The vast majority of the Islamic world is not a threat. Why, then, do I say 7% to 10% of the world’s Muslims are Radicals? Here’s why.

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On Sunday, I made the following assertion during an interview on the Fox News Channel:

“There’s no question that the vast majority of Muslims — 1.6 billion Muslims in the world — are not violent. They’re not dangerous. They’re not a threat. But all the polling shows that between 7% and 10%, roughly, of the Islamic world does believe in suicide bombings, does support the Islamic State’s violence, does support al Qaeda. So this is a problem because in a world of 1.6 billion Muslims, that’s upwards of 160 million people who could be recruited and drawn into violence in the United States or around the world.”

A number of you have asked for the data behind such an assertion. So let me explain the sources I’ve used over the years to develop a rough estimate of the number of Muslims that could reasonably be considered “Radicals.” Let’s start with data from 2007. Then we’ll look at more recent data gathered between 2013 and 2015.

How Many Radicals Are There? (Gallup Data From 2007)

In 2008, authors John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed published a book titled, Who Speaks for Islam? What a Billion Muslims Really Think. Esposito was a professor of Islamic studies at Georgetown University and founding director of the school’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. Mogahed, herself was a devout Muslim, and was executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies. (I cited their work in a non-fiction book I wrote in 2009, Inside The Revolution, about trends in the Islamic world.)

As Esposito and Mogahed stated in their introduction, “This book is the product of a mammoth, multiyear Gallup research study. Between 2001 and 2007, Gallup conducted tens of thousands of hour-long, face-to-face interviews with residents of more than 35 nations that are predominantly Muslim or have substantial Muslim populations. . . . In totality, we surveyed a sample representing more than 90 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, making this the largest, most comprehensive study of contemporary Muslims ever done.”

What these two scholars discovered was fascinating, and sobering.

First, the good news. After asking scores of different questions to test attitudes and intentions, the Gallup poll revealed that upwards of 93 percent of Muslims worldwide in 2007 fit Esposito and Mogahed’s definition of a “moderate”—that is, peaceable, nonviolent, and traditionally religious but unlikely to pose a threat to Western security interests. In Egypt, for example, 94 percent of Muslims said they would like to have a constitution that would guarantee “allowing all citizens to express their opinion on the political, social, and economic issues of the day.” In Iran, 93 percent said they wanted such personal and political freedom, as did 90 percent of Muslims in Indonesia, the world’s largest Islamic country. In Turkey, 93 percent of Muslims believed women should have the right to vote, as do 89 percent of Muslims in Iran and 90 percent in Bangladesh. Nine in ten Muslims in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Lebanon believed that women should have the same legal rights as men. All very good news, indeed.

Now the bad news. While the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide were moderates in 2007, about 7 percent at the time would have been classified as Radicals. That is, they were supportive of anti-American and anti-Western terrorism, believed it is fully justified, and thus were sympathetic of and potentially helpful to violent Islamic extremists. This constituted the pool from which current Radical jihadists are recruiting future jihadists, and thus they pose a serious threat to Western security interests.

“According to the Gallup poll, 7 percent of [Muslim] respondents think that the 9/11 attacks were ‘completely’ justified and view the United States unfavorably,” Esposito and Mogahed concluded. “By focusing on the 7 percent, whom we’ll call ‘the politically radicalized,’ we are not saying that all in this group commit acts of violence. However, those with extremist views are a potential source for recruitment or support for terrorist groups. . . . They are also more likely to view other civilian attacks as justifiable.”

At first glance, 7 percent may seem like a relatively small number. But the implications of such results are staggering. Seven percent of 1.3 billion Muslims equals 91 million people. It may comfort people to know that the vast majority of the world’s Muslims are peaceful people. But how comforting is it to know that 91 million Muslims are “politically radicalized”? After all, were these 91 million people to form their own country—the Islamic Republic of Radicalstan, say—they would represent the twelfth largest country on the planet, having twice the population of Spain, nearly three times the population of Canada, almost ten times the population of Sweden, and more than twelve times the population of Israel.

Extensive polling also found that the Radicals were not necessarily more religious than moderate Muslims; nor did they necessarily attend mosque more frequently or read the Qur’an more often. They were simply differently religious. That is, they were fully devoted to a radicalized interpretation of the Qur’an, such as the theologies taught by the Ayatollah Khomeini, Sayyid Qutb, and Osama bin Laden.

Moreover, these Radicals did not tend to be poor, uneducated, unsophisticated people living in some hovel somewhere, though there are certainly Radicals who come from impoverished backgrounds. According to the Gallup poll data, the typical profile of a Radical in 2007 was young, male, smart, college-educated, financially well-off, technologically literate, highly mobile, deeply determined, and thus incredibly dangerous. According to the study:

  • 49 percent of political Radicals are between the ages of eighteen and twenty-nine.
  • 62 percent are male, while 37 percent are female.
  • 67 percent have secondary education or higher.
  • 65 percent say they have average or above-average income.

As I noted in Inside The Revolution, not all scholars agreed in 2007 with the Gallup data that only 7 percent of Muslims were Radicals. Other research suggested the 7 percent figure may have actually been too low. According to a 2007 Pew Research Center poll, 28 percent of Egyptian Muslims said they believed suicide bombings against civilian targets were sometimes or often justified; 17 percent of Turkish Muslims agreed, along with 10 percent of Indonesian Muslims, 14 percent of Pakistani Muslims, 29 percent of Jordanian Muslims, and 46 percent of Nigerian Muslims. (See Andrew Kohut, “Muslims in America: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream,” Pew Research Center, May 22, 2007, http://pewresearch.org/assets/pdf/muslim-americans.pdf, accessed June 24, 2008.)

How Many Radicals Are There? (Current Polling Data From Pew Research)

Where are we now, nearly a decade after the sweeping Gallup study?

First, the global population of Muslims has increased to more than 1.6 billion, up from about 1.3 billion.

Second, looking closely at more recent data in recent years, I’m less comfortable saying only 7% of the Muslim world would be considered Radicals and now believe the figure is more likely between 7% and 10%. This still shows the vast majority of Muslims are not a threat to us. But, of course, 10% of 1.6 billion is a staggeringly large number of people from which the Radicals can recruit.

Here are some of the data I’ve been looking at:

Consider a November 2015 study by the Pew Research Center examining support for the Islamic State in Muslim-majority countries:

  • Lebanon — 0% support for ISIS
  • Israeli Arabs — 1%
  • Jordan — 3%
  • Indonesia (256 million people, 87% of whom are Muslims) — 4%
  • Palestinians — 6%
  • Turkey (80 million people, 99% Muslim) — 8%
  • Pakistan (200 million people, 96% Muslim) — 9%
  • Malaysia (30 million people, 61% Muslim) — 11%
  • Nigeria (181 million, 50% are Muslims) — 14%

While this Pew study did not look at every Muslim country, the data are helpful. They corroborate the premise that the vast majority of Muslims do not support ISIS. However, they also reveal that overall, roughly 7% to 10% of Muslims do, in fact, have a favorable view of the violent — even genocidal — theology, strategy and tactics of the Islamic State. In some specific countries, support for ISIS is even higher than the median.

Consider also a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center examining Muslim support for al Qaeda.

The key finding was that after all the violence inflicted on the world since the mid-1990s — and perhaps especially after all the Muslims that have been killed by al Qaeda in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, Muslim support for the al Qaeda terror movement has been dropping.

  • “In our 2013 poll, a median of only 13% among Muslims across the 11-countries surveyed had a favorable view of al Qaeda,” reported the Pew Research team.
  • “The highest support was in the Palestinian territories, where 35% of Muslims had a favorable view of al Qaeda. But elsewhere, less than a quarter of Muslims held a positive opinion of the extremist organization. Support was lowest in Lebanon, where only 1% of Muslims had a favorable impression of al Qaeda.”
  • “Support for al Qaeda among Muslims plummeted most dramatically in Nigeria, by 40 percentage points, during the 2010 to 2013 time period, probably as a result of increased terrorist activity by al Qaeda-linked Boko Haram,” notes Pew.
  • “In Jordan, [support for al Qaeda] fell by 21 points among Muslims during the same time period.”

Note: while Pew finds that an average of 13% of Muslims worldwide supported al Qaeda in 2013, it seems likely that three years later that percentage has continued to drop and may be closer to 10% or 11% today.

Consider several 2013 and 2014 reports by the Pew Research team showing that Muslim support for suicide bombings against civilians to defend Islam has dropped significantly over the past decade or so.

“Overall, support for suicide bombing and related forms of violence has declined in the last decade across the Muslim publics surveyed,” noted Pew researchers.

  • In Indonesia — again, the world’s largest Islamic country — Muslim support for suicide bombings against civilians dropped from 15% to 9%.
  • In Pakistan, support for suicide bombings dropped from 41% to just 3%.
  • In Lebanon, support for suicide bombings dropped from 74% to 29%.
  • In Jordan, support for suicide bombings dropped from 57% to 15%.
  • In Nigeria, support for suicide bombings dropped from 34% to 19%.

“For the most part, support for suicide bombing is not correlated with devoutness,” observed the Pew researchers. “Generally, Muslims who say they pray five times per day are no more likely to support targeting civilians to protect Islam than those who pray less often. The only exception is the Palestinian territories, where 66% of Muslims who pray five times per day say suicide bombing is often or sometimes justified versus 49% of those who pray less than five times per day.”

Conclusion

The bottom line is that is right and fair and accurate to say that the vast majority of Muslims are not violent, not dangerous and do not pose a threat to the national security of the United States or our allies.

But the data are also clear that roughly 7% to 10% of the world’s Muslim population do hold Radical theological, eschatological, ideological and political beliefs that cause them to support the murderous vision, strategies and tactics of the Islamic State, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. This represents upwards of 160 million people. Not all will become suicide bombers or join violent jihadist movements. But this is the pool from which the followers of Radical Islam are recruiting.

It is, therefore, critically important that American and other world leaders closely study the theology and eschatology that is motivating this minority of the Muslim world to support the killing of civilians.

If we refuse to properly study and define our enemies, we will never be able to defeat them. And if our leaders continue to misunderstand the nature and threat of the evil we face, they will continue to be blindsided by future attacks.

Let me close with two questions:

  • Why do upwards of 1-in-10 Muslims hold a theological interpretation of the Qur’an and hadiths that lead some of them to murderous violence and others to outright genocide?
  • How do we mobilize the 90% of Muslims who hold moderate theological views to challenge the Radicals?

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Four critical truths the President & candidates need to understand in the debate over Radical Islam.

Fox-Joel-Shannon-June2016(Jerusalem, Israel) — If you read nothing else from this column, please read and remember these four critical points:

  1. While it’s absolutely true that the vast majority of Muslims are not a threat to us, it’s also true that the vast majority of terrorists in our time are motivated by, driven by, even consumed by a radical, violent, murderous and bloodthirsty interpretation of Islam. That may not be politically correct to say, but that’s the truth.
  2. If American leaders are not studying the theology and even the eschatology of Islam — and the civil war going inside Islam between the Radicals (jihadists) and the Reformers (moderates) and their vastly differing interpretations of Muslim history and Islamic scriptures — they’re not going to understand what drives our enemies to kill us.
  3. To misunderstand the nature and threat of evil is to risk being blind-sided by it.
  4. Neither President Obama, nor the two presumptive presidential nominees — Secretary Clinton and Mr. Trump — have demonstrated that they have truly studied and understand the theology and eschatology that is driving our enemies. Until they do, and until they develop and are committed to executing sound national security strategies consistent with the actual threat of Radical Islam, they will continue to put Americans and our allies in grave danger.

Let’s be clear: Omar Mateen, the 29 year old terrorist who murdered 49 people in Orlando earlier this month, wanted the world to know exactly why he did it: he was a Radical, violent, murderous Muslim who was inspired by and loyal to the vision of the leaders of the Islamic State.

While there is no evidence suggesting Mateen was trained or deployed directly by ISIS leaders, the leadership of the Islamic State quickly took credit for the attack and praised Mateen for being inspired by their vision of slaughtering infidels according to their interpretation of Islam. What’s more, ISIS has called for more attacks in the U.S. by “lone wolves” inspired by their theology and eschatology.

President Obama, however, adamantly refuses to call Mateen a follower of Radical Islam and dismisses the term as a “political distraction” that serves no practical purpose.

“For a while now, the main contribution of some of my friends on the other side of the aisle have made in the fight against ISIL is to criticize this administration and me for not using the phrase ‘Radical Islam,'” noted the President in a June 14th statement to the media. “That’s the key, they tell us. We can’t beat ISIL unless we call them Radical Islamists. What exactly would using this label would accomplish? What exactly would it change? Would it make ISIL less committed to trying to kill Americans? Would it bring in more allies? Is there a military strategy that is served by this? The answer, is none of the above. Calling a threat by a different name does not make it go away. This is a political distraction.”

Is the President right to directly and consistently reject the term “Radical Islam”? Yesterday, I was interviewed on the Fox News Channel about the President’s comments. I’ve posted the transcript of the interview below. To watch the video, please click here.

FOX NEWS ANCHOR SHANNON BREAM: Let’s take a closer look now at the fight against ISIS, particularly the threat here at home in the wake of Orlando. We’re joined now by Joel Rosenberg, political advisor and New York Times best-seller. His latest book is out now is The First Hostage. Joel is joining us live from overseas. Thank you, Joel, for being with us today.

ROSENBERG: Good to be with you, Shannon, thank you.

BREAM: All right, I want to go first to the President, one of his statement’s this week where he talked about using the terminology of “radical Islam,” he sort of mocked those who have called for him to do that, saying it’s not going to solve the problem. But in your estimation, and knowing what you know about that region and your deep experience and studies there, does it make a difference or not?

ROSENBERG: It does. There’s no question that the vast majority of Muslims — 1.6 billion Muslims in the world — are not violent. They’re not dangerous. They’re not a threat. But all the polling shows that between 7% and 10%, roughly, of the Islamic world does believe in suicide bombings, does support the Islamic State’s violence, does support al Qaeda. So this is a problem because in a world of 1.6 billion Muslims, that’s upwards of 160 million people who could be recruited and drawn into violence in the United States or around the world.

BREAM: And how important is it to use the correct language, to use the correct terminology? Because the President often says that we have to be careful about our statements so that the world does not think that we are at war with the Muslim faith, with those who are Muslims. You mentioned more than a billion people that we’re talking about. But doesn’t that make the language we use even that much more important?

ROSENBERG: Sure it does. Absolutely. But look at people like Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. He went to the “Harvard” of Sunni Islam — al Azhar University — a few years ago, and he challenged the clerics and the leaders of Sunni Islam that they’ve got to get their house in order, that there is, essentially, a civil war going on inside Islam. Yes, the vast majority of Muslims do not interpret the Qur’an as encouraging violence against unbelievers. But there are verses in the text [that encourage violence], and el-Sisi challenged the theological leadership of Sunni Islam to fight and explain what the differences are. Jordan’s King Abdullah has also made that case and has gotten more than 500 Muslim clerics to sign onto a statement explaining the difference between this sort of radicalized, violent Islam that is in the text but many Muslims don’t agree with it, and what more moderate Muslims think. This is an important argument. And I would say that if American leaders are not studying the theology and even the eschatology of Islam, they’re not going to understand what motivates the “lone wolf,” or the movements like the Islamic State.

BREAM: What could we be doing better in the United States? What could our leadership be doing, on both sides of the aisle, to better combat this? Because there’s been a big conversation, obviously, about whether or not the Orlando gunman was directed by or inspired or motivated by [Radical Islam]. The end result is the same. We’ve seen dozens of innocent people who are dead.

ROSENBERG: Well, this is the most dangerous part of saying this is just “violent extremism.” That’s what the President is saying. Well, it’s certainly violent extremism, but what is it that motivates a young man, 29 years old — Omar Mateen — to be a killer of 49 people in a club? That’s not just being a violent person. He believed he was being driven by a version of Islam. That’s what he believed. It doesn’t matter what President Obama believes about Islam. It matters what the individual believes. So we’ve got to study what it is — the narrative, as well as the theology — that’s drawing Americans but also people all over the world into murderous, sometimes even genocidal, levels of violence. If you ignore that, you are ignoring the heart of the problem, which is the motive.

BREAM: Joel Rosenberg, we thank you for visiting with us today, and I hear your new book is going to be out the first of next year, or early next year, so we’ll look forward to that as well. Thank you, Joel.

ROSENBERG: Thank you. I appreciate it.

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BREAKING NEWS: Terrorist pledged allegiance to ISIS before launching Orlando attack. Now, ISIS officially claims responsibility. Are more attacks coming?

OmarMateen-2

Leaders of ISIS have now officially claimed responsibility for the murders in Orlando. Given that just days ago they called for acts of terrorism inside the U.S. and across Europe, is it possible that more lone wolf attacks — or larger attacks — are coming soon? Federal authorities are trying to answer this question and so many others. Here’s some of what we know so far.

UPDATE: “Hours after the attack, the Islamic State claimed responsibility in a statement released over an encrypted phone app used by the group,” reported the New York Times. “It stated that the attack ‘was carried out by an Islamic State fighter,’ according to a transcript provided by the SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks jihadist propaganda.” That said, “officials cautioned that even if Mr. Mateen, who court records show was born in New York and had been married and divorced, had been inspired by the group, there was no indication that it had trained or instructed him, or had any direct connection with him.” For additional coverage from other sources, click here.

UPDATE: “Four days before a shooter in Florida killed at least 50 people and wounded dozens others in the largest mass shooting in U.S. history, a pro-ISIS organization released a hit list with more than 8,000 people,” reports The Daily Caller. “The list includes more than 600 people who live in Florida…Known as the “United Cyber Caliphate,” the pro-ISIS group that released the ‘kill list,’ CBS 12 reports, hacked U.S. Central Command, and threatened President Obama. The organization reportedly sent out the names, addresses and emails of thousands of civilian Americans.”

UPDATE: President Obama spoke to reporters this afternoon and confirmed this “this was an act of terror” and an “act of hate” which he called a “horrific massacre.” However, he refused to suggest the possibility that this was an act of Radical Islam. Nor did he mention or comment on reports that the suspect had pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State. For the moment, the President is right not to speculate. He should wait for all the facts to come in. The question is whether he will point to the threat of Radical Islam if that is, in fact, where the facts lead.

(Washington, D.C.) — A senior Member of the House Intelligence Committed says there is evidence that the terrorist responsible for the mass shooting in Orlando pledged his allegiance to the Islamic State prior to acting.

We still need to cautious about what we learn in these early hours. It may take time to sift out precise information from rumors. But this is what an elected official and the media is reporting at this hour, so I’m passing it along to you.

Omar Mateen “made a pledge of allegiance to ISIS,” California Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CNN, reports the New York Post.

“The fact that this shooting took place during Ramadan and that ISIS leadership in Raqqa has been urging attacks during this time, that the target was an LGBT nightclub during (LGBT) Pride (month) and, if accurate, that according to local law enforcement the shooter declared his allegiance to ISIS, indicates an ISIS-inspired act of terrorism,” Schiff said.

“Whether this attack was also ISIS-directed, remains to be determined,” said Schiff. “I’m confident that we will know much more in the coming hours and days.”

Meanwhile, US Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) cited intelligence sources to say that there “appears to be” a link to Islamic radicalism and ISIS, the Post also reported.

“I asked the FBI if there was any connection to Islamic radicalism. There appears to be,” Nelson said. “But they are naturally cautious and waiting throughout to see if if this is, facts emerge.”

“At this point, this is an incident, as I can see it, we can certainly classify as a domestic terror incident,” Jerry Demings of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.

UPDATE: Orlando suspect’s father hosted a TV show and now pretends to be Afghanistan’s president. (Washington Post)

Developing…..

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BREAKING NEWS: 50 dead, 53 wounded in act of terrorism in Orlando. Worst mass shooting in American history comes days after ISIS calls for attacks inside the homeland.

OmarMateen-selfie

The worst mass shooting incident in American history — 50 dead, 53 wounded — took place in Orlando, Florida this morning, and federal authorities are already describing it as a “terror incident.” 

The question is whether the ghastly attack on an LGBT nightclub was an act of domestic terror, or one motivated by Radical Islam.

Federal authorities say the shooter — Omar Saddiqui Mateen, 29, of Port St. Lucie (who was shot and killed by police on the scene) — was a U.S. citizen, born to parents from Afghanistan. One news report indicated that twice in recent years the FBI has investigated Mateen but found no reason to prosecute.

Let’s give law enforcement time to properly investigate this act of evil before we draw conclusions about Mateen’s motives.

But it should be noted that the horrific attack comes days after a spokesman for the Islamic State called for lone wolf terror attacks in the U.S. and Europe.

“Ramadan [is] the month of conquest and jihad,” said Abu Mohammed Al-Adnani in a recently released audio recording. “Get prepared, be ready…to make it a month of calamity everywhere for the non-believers…especially for the fighters and supporters of the caliphate in Europe and America.”

I categorically condemn this act of unjustified terrorism against the LGBT community. All American citizens, residents and visitors — all, regardless of who they are and what they believe — have the right to life. Indeed, I hope all Christians will condemn this act and that we’ll all be praying for the families and friends of those killed, and praying for full recoveries for those wounded.

Let us also all be praying for our national leaders that they would be clear-eyed and resolute in fighting terrorism of all kinds and all motivations, including that driven by Radical Islam and Apocalyptic Islam.

Whatever Mateen’s background, associations and motives turn out to be, I believe ISIS, al Qaeda and other terror groups are Hell-bent on unleashing more and larger terrorist attacks inside the American homeland. May our leaders fully and truly understand the nature of the evil we are facing lest they be blindsided by it.

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Which presidential candidate truly understands the threat of Radical Islam, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?

Hillary-Trump2(Washington, D.C.) — During my brief time here in the nation’s capital, in addition to working on my next novel, I’ve been meeting with Members of the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the Senate Armed Services Committee, and other Middle East experts. We’ve been discussing the latest trends in Radical Islam and Apocalyptic Islam and how to confront these challenges in the years ahead.

On Thursday, I was interviewed by a political reporter about the presidential race and which presumptive nominee truly gets the magnitude of the threats we face in the epicenter and is effectively prepared to keep Americans and our allies safe. Here are excerpts from that interview:

EXCLUSIVE: RADICAL ISLAM EXPERT — HILLARY CLINTON ‘MOST CORRUPT AND DEEPLY FLAWED DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE’ IN HISTORY

By Alex Swoyer, Breitbart News, June 9, 2016

Joel Rosenberg, a New York Times best-selling and award-winning author who focuses on radical Islam, said presumptive Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt and flawed Democratic candidate in history — but the Middle East expert isn’t too excited about presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump either.

“We’re in a strange moment where Hillary Clinton has the most foreign policy experience, but her judgment on the key foreign policy issues — especially radical Islam — is horrible,” Rosenberg, who is a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, told Breitbart News during an exclusive interview on Thursday. “She’s the most corrupt and deeply flawed Democratic candidate that has emerged in history and it’s not clear that we have a candidate at the moment who is able to play against her weaknesses on the issue of foreign policy….

He spoke to Breitbart News about the threat of radical Islam following the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv in which four people were killed.

“This is a pretty serious breach of Israeli security,” he said of the attack, noting it’s the first attack in three months in which civilians were killed. He also referenced a terrorist attack in Jordan earlier in the week, noting that he had previously met with King Abdullah II of Jordan. “We’re in this together.”

“We are allies in a real war, a hot war, against radical Islam,” Rosenberg added.

“We know that we are not in danger from all Muslims,” he said. “This is about a radical, violent subset, which is probably ten percent or less of the entire Islamic world according to a lot of survey data….”

“What’s stunning is that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama absolutely refuse to define the threat to Americans and our allies as radical Islam. The president, of course, for seven and a half years absolutely refused to use the term radical Islam,” Rosenberg criticized, saying one must fully understand the threat posed in order to not be blindsided.

Although Rosenberg believes Clinton is an extremely flawed candidate for President of the United States, he isn’t supporting presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump either because he’s “deeply uncomfortable” with Trump’s rhetoric with regard to his proposed Muslim ban, in which Trump suggested stopping Muslim immigration into the United States until an improved vetting system was in place.

“Donald Trump will use the term ‘radical Islamic threat,’” he explained. “What gives me real caution about Trump is … first of all, he refuses to commit to ripping up the nuclear deal with Iran.”

“To give them nuclear energy, ballistic missiles and a pathway to nuclear weapons is insane and Donald Trump won’t commit to scrapping that insane nuclear deal that President Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry negotiated. That raises serious questions about whether Trump understands the threat or whether he’s just picked up the rhetoric of radical Islam,” He questioned.

He also criticized the billionaire saying, “Trump has said we’re going to go kill women and children who are wives and children of terrorists. This plays directly into the hands of terrorists.”

Although Rosenberg is critical of Trump’s rhetoric and his proposal to pause Muslim immigration, he says he doesn’t believe Syrian and Iraqi refugees should come into the United States.

“I do not support opening the floodgates to allowing Syrian and Iraqi refugees to flood into the United States. We do not have an ability to vet tens of thousands of refugees that are coming from countries where ISIS and other radical groups are completely infiltrated,” he stated. “Hillary Clinton’s proposal to bring 65,000 more Syrian refugees into the country is incredibly dangerous and we absolutely should not do that.”

He said Trump’s mistakes come “when he says sweeping statements,” which are made “through inexperience and flawed instincts.”

“What we need to be saying is that the vast majority of Muslims are not a threat and we need to focus on radical Islam,” Rosenberg said.

[NOTE: These are my own personal views as an American citizen. They don’t represent in any way the views of The Joshua Fund, which is a non-political, non-partisan organization.]

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Israel and Jordan hit with deadly terrorist attacks this week. I ask Christians around the world to pray for Jews, Muslims and Christians in both countries.

Jordan-Israel-flags

(Washington, D.C.) — My heart is heavy this morning as I grieve for those Israelis and Jordanians affected by two terrorist attacks this week — one just north of Amman on Monday that killed five Jordanian intelligence officers, and the other in the heart of  Tel Aviv yesterday, a mass shooting event by two Palestinians that left four Israelis dead and sixteen wounded.

These attacks are bitter reminders of the clear and present danger posed to America and our allies by the forces of Radical Islam. They’re also a reminder of the critical importance of understanding the politics, ideology and theology driving our enemies to murder Jews, Muslims and Christians.

We cannot defeat an enemy we refuse to define. Yet so many Western leaders — and some who seek to lead the Western alliance — have repeatedly demonstrated that they don’t truly understand what motivates our enemy and thus risk being blind-sided by future attacks.

What makes these attacks all the more tragic is that terrorism in Israel has actually been declining steadily in recent months, and most of these have been isolated knife attacks, not shootings. In fact, until Wednesday, not a single Israeli civilian had been killed by a terrorist in three months.

Meanwhile, under the impressive leadership of King Abdullah II, Jordan remains one of the safest and most secure countries in the Arab world, despite the implosion of Syria to their north, the ISIS surge across Iraq to their east, and a massive influx of refugees that has increased Jordan’s population by some 30% in recent years.

As I noted in a recent Jerusalem Post column, “Jordanian commandos, General Intelligence Directorate operatives and elite police units are taking down an ISIS or related cell inside Jordan every week. As a result of excellent intelligence and security work, Jordan hasn’t had a major terrorist attack inside its borders since 2005, certainly nothing like the recent jihadist attacks in Brussels, Paris, Istanbul, San Bernardino and elsewhere.”

In light of these events, I ask Christians around the world to please pray faithfully for those who were wounded and traumatized, that in His great love and mercy the Lord would grant them quick and full physical, emotional and spiritual recoveries.

Please pray, too, for the families and friends of those killed, that the Lord would grant them His divine comfort and “a peace that passes all understanding,” of which the Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:7.

At the same time, please pray for Prime Minister Netanyahu and King Abdullah II and their security services as they work to bring to justice to those responsible, comfort those who are grieving, and stay on the offensive against those who seek to rob, kill and destroy.

For more on these developing stories:

  • “The Jordanian government said a terrorist attack against the office of the national intelligence agency Monday killed five employees, including three intelligence officers, in a rare assault on a crucial U.S. ally in the Middle East,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “The attack occurred at the office of the General Intelligence Directorate in the Baqa’a Palestinian refugee camp north of the capital Amman, the official Petra News Agency quoted government spokesman Mohammed Momani as saying.”
  • “Four people have been killed and 16 people have been wounded in a terror attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv in a terror attack,” reported Ynet News. “Two alleged terrorists have been neutralized at the scene. One of the terrorists have died, the other is being treated in the hospital in critical condition.”

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Study finds 10 million Muslims have become followers of Christ since 1960.

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(Washington, D.C.) — An unprecedented spiritual revolution is underway in the Islamic world.

From 1960 to 2010, the number of Muslims who have converted away from Islam and become true followers of Jesus Christ has skyrocketed, from fewer than 200,000 to some 10 million people. Amidst persecution and even genocide, the Church in the Middle East is growing in ways never seen in fourteen centuries of Islam. And there is now scholarly documentation backing up these numbers.

Yesterday, I had the honor of addressing the pastors at the “Watchmen on the Wall” conference organized by the Family Research Council. Tony Perkins, president of FRC, asked me to brief the gathering on the latest on the persecuted Church in the Middle East and it was my joy to do so — especially to share this exciting news.

Here are notes I used for my presentation. You’ll find details regarding the soaring number of Muslim conversions under point #4, including a link to the peer-reviewed journal article where these data are found. Hope you find them helpful.

1.) The sobering reality is that 2015 was the “worst year in modern history for Christian persecution.” This was the finding from the most recent report on global persecution from Open Doors. Some 7,100 Christians were killed for their faith last year. up 50% from the previous year. Some 2,400 churches were destroyed or damaged last year. According to the president of Open Doors, “The level of exclusion, discrimination, and violence against Christians is unprecedented, spreading and intensifying.”
What countries top the list of the worst for persecution of Christians? Nine of the top 10 are Muslim majority countries.
  1. North Korea (14 years in a row at the top)
  2. Iraq
  3. Eritrea
  4. Afghanistan
  5. Syria
  6. Pakistan
  7. Somalia
  8. Sudan
  9. Iran
  10. Libya
This doesn’t mean that all Muslims are dangerous or are persecutors of Christians. The vast majority of Muslims do not intend us harm. However, this does mean that empirical evidence confirms that wherever the forces of Radical Islam — and Apocalyptic Islam — are highly active or in control, followers of Jesus Christ are in grave danger.
The Scriptures repeatedly warn believers to expect persecution, especially as the return of Christ approaches (see Matthew 24:8).
  • The Apostle Paul told Timothy, “Everyone who lives a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Timothy 3:12)
  • The Lord Jesus told His disciples in John 16:2, “an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.” That hour has now come.
2.) The Church in Syria and Iraq today is not simply facing persecution — it’s facing genocideWhat is genocide? Jay Sekulow, head of the American Center for Law and Justice, and his team note, “The Holocaust gave rise to the necessity to define what ‘genocide’ is, and Article 2 of the U.N. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) did just that,” defining it as:

any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Tragically, this is exactly what is happening in Syria and Iraq. The forces of the Islamic State are beheading, crucifying, torturing, starving and enslaving Christians, and trying to forcibly convert them to Islam. Many Christians are dying. Many are fleeing. Some, sadly, are converting away. This is genocide. Consider the facts:
• The number of Christians in Syria has dropped from 1.25 million to 500,000 in recent years, according to analyses by Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) and the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ).

• The number of Christians in Iraq has dropped from 1.4 million to fewer than 275,000 in recent years, which ACLJ notes is “an 80% drop.”

To his credit, Secretary of State John Kerry (finally) declared ISIS’s actions “genocide” earlier this year.

On Sunday evening in Jerusalem, I had tea with the Vicar of Baghdad — Anglican Canon Andrew White — and some pastors and friends. For years he lived in the capital of Iraq, ministering to Christians from many denominations and trying to be a witness to Muslims of Christ’s love and mercy. He explained to us that in 2014 he finally had to evacuate from Iraq because it had just become too dangerous. The stories he told us of ISIS atrocities he knew of first hand were horrific. He described a father forced by ISIS jihadists to renounce his Christian faith and convert to Islam or watch his children beheaded. He told another story of several young Christian children threatened by ISIS to convert to Islam or their parents would be murdered. But the children refused to convert saying they loved Jesus, and Jesus loved them and cared for them, and they had to always stay close to Jesus. Their parents were murdered in front of them.

To be clear, ISIS is waging genocide not just against Christians — seeking to destroy all followers of Christ and to physically destroy all Christian houses of worship. They are also seeking to destroy the Yazidis (a minority sect in the region) and Muslims who don’t share their same theological and eschatological views. Indeed, it is Muslims who are dying most at the hands of ISIS. And, of course, ISIS continues to threaten to invade Israel and murder all the Jews. Why? Because they believe that such genocidal actions will help accelerate the coming of their so-called messiah — the Mahdi — and the return of Jesus (to be the Mahdi’s deputy). They also believe this will usher in the global Islamic kingdom or Caliphate and bring about the End of Days.
3.) By the grace of our sovereign God, the two safest places for Christians in the Middle East today are Israel and Jordan.
Israel is a Jewish State. It’s a democracy (where Christians can vote and Arabs can vote and serve in government; we have an Arab Supreme Court Justice and 17 Arabs serving as Members of the Knesset, up from 12 in the previous elections). Israel does not have a particularly large population of Christ followers (thought the numbers of Jewish, Arab and international believers is steadily growing). Still, Israel is an oasis of religious freedom and personal safety and security for Christians in a sea of fire.
Israel is by no means perfect. Like every country, our government and society has many flaws. Still, it never ceases to astound and grieve me when I see some Christians around the world — including some liberal, mainline denominations — attacking Israel as a country of “apartheid” and “racism” and using all kinds of other epithets and announcing boycotts and divestment from Israel as if it were some pariah state, rather than acknowledging that for all our flaws this is the safest place for Christians to be in the entire Middle East.
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, meanwhile — our next door neighbor — is a Muslim monarchy. Like Israel, Jordan does not have a huge Christian population (though the numbers of Christ followers is steadily increasing). That said, King Abdullah II has created the safest political and cultural environment for Christians in all of the Middle East. He and the Royal Family and the Jordanian government show great respect for the Christian community. Churches operate freely. Attacks by Islamic extremists are not countenanced. The King even created a national park along the Jordan River several years ago, allowing 13 Christian denominations to build church facilities and perform baptisms in the River. This is unimaginable in almost any other Muslim-majority country.
Let us, therefore, pray for the people and leaders of these two countries. Let’s thank them and seek to bless them for the blessings they are to Christians, even though most of their leaders disagree with what we believe.
4.) Despite the worst persecution in the modern history of the Church (or maybe because of it), we are seeing the greatest harvest of souls in the Muslims world in the history of the Church.
As sheer savagery has been unleashed in the Middle East, the Spirit of the living God is moving in power and great glory. Satan is on the offensive, but so is Christ. Darkness is falling, but the Light of the gospel is shining in the darkness.
To this end, I commend to your attention the following: “Believers In Christ From A Muslim Background: A Global Census” is a 19 page peer-reviewed article written by two respected Christian scholars, Dr. Duane Alexander Miller, a professor at St. Mary’s University in Texas, and Patrick Johnstone, the long-time editor of Operation World (a series of books that carefully documented the state of Christianity in every country on a planet and which sold more than 2.5 million copies.)
Their study, published 2015 in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion (out of Baylor University) examined all the research that has been done on Muslim conversions to Christianity from 1960 to 2010. They carefully analyzed country-by-country data and tried to take special care to weed out double-counting, possible exaggerations, and a range of other issues and variables. Their conclusions were stunning.
From 1960 to 2010, the number of Muslims that have converted to faith in Jesus Christ has grown from fewer than 200,000 to some 10 million people.
In their analysis, the 10 million figure is actually a mid-range. They conclude the number of conversions could be as low as around 6 million or even as high as around 17 or 18 million. To be sure, it’s impossible to get absolutely precise numbers of conversions out of Iran or Saudi Arabia, among other countries. And one must keep in mind that the data they looked at does not include 2011 to the present, though there is evidence of continued — perhaps even accelerated — conversions in recent years. That said, the scholars conclude 10 million is a solid conservative estimate based on the data they obtained.
The chart above is from their article. It shows the surge of conversions in recent decades.
To date, this is the most definitive data I have personally seen verifying the Great Awakening that is underway in the Muslim world.
True, in a world of 1.6 billion Muslims, 10 million conversions does not seem like many. But in nearly fourteen centuries of Islam, there were almost no conversions to Christians. Some, but not many. Now there is a civil war inside Islam. Muslims are questioning what they believe, why they believe it, and whether they have the truth or not. Many are looking at the “purist” Islamic regimes in Iraq and ISIS and concluding, “If that’s Islam, I can’t be a part of it.” They’re searching satellite TV, radio and the Internet for answers. They are reading the Bible and examining the claims of Christ. Some are even seeing dreams and visions of Jesus — and they are coming to faith in numbers we’ve never seen.
To me what’s important is not the number per se — it’s the dynamic. It’s the trend lines. And they are moving in a positive direction for the first time since Islam was founded in the seventh century.
To read specific examples and testimonies of “Muslim Background Believers,” consider reading my 2009 book, Inside The Revolution. My friend, Tom Doyle, has told more examples in his books Dreams & Visions and Killing Christians. I highly encourage you to read these, as well.
The Vicar of Baghdad shared with me even more examples, including the story of an ISIS jihadist recently having a dream in which he saw “the man in white” — realized it was Jesus Christ, realized that faith in Christ was the only way to be forgiven of his sins and find true hope and peace and truly get to heaven — and converted away from Islam to Biblical Christianity and became born again.
CONCLUSION
Yes, darkness is falling on the modern Middle East. But the Hebrew prophet Isaiah told us that “the people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine upon them.” (Isaiah 9:2)
This was true when the Lord Jesus came to Israel the first time 2,000 years ago. Today, the Light of Christ is again dawning on the people living in great darkness as the persecuted Church shows the love of Christ and shares the Gospel message.
Our job is to come along side our persecuted brothers and sisters and love them, encourage them, pray for them, visit them, resource them, help them stand strong and courageous for our Lord and King.
The Lord Jesus told us in Matthew 5 to rejoice when we are persecuted. So many of our brothers and sisters in the Mideast are rejoicing. They are full of joy because Jesus is all they have. They’ve lost everything else, but they have never felt spiritually and emotionally wealthier than they do today.
As one Iraq pastor told me, “We are living similar lives to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Yes, the fires here in Iraq are seven times hotter than they were. But Jesus is here with us, walking with us in the fire.”
I’m so grateful for men like the Vicar of Baghdad who are living in the region, among suffering people, loving them, serving them in the name of Jesus.
My wife and sons and I are honored to be living in the epicenter and having the chance to meet and encourage and serve our brothers and sisters who are serving heroically against the odds.
And I’m so grateful for my colleagues at The Joshua Fund who are so dedicated to providing humanitarian relief for the poor and vulnerable in Israel, both Jews and Arabs, and for refugees fleeing from Assad and ISIS. They’re passionate about strengthening the Church in the epicenter to boldly preach the Gospel to all, to teach the whole counsel of God, and to make disciples and raise up new pastors. I love these guys, and I believe their ministry is more important than ever given what’s happening in the region.

Is There Any Good News In The Mideast? Yes, despite intense persecution of the Church, we’re also seeing a great harvest of Muslims turning to Christ. Here’s the latest.

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Recently, Lynn and I had the opportunity to have dinner in Jerusalem with our good friends, Tom and JoAnn Doyle. Among other things we talked about two important trend lines in the world of Gospel ministry to Muslims — persecution and harvest.

Below is an article on this subject that I asked Tom to write specifically for this blog. It’s very informative and encouraging. I hope you’ll not only read it but share it with others.

By way of context, Tom was a senior pastor in New Mexico and Colorado for more than two decades. Then, in the summer of 2001, the Lord called he and JoAnn to serve the persecuted Church in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. Little did they know the horrific events of 9/11 were coming. Nor could they have possibly imagined that the greatest era of church growth in the Muslim world in fourteen centuries was about to accelerate even faster, deeper and wider. In recent years, Tom has written some excellent books on what God is doing among Muslims. Among them are Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where It’s Not Safe to Believe and DREAMS AND VISIONS: Is Jesus Awakening the Muslim World?  I commend them both to you.

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Is There Any Good News In The Middle East? Yes, despite intense persecution, we’re also seeing a great harvest of Muslims turning to Christ. Here’s the latest.

By Tom Doyle

When you think of Christianity in the Middle East, the first word that probably comes to mind is persecution. 

But another word should come to mind – harvest. 

The year 2015 was certainly a year of persecution for followers of Jesus Christ in the Muslim world. But one of the reasons for this is the large number of Muslims who have left the religion of Islam and now embrace Jesus as their Savior.

That said, persecution is not stopping the spread of the gospel. To the contrary, the killing of Christians is accelerating the spread of the gospel and the growth of the church. In fact, over the centuries, oppressors have never recognized that the persecution of Christians is always a failed initiative. It doesn’t destroy the church; it makes the church grow.

Welcome to the New Middle East. Muslims all over the region are coming to faith in Christ. What’s more, they’re willing to suffer persecution for the Lord Jesus Christ in part because they see a great harvest of other Muslims and want to be faithful in proclaiming the good news of salvation in a world of such darkness.

Here are some of the things my wife and team and I have been seeing as we travel in and out of the region:

  • In November 2015, I took a team to a country in the Middle East and witnessed something phenomenal: 25 former Muslims baptized as new believers in Jesus. The city where we were has a steadily growing underground church – indeed, they’ve seen 90 Muslims receive Jesus recently. And that’s just in one city. One was a woman who is married to a Muslim Imam (religious cleric). When she embraced Jesus, her irate husband found out and threw her out of the house and kept their three children. He vowed that if she were baptized he would kill her. But there she was, one of the 25 lining up to be baptized, and when she came out of the water there was overwhelming relief and joy on her face. By the world’s standards, she has lost everything, but she was not willing to deny Jesus and her love for Him.
  • In Syria, Farid – a pastor and national Christian leader – says: “We’ve never seen Muslims come to Jesus like this. The ongoing civil war in our country has soured many to religion since this is essentially a religious war. Jesus brings something that religion can never deliver. He brings hope and reconciliation.” Farid says that the Syrian underground church is growing rapidly and in some home groups Alawites and Muslims worship together. “In the streets of Syria, they are killing one another, but when they find Jesus and reconcile with the Father, only then can they reconcile to one another. Jesus is the only hope for Syria. We have seen more than 1,000 Muslims come to faith in Christ in Syria in the last few years. This brings us great joy in Syria.”
  • A pastor in Jordan named, Amir, says: “The amazing occurrence of dreams about Jesus seems to be even growing. Of the hundreds of Muslims that we are working with, the majority of them claim to have had one or more Jesus dreams. Jesus tells them in the dream how He loves them. What a message Jesus has in this sea of hatred all around us.”
  • In February of 2015, ISIS killed 21 Christians on the beach in Libya and released the horrific footage of their beheading. The video showed 20 Egyptian men and one man from Chad walking onto the beach in orange jumpsuits and an ISIS terrorist with their covered, in all black, leading each prisoner. The picture summarized the year of persecution for the church. In fact, it became a defining moment for the persecuted church in the region, much like the image of the lone Chinese dissident standing in front of a column of oncoming tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
  • In October of 2015, I took a small team to Egypt to meet the wives of those brave martyrs. Before we left, I happened to mention on a national radio program in the States what we were going to do. I said that we were going to Egypt to encourage these dear widows and bring letters that our e3 Partners team had written. We were so surprised but encouraged when listeners began to write letters to the martyrs for us to take with us. Over 2,000 from around the world poured in within two days. A kindergarten class from a Christian school even drew pictures and sent them in since they were too young to write. Emails came in from countries around the world. What a blessing these messages of solidarity were to these faithful Christian women.

During the research I did for my book, Killing Christians, I came to believe that persecuted believers have become the face of genuine Christianity around the world. As Evangelicals, we may not agree with every element of theology of the Coptic Church that these men came from. But in meeting their families and hearing their stories, there is no question in my mind that these men truly loved the Lord Jesus with their whole hearts, and I was moved that they were more than willing to die for Him.

 

We visited their widows in their simple poverty-stricken villages. They told us how their husbands had been held captive and tortured for 45 days but they never gave in to the free ticket out that was promised to them if all they would do is convert to Islam. One widow shared this: “How is it that we were given this privilege and honor to have someone in our family die for Jesus? We are just humble village people in an insignificant village in Egypt. But yet Jesus selected my husband for the most important thing we could ever do in life-to die for Jesus!”

So why is it that Muslims are now coming to faith in Christ in significant numbers? One of the reasons is that Islamic terrorists are killing violently for their faith, while followers of Jesus are dying peacefully for their faith. Muslims are watching the violence and it has soured them towards their religion. It has also opened them up to the possibility that there may be something to this Jesus after all. They see hate in Radical Islam and love among the Jesus followers, even as they are taken to be executed. What a contrast.

Yes, Christians are being persecuted openly in the Middle East. But they are standing strong, and this has served to spread the gospel even more rapidly. In a world of bad news, that is very good news.

Let us thank God for this – and let us be faithful in praying for our persecuted brothers and sisters, that the Lord would give them strength and courage and boldness to keep living for Christ and keep preaching the Gospel, come what may.

Despite the persecution, killing, and terrorism in the Middle East, this is one of the Church’s finest hours.

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Tom Doyle is the Vice President of e3 Partners, focusing on evangelism and equipping the Church around the world, including in Muslim countries.

You can get real-time prayer requests from your brothers and sisters on the frontlines and in harms way at the face book page called 8thirty8.

In Tom’s recent book, Killing Christians: Living the Faith Where it is Not Safe to Believe, you can also read true stories of persecuted believers in the Middle East that will inspire you to live wholeheartedly for Christ.

Despite a bizarre week in Israeli politics, Sunni Arab leaders are quietly reaching out to Netanyahu to discuss restarting peace talks based on the “Saudi Plan.” Meanwhile, Abbas signals he may soon step down. Who would replace him?

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Very few Israelis or Palestinians believe the moment is ripe to craft a comprehensive peace deal. Pessimism over the seemingly never-ending “peace process” is rampant.

That said, there continue to be curious developments here I think you should be aware of. I laid out some in my column earlier in the week. There have been more since then. Among them:

  1. Despite a bizarre and topsy-turvy week in Israeli politics, there are credible reports that moderate Sunni Arab leaders are actively reaching out to Prime Minister Netanyahu with indications that they are open to making changes in the Saudi Peace Initiative to make it more palatable for Israelis.
  2. Netanyahu is signaling that he is not averse to opening new peace talks that would involve changes to the Saudi plan, so long as regional Arab leaders are the primary players in the talks, not the French.
  3. At the same time, however, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is privately indicating that he will soon need to step down from power. “My age and health don’t allow me to remain in power,” the 81-year-old Abbas recently told Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi. “My term in office expired several years ago and I’m still in power only because of the Hamas, which staged a coup and is controlling the Gaza Strip and refusing to allow new elections.”
  4. The possibility that Abbas could soon step off the political stage could add a destabilizing factor into the mix, especially if the battle to succeed Abbas becomes heated, or even violent.
  5. Who will the next Palestinian leader be? Would he (or she) be more or less ready to strike a compromise with Israel? Would he or she encourage violent opposition to Israel, or encourage calm and reconciliation?
  6. Meanwhile, critics of Netanyahu are asking, “How serious is Bibi about really making peace?” His enemies say Bibi will never negotiate in good faith. But those close to him say he’s ready for an honest dialogue, and note that it was Menachem Began (the first leader of the Likud Party) who made peace with Egypt in 1979. [NOTE: I’m not taking a position on any of these internal political questions — who’s right? who’s wrong? — I’m just pointing out some of the trend lines I think are noteworthy.]
  7. The week began looking like Netanyahu would create a “unity” government with Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog, who is personally determined to find a peace deal with the Palestinians. But in a dramatic and unexpected reversal mid-week, Netanyahu decided to make a deal with right-wing leader Avigdor Liberman and his Yisrael Beitenu (“Israel Our Home”) party instead of Herzog. Liberman is now slated to be Defense Minister, if the deal is finalized. This news has triggered a firestorm. Herzog is furious with Bibi. Current Defense Minister Moshe “Bogie” Ya’alon is, too. Ya’alon resigned the government rather than accept his imminent demotion or even change of position, and Ya’alon had harsh words for both Netanyahu and Liberman.
  8. Many in Israel and the region regard Liberman as an acerbic, controversial, polarizing figure, and someone not known for being eager to make peace with the Palestinians or even other Arab states. To Bibi’s enemies, the offer to Liberman is proof Bibi and his government will never make peace.
  9. In these circumstances, then, one could imagine that the notion of Bibi including Liberman into his government — especially instead of Herzog, who believes that a “rare” chance to make regional peace is emerging — will sabotage whatever slowly improving ties there have been between Israel and the moderate Arab states.
  10. That may still prove the case. But at the moment, the Arab states are reaching out to Bibi, despite of the Liberman/Ya’alon brouhaha. This is intriguing, to say the least.
  11. At the moment, it’s Egyptian President el-Sisi who is taking the lead in communicating with Netanyahu. Earlier this week, the Egyptian leader publicly called on Israelis and Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table, and offered to help mediate those discussions. Netanyahu immediately responded positively to the suggestion. Sisi and Netanyahu then spoke on Friday when Netanyahu called to offer condolences over the crash of an Egyptian jetliner this week, a crash that may have been the result of terrorism, though the investigation has only just begun.
  12. Jordan’s King Abdullah II, currently on a state visit to Europe, has been quiet so far this week. That said, recent media reports (see here, here, here and here) indicate that behind the scenes he senses the environment for talks is improving and is quietly encouraging the peace process to begin again.
  13. UDPATED: As I wrote on Tuesday, something does appear to be afoot between Israel and her Sunni Arab neighbors. Where will it lead? I genuinely don’t know. But I am praying for peace because the Bible commands me to and because I truly want there to be calm and security and prosperity and genuine freedom and opportunity for everyone in the region. I hope you will join me in praying along these lines, as well. Let’s also be praying for President Abbas’ health and strength and that the Lord would show mercy to him and his family during this challenging and tense season. Let’s be praying for President el-Sisi as he deals with the crisis surrounding the loss of the EgyptAir jetliner and more than 60 people on board. Let’s also be praying for the leaders of Israel, the Palestinians, Egypt, Jordan, the Saudis and the Gulf States as they talk to one another and seek peace. We don’t know if they’ll find a way forward, but as our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

[This column is based on my personal views and analysis. I share them in my personal capacity as an American and Israeli citizen and an author. They do not reflect the views of The Joshua Fund, which is a non-profit organization and takes no political or legislative positions.]

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post published a very interesting story on the latest behind-the-scenes interactions between Israeli and Arab leaders. Here are some excerpts worth noting:

  • “Moderate Sunni Arab governments in the region have communicated to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu their willingness to engage in negotiations with Israel over possible changes to the Saudi peace initiative so that it may serve as the agreed-upon basis of renewed talks with the Palestinians,” reports the Jerusalem Post, based on a story first reported by Channel 10 on Friday….
  • Arab regimes led by Egypt and the wealthy Gulf sheikhdoms have signaled their desire to publicly change their posture toward Israel, according to Channel 10.
  • Officials in Arab capitals are now awaiting Netanyahu’s response to their offer of substantive discussions on the Saudi initiative so as to make it more palatable for Israel.
  • During a Twitter chat he held in the courtyard of his Jerusalem home in honor of Israel’s 68th Independence Day, Netanyahu said Israel is ready to talk about an amended Saudi peace initiative.
  • One of the questioners asked him in Arabic about the 2002 Saudi Initiative, otherwise known as the Arab Peace Plan, which calls for a two-state solution on the pre-1967 lines with a just settlement for Palestinian refugees. In exchange the Arab world would offer Israel normalized relations.
  • “Why don’t you accept the Arab initiative and what are the reasons why it is not implemented,” Twitter questioner @abosarah7 asked.
  • Netanyahu responded, also in Arabic, that an updated initiative which “addresses our concerns merits further discussion. Israel will always seek peace.”…..
  • In response to Sam Rubinstein from Brown University, Netanyahu said in a short video response, “I am willing to meet President Abbas today, right now. He can come to my home here in Jerusalem or I can go to his home here in Ramallah. Now I want you to forward that question to President Abbas and see what he says, #askAbbas.”
  • Channel 10 cites Western diplomatic sources as saying that a number of emissaries have relayed conciliatory Arab messages to Netanyahu, one of them being former British premier Tony Blair.

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Is something afoot between Israel & her Sunni Arab neighbors? (If not, why are Egyptian & even Saudi leaders suddenly talking so nicely to the Jewish State?)

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>> CBN News Mideast bureau chief Chris Mitchell interviewed me for a story he just did on the ISIS threat to Jordan and why the U.S. needs to stand with our most faithful Sunni Arab ally. To watch his report, or read the transcript, please click here.

UPDATED: Is something afoot between Israel and her Sunni Arab neighbors? Consider a curious chain of events in the region over the past month or so:

  1. On the one hand, in recent weeks, the Israelis have flatly turned down an offer by the French to attend a summit in Paris later this summer aimed at kick-starting the moribund peace talks with the Palestinians. Israeli leaders say they keep calling for direct talks with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, but Abbas keeps refusing to come to the table. Abbas says he wants an international conference because he doesn’t trust Netanyahu to operate in good faith. Abbas supports the French approach.
  2. In recent days, however, the opposition leader of the Israeli parliament — Zionist Union chief Isaac Herzog — told reporters he is actively considering joining the Netanyahu government (likely as Foreign Minister) in order to pursue a “rare” opportunity for peace with Israel’s neighbors. “I have identified a rare regional diplomatic opportunity that may lapse and not return,” Herzog told dozens of party activists at a gathering that was secretly recorded and leaked to an Israeli TV station and newspaper. “I don’t say this based on nothing, but based on knowledge. don’t know if it will happen. But it could be that it will happen only due to a change in the government’s composition.”
  3. Some Zionist Union leaders have blasted such talk in recent days. They’ve said there is no rare moment for peace and have sharply criticized Herzog for being willing to sell out to Netanyahu. They say Herzog is simply angling for a senior government post because he’s slipping in the polls and could soon be voted out of leadership in his own political party. “In a scathing broadside, Yachimovich said the prime minister’s overtures were like ‘a bone Netanyahu has thrown, and called Herzog to come crawling back with the bone in his mouth,'” the Times of Israel reported.
  4. However, there are curious signs of a possible rapprochement between Israel and Sunni Arab neighbors. Over the last several years, Israeli and Saudi officials, for example, have been jointly developing strategies to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. Mostly this has been done under the radar, with occasional leaks to Israel, Western and Arab media. In June of 2015, however, a curious event happened. The Council on Foreign Relations hosted an event titled, “Regional Challenges and Opportunities: The View from Saudi Arabia and Israel.” In a rare — almost unprecedented — public event of its kind, the speakers were Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Anwar Eshki of Saudi Arabia and the Hon. Dore Gold, Israel’s former Ambassador to the U.N., the president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, and a confidante of Netanyahu (who was about become Director General of the Israeli Foreign Ministry soon thereafter). Then, in April 2016, the Egyptians successfully negotiated a transfer of some islands in the Red Sea back to the Saudis, an agreement that required explicit Israeli consent since the islands were covered by the Camp David Accords. This curiously put Israeli, Egyptian and Saudi diplomats in the rare position of privately holding extensive meetings, and then publicly agreeing on a diplomatic accord. Then, earlier this month, something even more curious happened: a senior Saudi official (a member of the Saudi Royal Family, no less) — His Royal Highness Prince Turki al-Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief and former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. — spoke side-by-side at a “pathbreaking” event in Washington, D.C. with Yaakov Amidror, the former Israeli National Security Advisor and close confidante of Netanyahu. They certainly didn’t agree on everything. But they were friendly. They were candid. They talked about various pathways to peace, including the long-discussed Saudi Peace Initiative which was first released in 2002. It’s unthinkable that these two men agreed to do the event without approval from their respective governments at the highest levels, even though they are both “formers.” It was thus fascinating to watch two former officials (more senior that those speaking at the CFR event the previous June) from two nations so long at war talking respectfully, even as friends. Something does appear to be afoot. (watch here)
  5. Last week, Netanyahu gave a speech to a gathering of foreign ambassadors that seemed to hint he might be open to some version of the Saudi peace plan.”I want to state unequivocally and in front of diplomats from around the world: I continue to support two states for two peoples: a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state — it’s about time,” Netanyahu told the diplomats. Then he added, “In recent years, I’ve seen formerly hostile states in the region and beyond, but especially in the region, form new and deep partnerships with us. I think this is a matter of great importance because I think this creates new hope. We can advance peace with the Palestinians directly and through the support of other nations, including in the region. It was once thought that the only way that we could advance peace with the Arab states was to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That would certainly help enormously. But it’s also true that we might solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem by enjoying the support of Arab states who now see Israel more and more not as an enemy, but as an ally against the forces that threaten their own countries as well.”
  6. Then today, out of the blue, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi offered to mediate an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord. “El-Sisi promised Israel on Tuesday warmer ties if it accepts efforts to resume peace talks with the Palestinians, urging its leaders not to waste an opportunity to bring security and hope to a troubled region,” Reuters reported. “In an impromptu speech at an infrastructure conference in the southern city of Assiut, Sisi said his country was willing to mediate a reconciliation between rival Palestinian factions to pave the way toward a lasting peace accord with the Israelis.” Curiously, Reuters also reported that “Sisi, who rarely speaks publicly about foreign policy, offered the 2002 Arab peace initiative as a potential way ahead. The initiative offered full recognition of Israel but only if it gave up all land seized in the 1967 Middle East war and agreed to a ‘just solution’ for Palestinian refugees.”
  7. UPDATE: “This is a genuine opportunity,” said President el-Sisi on national television. “We are willing to make all efforts to help find a solution to this problem….I say to our Palestinian brothers, you must unite the different factions in order to achieve reconciliation and quickly. We as Egypt are prepared to take on this role. It is a real opportunity to find a long-awaited solution.”
  8. Immediately, Netanyahu spoke to reporters to offer praise for el-Sisi’s offer. “I welcome Egyptian President El-Sisi’s remarks and his willingness to make every effort to advance a future of peace and security between us and the Palestinians and the peoples of the region,” Netanyahu told reporters. “Israel is ready to participate with Egypt and other Arab states in advancing both the diplomatic process and stability in the region. I appreciate President El-Sisi’s work and also draw encouragement from his leadership on this important issue.”
  9. Then, very shortly thereafter, opposition leader Herzog put out a statement also praising el-Sisi’s statement. This was particularly significant given that Herzog is currently negotiating with Netanyahu to create a “unity government” and become the nation’s Foreign Minister.
  10. UPDATE: The French have announced they are postponing their summer peace summit.
  11. UPDATE: “Channel 10 reported that Netanyahu and Herzog were planning a joint trip to Cairo if the latter joined the coalition, presumably as foreign minister.”
  12. UPDATE: Next came the news that “a textbook introduced this semester by the government of President Abdul-Fatah al-Sisi requires Egyptian pupils to memorize the provisions of the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty and delineate the ‘advantages of peace for Egypt and the Arab states.'” According to an article in the Jerusalem Post, “the assignments from the ninth grade book, The Geography of the Arab World and the History of Modern Egypt, are part of a change to a more robust and positive treatment of peace with Israel than that manifested in books during the three decades in power of al-Sisi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak. Ofir Winter, a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, who recently authored a study of the book, termed it ‘the first buds of development’ in Egyptian educational attitudes towards peace.”
  13. UPDATE: Then, in a dramatic and unexpected twist in the week, Herzog abruptly backed out of coalition talks with Netanyahu when he learned that Yisrael Beitenu leader Avigdor Liberman was also talking about joining the government. Netanyahu then offered Liberman the position of Defense Minister and invited his party to join the government immediately. Negotiations are still on-going at this hour, but for the moment Herzog seems out, and Liberman seems in. What that does to the “rare” opportunity for peace in the region is anyone’s guess.

UPDATED ANALYSIS: So what exactly is going on? Clearly, it’s too early to say. With apologies to Shakespeare, it could be much ado about nothing. No one knows the actual contours of what is being discussed, and there are many twists and turns ahead. I’m not saying peace is at hand. History is littered with failed talks — if talks even get re-started any time soon.

Curiously quiet in the back and forth were Palestinian leaders — at least initially. Now there are rumors (not surprising) that Abbas is deeply unhappy about the prospect of Liberman joining the government.

Still, Christ said “blessed are the peacemakers.” The Psalmist commands us to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.” It’s always important to seek peace with one’s neighbors and enemies — to try, anyway — is it not, so long as you don’t make things worse and not better?

Netanyahu and his closest advisors have made the case in recent years that rather than Arab states like Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates waiting to make peace with Israel until after a deal with the Palestinians is complete, why don’t Arab states make peace with Israel now, like Egypt and Jordan have? This, they argue, just might (might) create a framework of security and trust that could improve the chances of the Israelis and Palestinians finding a deal everyone could accept. I’m not saying they are right or wrong. I’m just highlighting their argument.

Until now, it would have been unimaginable that the Saudis would ever warm up to real peace with Israel. And the Gulf states aren’t likely to make formal peace with Israel before the Saudis do, if the Saudis ever do. But as I’ve been reporting for several years, there are definitely signs of thaw between Israel and the Sunni Arab states. (See here, here, and here, for a few examples.) This has never been more so than this past month.

Many Sunni Arab states increasingly see the apocalyptic leaders of Iran and ISIS as the real threats to regional peace and security, and increasingly see Israel as a potential ally in dealing with both threats.

That’s not to say the Sunni Arabs are happy with Israel. There are deep-seated cultural, ethnic and religious disagreements for many, and hatreds for some. But that’s an update on the current state of play.

[Final note: Are there prophetic implications to such trends, when viewed from the lens of Bible prophecy? Absolutely, and we’ll examine them if the process moves forward.]

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