not there now. Yes, Hamas is a problem. But they are not an existential threat. Iran, however, does pose such a threat. Israel would be wise to keep our eye on the Iran threat and build a regional security alliance with our Arab neighbors capable of protecting us and them. This — not another Gaza war — could bring real peace and security.

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Israel’s Channel 10 News broadcasts story on Evangelical Israeli citizen meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince. Here’s the video (with English subtitles).

Channel10-Joel-screenshot(Jerusalem, Israel) — In a story headlined, “Israeli In Saudi,” Israel’s Channel 10 News broadcast a report Wednesday evening about our Evangelical Delegation’s meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince, putting a special focus on my dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship.

The report was by Barak Ravid, one of the nation’s leading diplomatic correspondent’s. It ran during the 8pm broadcast. 

Ravid published a separate report via Axios, the U.S.-based news wire system (see below).

You can watch the TV segment with English subtitles by clicking here.

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Inside the Saudi crown prince’s meeting with U.S. evangelicals

By Barak Ravid, Axios, November 7, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) told a group of American evangelical leaders last Thursday that he is going to punish those responsible for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi but stressed that the crisis must not shift the focus away from the Iranian threat in the region and the world, Joel Rosenberg, who organized the delegation and attended the meeting, told me.

Inside the room: Rosenberg said MBS attacked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Iranians and even the Russians. “He said his enemies are using everything they can to exploit this situation and make it worse,” Rosenberg said. “He said, ‘Listen, I am arresting people, firing people. Iran? When they kill people are they arresting people? No. You get promoted. What about the Russians? What about the Turks?'”

Rosenberg — a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen who heads an evangelical foundation, lives in Israel and once worked with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — organized the visit to Saudi Arabia. He told me that the Khashoggi murder was the first issue raised in the meeting, and “the crown prince was not defensive about it.”

  • “He said, ‘Listen, this is a heinous act,’ Rosenberg told me. “He said, ‘It’s a terrible mistake and we have already arrested 18 people. I fired 5, we are going to get to the bottom of this and people will have to pay. It’s a completely unacceptable mistake and it comes at a time that threatens all the reforms we are trying to get done. It’s a disaster.'”

The Saudi crown prince used the meeting with the delegation, which included some of President Trump’s staunchest evangelical supporters, to convey a message to the White House and to Senate Republicans who are pushing for sanctions against Saudi Arabia.

  • “He had two messages on this,” Rosenberg said. “‘It was horrible and unacceptable’ and ‘I can’t let this stop me from all the reforms we have to get done to make life better for the Saudi people and to protect ourselves from the enemies — Iran, the Muslim brotherhood, al-Qaeda, ISIS.'”

The Saudi crown prince spoke for half an hour about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and about the warming relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, Rosenberg said.

  • “We did bring up — maybe the most sensitive issue was … the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On that he talked to us at length but asked us not to be public on that part of the conversation.”

Background: The evangelical delegation’s visit to Saudi Arabia and meeting with MBS were scheduled long before the Khashoggi crisis exploded. The members of the delegation consulted White House officials while deciding whether to go ahead with it. They ultimately decided to go, citing the unprecedented nature of the meeting, and MBS sat with the group for 2 hours in his palace in Riyadh.

Jerusalem Post lead story — “Saudi Crown Prince to Evangelicals: Khashoggi murder was terrible ‘heinous act.'” Israeli newspaper publishes first in-depth article on what MBS told us behind closed doors in the Palace in Riyadh.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — On Wednesday, The Jerusalem Post published the first in-depth story on our Evangelical Delegation to Saudi Arabia, why we went, and what the Crown Prince told us behind closed doors. 

As I told editors Yaakov Katz and Seth Frantzman in the Post’s offices yesterday, the entire meeting in the Royal Palace was on the record, except for what MBS told us regarding his views of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Our team took detailed notes and I provided some of the excerpts of our conversation to the Post. Here’s the article.

MBS TO EVANGELICALS: KHASHOGGI MURDER WAS TERRIBLE “HEINOUS ACT”:  But he won’t let it stop his ability to take his country where he wants to go, the delegation head says.

By Seth Frantzman, The Jerusalem Post, November 6, 2018

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman said he will not let the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi hinder the vision he has for his country, a visiting Evangelical delegation relayed.

“The crown prince called it a heinous act,” Joel Rosenberg, who led the delegation of Evangelical Christians from the US on November 1, told The Jerusalem Post, adding how the Saudi leader is reshaping the Middle East. “He said it was a terrible mistake.”

According to Rosenberg, the Saudi leader was convincing in seeking to put the perpetrators in prison.

“He also wants to keep moving. He doesn’t want it [the killing] to implode his ability to take his country where it wants to go.”

MBS was willing to discuss the killing and understood concerns over it, but wanted to stress that the tragedy would not cause him to stop his reforms. “My enemies are exploiting this to the fullest,” he said.

The crown prince also said the head of Egyptian intelligence recently came to Riyadh, and a terrorist cell with Saudi citizens had been caught in northern Sinai. “They were planning to assassinate me,” MBS told the delegation.

“We must fight the extremists and defeat them or they will stop us and the reforms we are making to make life better for the people of Saudi Arabia,” he said during the historic meeting at the Royal Palace in Riyadh. “We are fighting extremists in the ideological war and we are fighting terrorists in a physical war,” he said, sketching out a plan to bolster an alliance in the region with the US and other Saudi allies.

The visit came at a time of great change in the region. Rosenberg arrived in Riyadh a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu returned from Oman and days after Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev was in the United Arab Emirates. It also came in wake of the Manama Dialogue summit where Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir had praised the US for defeating ISIS and confronting Iran.

The crown prince sat for hours with the delegation of Christian leaders. For Rosenberg, a dual US-Israel citizen, it was the culmination of a series of similar discussions. He has met multiple times with….

[To read the rest of the article online, please click here.]

We must stand with and pray for the Christians of Egypt. They just experienced a vicious terror attack. I met with the Coptic Pope and the head of the Egyptian Protestants on Sunday in Cairo in solidarity. Here’s an update.

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(Cairo, Egypt, November 5, 2018) — Completing an 11-day swing to three Arab states — the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt — on Sunday evening I met with Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II, and Dr. Andrea Zaki, head of all the Protestant churches in Egypt. We met in Cairo in the office of His Holiness the Pope.

I expressed to both leaders my deepest condolences for the horrific terrorist attack against Egyptian Christians on Friday in Minya. ISIS jihadists killed seven Christians and wounded 18 more, including children. They were returning from a child’s baptism celebration. Overall the security situation in Egypt has been improving. But this was the deadliest attack against Christians in Egypt this year.

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In addition, I briefed both leaders on the work of our Evangelical Delegation in the region, and particularly on our meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS). Pope Tawadros welcomed the Crown Prince to the church he shepherds earlier this year in an historic and unprecedented moment. I had mentioned to MBS when we met with him on Thursday that I would be seeing the Pope a few days later. It should be noted that the Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK also met with MBS earlier this year in London, which was also unprecedented and very encouraging. (see pictures below.)

Please keep the Christians of Egypt — and all Egyptians — in your prayers as they battle terrorists and extremists and work to transform their society towards a safer and more prosperous future. The Bible is clear: God loves Egypt. We should, too.

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Arab, Israeli & U.S. media report on our Evangelical Delegation’s historic visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — overall the coverage was quite fair & positive. Here’s a sampling.

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(Riyadh, Saudi Arabia) — It’s been an extraordinary week traveling into the United Arab Emirates with Evangelical leaders for four days and into Saudi Arabia for three, meeting with the most senior government leaders in both countries. It was the first time either country had ever invited Evangelical leaders to come meet with them and we were humbled to come in the name of Jesus.

We came to listen, to learn, to build bridges of relationship between Muslims and Christians, to be advocates for our Christian brothers and sisters, to explain what it means to be an Evangelical, to answer questions, and to ask questions — direct and sometimes hard questions — on the most sensitive and controversial of issues.

We came not as representatives of the U.S. or Israel or any other country, but as ambassadors of the Lord Jesus Christ. And we were both surprised and encouraged by how warmly we were received. The Crown Princes of both countries each spent two full hours with us. Both let us engage them on everything we came to discuss, without restriction. We asked about the heinous and ghastly murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the lack of any Christian churches in Saudi Arabia, the historic (though steadily changing) Arab hostility to the State of Israel, and a wide range of other human rights and religious liberty issues. We also discussed at length the very real and existential threats posed by Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Radical Islamists to them, to the U.S. and Israel and to the Christian community. And they were candid and direct in their answers.

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We were not clear when we arrived in either countries whether they wanted our visit to be public. In the end, however, both countries issued statements to the press, released photos of our meetings with their leaders, and in so doing sent a strong signal throughout their own media and throughout the Arab and Muslim world that it’s not only acceptable but a good thing for Muslim leaders to meet with devout followers of Jesus Christ and have open and respectful dialogues, even on the most difficult of topics. I’m not sure I can explain just how encouraging this was. I believe speaks of a remarkable new day in the region. More on that in the days ahead.

For now, here’s a sampling of the coverage by Christian, Arab, Israeli, U.S. and other international media. I should note that our visits were viciously attacked by the Iranian press and other extremists who hate Christians and hate the fact that I’m also Jewish believer with Israeli citizenship. And yet our hosts, fully expecting the blowback, remarkably went public with our visits anyway. Did I mention it’s a new day in the region? 

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Coverage of Saudi Visit

 

Coverage of UAE Visit

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American Evangelical leaders met today with His Royal Highness Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS), the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Here’s the statement we released.

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Greetings from Riyadh, the capital of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. God opened an unusual door this week — our Delegation of Evangelical Christian Leaders was invited to Saudi Arabia to meet with senior leaders.

Today, we had a two-hour meeting at the palace in Riyadh with H.R.H. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Please pray for him, his family, his advisors, and for the leaders and people of this important country. Here is the statement our group just released.

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EVANGELICAL DELEGATION MEETS WITH HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS
MOHAMMED BIN SALMAN, CROWN PRINCE OF THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA

Following Meetings in Egypt, Jordan and the UAE, American Christian Leaders Turn Their Attention to Saudi Arabia

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 1, 2018 – His Royal Highness Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, welcomed to the Royal Palace the first-ever delegation of American Evangelical Christian leaders to engage in dialogue regarding his vision for the Kingdom and the region.

The group, led by New York Times best-selling Joel C. Rosenberg, arrived in Riyadh from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), following similar historic meetings with government and religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian, earlier in the week.

Following the meeting in Riyadh, the delegation issued a joint statement: 

“We were pleased by the invitation extended to us more than two months ago by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It was an historic moment for the Saudi Crown Prince to openly welcome Evangelical Christian leaders to the Palace. We were encouraged by the candor of the two-hour conversation with him today. We discussed his ‘Vision 2030’ plan, the region, Islam and Christianity. Without question, this is a season of tremendous change in the Middle East, and therefore we have been grateful for the opportunity to meet in-person with key Arab leaders to understand their goals and to ask direct questions. We look forward to building upon these relationships and continuing the dialogue.”

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During the visit, the delegation also met with:

  • the Saudi Foreign Minister
  • Minister of Education
  • Minister of Islamic Affairs
  • Secretary General of “Etidal,” The Global Center for Combatting Extremist Ideology
  • Secretary-General of the Muslim World League.

Members of the delegation to Saudi Arabia hosted by Rosenberg included:

  • former U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann
  • Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB)
  • Michael Little, former president and COO of The Christian Broadcasting Network
  • Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team
  • Rev. Johnnie Moore, president of The Congress of Christian Leaders
  • Larry Ross, founder of A. Larry Ross Communications
  • Pastor Skip Heitzig, senior pastor of Calvary Albuquerque in New Mexico; and
  • Wayne Pederson, former chairman and CEO of the NRB

First-Ever Delegation Of Evangelical Leaders Visits United Arab Emirates. We thanked Crown Prince for his protection of freedom of worship for churches and for his moral clarity in countering violent extremism. Here’s an update.

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Greetings from Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates. I’m here leading a Delegation of Evangelical Christians leaders on a four-day study mission to meet with senior government officials and religious leaders.

It has been an fascinating trip already, and part of a series of Delegations I’ve been leading to meet with Arab Muslim leaders throughout the region, including with President el-Sisi in Egypt and King Abdullah II in Jordan. I’ll have much more to share in the days ahead, including links to press coverage of the trip. But for now, here is the press release our group has issued. 

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates, Oct. 30, 2018 – His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, hosted and welcomed to his home a delegation of American Evangelical Christian leaders. The group, led by Joel C. Rosenberg, had four days of open dialogue and discussion with senior government officials and religious leaders, both Muslim and Christian.

The Crown Prince invited the group to come to the Emirates to see the country’s extraordinary economic and social innovation; learn about their emphasis on tolerance, inclusion and moderation, and protection of freedom to worship; and openly discuss the most urgent and sensitive issues of the day, such as the threats posed by Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood and the prospects for regional peace.

Sheikh Mohamed was born in a hospital started and run by Evangelical medical missionaries in the Gulf, which is still operated by Christians, without regard for patients’ faith or background, after more than 60 years. As a result, the UAE is a more tolerant nation, where Evangelicals — and all Christians — are allowed to worship freely.

“We were deeply encouraged to learn that there are 42 Christian worship centers operating freely and openly,” said Rosenberg. “Some of these buildings are big enough to be used by dozens of church congregations — altogether more than 700 Christian churches and ministries operate here, which is both unique and remarkable in the Gulf region. This could be a model for other nations in the region to follow.”

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The delegation began the more than two-hour discussion, originally scheduled for 30-minutes, by thanking the Crown Prince for his protection of freedom of worship for minority faiths in his majority Muslim nation; his strong alliance with the United States and moral clarity in countering violent extremism; and leadership to foster economic innovation, prosperity and security in his nation and the region.

Rosenberg noted that the group’s purpose in coming was to build relational bridges of friendship and thanked the Sheikh Mohamed for all he is doing to carry on the work started by his late father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, “Father of the Nation” and the first President of the UAE.

Rev. Johnnie Moore noted that Muslims and Evangelicals in the Middle East have more in common in terms of values and priorities than is often realized. “But I think that actually, we are the best allies and are becoming the best of friends,” he said.

“We are living in a rare moment, a window of opportunity for leaders of goodwill – Muslims, Jews and Christians – to actually achieve the peace for which we have only hoped and prayed until now – including peace between Arabs and Israel,” said Michele Bachmann, former Member of the U.S. Congress who served on the U.S. House Finance and Intelligence committees.

During the visit, the delegation also met with His Highness Abdullah bin Zayed, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and brother to the Crown Prince; His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Tolerance; and officials from the Sawab Center, a joint initiative between the governments of the UAE and U.S. in support of the Global Coalition against ISIS.

“The UAE is aggressively working to combat extremism in the Middle East and beyond. Their leadership is encouraging,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

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The group also met with His Excellency Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of State for Tolerance. “It is important that we go beyond mere tolerance, to understand, believe in and live with one another,” he said.

Members of the delegation hosted by Rosenberg include former U.S. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council and Rev. Johnnie Moore, founder of The Kairos Company – both of whom serve as Commissioners with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; Larry Ross, founder of A. Larry Ross Communications in Texas; Dr. Mike Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team; Dr. Jerry Johnson, president and CEO of National Religious Broadcasters (NRB); Michael D. Little, former president and CEO of The Christian Broadcasting Network; Ms. Kay Arthur, renowned Bible teacher and founder of Precepts Ministries International; and Pastor Skip Heitzig, senior pastor of Calvary Albuquerque in New Mexico; and Wayne Pederson, former president and CEO of the NRB and former president of Reach Beyond radio ministry.

For interview requests with Joel C. Rosenberg or members of the delegation: Kristin Cole, kristin@alarryross.com, 972-267-1111.

Will Evangelicals love both Israel and her Arab neighbors? It’s not always easy. But it’s a command of both Moses and Jesus. (My remarks to the 2018 Christian Media Summit, delivered at the Israeli President’s Residence.)

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to join some 180 Evangelical journalists, broadcasters and authors from more than 30 countries participating in the 2018 Christian Media Summit held here in the Israeli capital. 

Over the course of four days, we met with and were able to ask questions of:

“We have no better friends in the world than our Christian friends and I take this opportunity to thank you for your steadfast support,” the Prime Minister told us. “You are standing up for Israel and you are standing up for the truth and we stand up for you.”

“You are ambassadors of truth,” Netanyahu added. “You’re not merely the greatest ambassadors that Israel has around the world – you’re champions of truth. And if there’s one thing that I can ask you to do is to tell the truth.”

Hosted and organized by Mr. Nitzan Chen, director of Israel’s Government Press Office, this was the second such Summit for Christians in the international media. I found it quite helpful in gaining deeper understanding into the thinking of Israel’s top leaders on a range of matters.

What I had not expected was the opportunity to speak to the Summit’s participants. And yet, shortly after President Rivlin addressed us in his official residence — after a lovely luncheon and towards the end of the program — I was asked to come to the podium to share some observations both as a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen and as an Evangelical involved in the media. 

It was an honor — indeed, humbling — and I focused my remarks on the importance of learning how to obey the command spoken both by Moses and by Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself.” This, of course, is not always easy to do, and certainly not here in Israel with so many internal and external challenges — geopolitical, spiritual, economic, and other. Yet this is a command, not a suggestion. I certainly have much to learn and much progress to make, but I shared some thoughts on my journey so far.

If you would like to watch my remarks, please click here — it begins around the 1:30 hour mark.

Some of the media coverage of the Summit:

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After weeks of wild rumors and salacious allegations, here’s what we actually now know about the death of Jamal Khashoggi — and what we don’t.

Khashoggi

After more than two weeks of wild rumors and salacious, unsourced allegations concerning the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi — a story that captured global headlines — the tragic truth has become clear: the Saudi dissident is dead. 

Here is what we actually know at this hour, and what we don’t.

HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW

  • The Saudi government now publicly admits it is fully responsible for the death of this U.S. green card holder who was engaged to a Turkish woman but residing in northern Virginia. 
  • The Saudis say their intelligence officials were supposed to interrogate Khashoggi  (pronounced, “ka-SHOW-gee”) at their consulate in Turkey and then bring him back to the kingdom. When Khashoggi protested and began raising his voice, the Saudis say one of their officials put the 59-year old journalist in a “chokehold” and “covered his mouth” to quiet him but in the process killed him.
  • The Saudis say “the team then wrote a false report for superiors saying they had allowed Khashoggi to leave [the consulate] once he warned that Turkish authorities could get involved and that they had promptly left the country before they could be discovered,” according to al-Arabiya news service. 
  • These false reports were fed to senior Saudi officials which formed the basis of their public statements — once the agents were found to be lying, the government conceded culpability.
  • 18 Saudi intelligence officials have been arrested for participating in Khashoggi’s death, according to the state prosecutor.
  • 5 senior Saudi officials have been fired in the affair. NBC News reports that “in addition to the deputy intelligence president and the Royal Court adviser, several other top intelligence officials were dismissed: Mohamed bin Saleh al Rumeh, assistant to the president of general intelligence for intelligence affairs; Abduallah bin Khalifa al Shaya, assistant to the president of general intelligence for human resources; and Rachad bin Hamed al Muhamadi, director of the general department for security and protection in the command of general intelligence.
  • Full interview with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir on Fox News

HERE’S WHAT WE DON’T KNOW

  • Is the current Saudi account the truth? Many journalists, Members of Congress, business leaders and others are expressing skepticism. Others are waiting for more information to confirm or deny the Saudi explanation. President Trump is vowing to stand with Saudi Arabia as a strong U.S. ally against Iranian and other radical Islamist aggression in the Middle East, yet he is also expressing concern about shifting Saudi narratives. “Their stories are all over the place,” Mr. Trump said.
  • Did Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (known as “MBS”) directly authorize the capture or assassination of Khashoggi? The Saudi government says the Crown Prince authorized Saudi intelligence to bring dissidents back to the kingdom, not to murder them. “There were no orders for them to kill him or even specifically kidnap him,” said a Saudi official, speaking on condition of anonymity to Reuters. “MBS had no knowledge of this specific operation and certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody. He will have been aware of the general instruction to tell people to come back.”
  • Do Turkish authorities have audio tapes of the Khashoggi’s murder from listening devices inside the Saudi consulate? Turkish media has been rife with the most wild, salacious and horrifying allegations regarding details allegedly gleaned from such recordings. Western media, including many U.S. media outlets, ran with such stories as factual without verifying their credibility. Yet as of this writing, U.S. officials say they have not heard any such recordings, or read any transcripts, or been given such items. Nor is it even clear that such recording exist. Agence France Presse noted on Friday, “The existence of the tape has never been confirmed on the record by Turkish officials.”
  • Where does this all leave the U.S.-Saudi alliance? Many journalists, Members of Congress and various Mideast experts are demanding the Saudi government be “punished.” Some are calling for the cancellation of military sales. Others are calling for sweeping economic sanctions. Still others are calling for more targeted sanctions on Saudi individuals via the Global Magnitsky Act, a law that is used to target the world’s worst human rights abusers. That said, other experts note that while this is a tragic, sordid affair and the administration must deal with it forthrightly and not soft-peddle it, the White House should also not overreact or take steps that might fundamentally undermine the U.S.-Saudi alliance. The U.S. shares very real and important national interests with the Saudis, from thwarting radical Islamism in the region to establishing between between Israel and all of her Arab neighbors. Throwing the Saudis under the bus is shortsighted and imprudent. The Turks hardly have clean hands, having killed and arrested hundreds of dissidents, journalists and other innocents during the regime of President Recep Erdogan. The Iranians are the worst terrorist state on the planet. Yet the very same Obama administration officials who are demanding the Saudis be severely punished were the same people who removed all sanctions off of Tehran and forked over to the tyrants in Tehran $150 billion in cash. How exactly should the Trump administration proceed? How will they proceed? It may take more time, more investigation of the facts and more weighing of the implications of every move before the administration is ready to make any final decisions.

For now, please pray for the Khashoggi family, for comfort at this very hard time. Please pray for more facts to be revealed in a timely way and a complete picture to emerge. Please pray for U.S. leaders to have the wisdom to know how best to handle the situation. Please pray for the leaders of Saudi Arabia to know how best to deal with tragic injustice and make sure it never happens again. Please pray, too, for the people of Saudi Arabia who have been very much in favor of the economic and social reforms that MBS has been implementing, and surely want to see these reforms continue and expand, not the kingdom be suddenly isolated and potentially destabilized. 

Developing…..

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All eyes on Turkey: The strange and disturbing cases of Pastor Andrew Brunson and journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

TURKEY-US-POLITICS-JUSTICE-RELIGION-DIPLOMACY(Colorado Springs, Colorado) — As I finish several weeks of speeches and meetings in the U.S. and prepare to return to Israel, I’ve been following two very different and yet strangely linked stories. Both are drawing global media attention. Both involve Turkey and the regime of Turkish President Recep Erdogan. And both deserve your attention and prayer. Let me explain.

Story #1: Andrew Brunson, the American Evangelical Christian pastor that the Turkish government arrested and kept in prison for more than two years, was finally set free today. The latest reports are that Brunson is on his way out of Turkey back to freedom in the United States.

Evangelicals have been praying for years for Brunson’s protection and release. I thank the Lord those prayers have been answered, and am grateful for all the White House, State Department and other senior U.S. officials have done to secure the pastor’s release.

Story #2: Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist at times close to the royal family in Riyadh and more recently quite critical, has disappeared in Turkey. It seems clear from closed circuit TV evidence that Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week. It is not clear, however, that he ever left. The Saudis say he did. The Turks say he didn’t. The Saudis have not yet offered video proof that he left. The Turks have not yet offered any evidence that something sinister actually occurred. I am praying for Khashoggi’s safety, protection and freedom, and ask you to join me in those prayers.

That said, let’s be clear: the Turkish media is filled with macabre tales that the Saudis have either arrested Khoshoggi and secreted him out of the consulate back to the Kingdom, or even murdered and dismembered him with a bone saw. Global media — including the U.S. media — has run with the wildest leaks and unnamed, unsourced quotes from Turkish officials. Such officials anonymously say they have all kinds of hard, factual, intelligence proving the most sinister of actions by the Saudis, yet they have released nothing concrete or compelling so far.

Indeed, as I write this, all we actually know for certain is that the Saudi journalist is missing. Nearly everything else is conjecture.

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If the Turkish allegations are true, this would be a very serious and disturbing turn of events. And the consequences could lead into uncharted waters for the Saudis.

President Trump, Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Pompeo — along with many House and Senate members — have rightly called for a full and transparent investigation by both countries. If Khashoggi is alive, where is he? If not, what happened?

We need answers. We need facts. Then we can assess such information and draw conclusions and implications. Someone is lying. But whom?

What we don’t need are wild, unsourced allegations by one U.S. ally in the Middle East against another, both of whom deeply distrust, even despise, each other.

We should certainly be cautious about accepting unproven allegations from the government of Erdogan, which is steadily turning against the United States, Israel and the Sunni Arab world and allying itself with Russia, Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Keep in mind: for more than two years, Erdogan’s government has made the most brutal, heinous, and slanderous allegations against this innocent American Evangelical pastor, Andrew Brunson. Yet the allegations were all false. Several so-called “witnesses” have now recanted. The charges were ultimately thrown out. Thank God, Brunson is now a free man. But in the process we have learned just how horrible the Turkish government can be.

Is Turkey telling the truth this time about Khashoggi? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Until we see hard facts, we should be slow to make any judgments. Let’s take a breath. Let’s let the investigation play out. And let’s not stop praying for Mr. Khashoggi and his family.

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