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Revisiting the Trump Plan

At first glance the Trump peace plan appeared to have a lot of positive benefits for Israel, but now I am not so sure it would be a change for the better

US President Donald Trump’s “vision” for peace certainly marked a welcome reversal of the trend of recent decades whereby the international community slowly whittled away at Israel’s rights and positions in the peace process. Whereas Israel was increasingly under pressure to offer the Palestinians nearly 100% of the West Bank for a Palestinian state, Trump’s plan dropped back to only 70%. And even with that, Israel would retain overall security control from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and no settlements would be forcibly uprooted.

The Palestinians also would have to meet some steep preconditions to qualify for statehood – e.g., disarm Hamas, accept a demilitarized state, end the ‘pay-for-slay’ welfare benefits for terrorists, and educate for peace.

But with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu now poised to start extending sovereignty to parts of Judea/Samaria come July 1st, many have taken a closer look at the Trump plan and are having second thoughts. To find out why, I joined a tour this week of the northern Shomron and spoke with local Jewish community leaders there.

Do The Math!
These settlement leaders said they prefer the status quo to the unpredictable consequences of the Trump plan, as all the Israeli communities in Judea/Samaria currently can access each other and Israel proper with ease. Israelis and Palestinians peacefully share the same main roads every day because the IDF is in control of them. This includes Highway 60, the primary north-south artery which runs from below Hebron, through Jerusalem and up past Nablus.

However, they fear the Trump plan is going to sever Highway 60 in several key places, blocking access to local Israelis. For proof, they point to the “conceptual map” which was released along with the Trump plan back in January. Although press reports suggest the final map is still being worked out by an American-Israeli joint committee, that initial map emerged after several years of consultations between US and Israeli officials and it already seems to reflect the Israeli consensus on which settlements should be kept in any peace agreement. The map also incorporates the Trump plan’s express aim of creating a contiguous Palestinian state wherever possible. Thus, we should not expect the map to change all that much.

The problem here is in the math. The Trump plan would allow Israel to “annex” up to 30% of Judea/Samaria, being half of the 60% of the West Bank designated as “Area C” under the Oslo accords. These are areas now under full Israeli civil and security control, where all the settlements and most of the main roads are located.

Yet Netanyahu is determined to procure the Jordan Valley, to create a security buffer between the Palestinians and Jordan, and that region already accounts for 20% of the 30% Israel is allowed to claim. On the conceptual map, the remaining ten percent is quickly consumed by solidifying Israel’s foothold around Jerusalem and the major settlement blocs of Ariel, Gush Etzion and the Binyamin region. As a result, little is left to secure the futures of some 15 significant settlements in northern Samaria and southern Judea.

The conceptual map shows these 15 towns completely cut off from each other, and each one accessing the rest of Israel via single, narrow corridors completely surrounded by the proposed Palestinian state. Further, once Israel starts extending sovereignty under the Trump plan, it immediately imposes a building freeze in those 15 settlements for the four years of proposed negotiations with the Palestinians.

So although the Trump plan would not force the dismantlement of any settlements, it would leave some of them so isolated, frozen and insecure, that they would likely succumb to voluntary evacuation. As one settler leader put it, the plans intends for these communities to “dry up.” The result would be a long, slow, painful displacement involving three-to-four times the number of Israeli families uprooted in the 2005 Disengagement from Gaza.

Lost Heritage
Our hosts in the Shomron also voiced concerns over the potential loss of hundreds of important biblical sites revered by Christians and Jews, once they fall into Palestinian hands. This includes Joshua’s Altar, which we visited on Mt. Ebal (see Joshua 8:30-35). This is one of the oldest and most authentic biblical sites in the entire Land of Israel. The 3500 year-old altar was found to contain numerous irrefutable proofs of the biblical text, and helps to date the correct time of the Exodus – a major point of contention with Bible skeptics and Egyptologists.

Even notable New Testament sites like Jacob’s Well, where Jesus met the Samaritan woman (John 4), would be lost to a Palestinian regime that has shown no regard for preserving Jewish or Christian holy sites.

Exit Ramps
Above all, many settler leaders and their allies are coming out against the Trump plan simply because it calls for the creation of a Palestinian state. Some are banking on the Palestinians to continue rejecting the Trump plan, as they have always done with other peace plans. But others are worried that once Israel starts extending its laws to portions of the disputed territories, the nation will be locked into a process which could lead to a hostile Palestinian state in the heart of Israel. They are hoping the government will insist on clear exit ramps from the process for Israel should the Palestinians not comply with their obligations – which was a major point of weakness of the failed Oslo process.

In addition, Israel is only assured of American recognition of its sovereignty in the 30% it annexes, which could easily be reversed by a future US president as early as next January. Meantime, Israel would be widely viewed as having permanently ceded its claim to 70% of the territories and yet will still face the fury of the rest of the world for doing so.

A Plea for Patience
My own view is that the members of the Trump team which crafted this plan were well-meaning and have indeed tabled the best deal any US government has ever offered to Israel to resolve the Palestinian issue. However, I get uneasy any time Israel gets close to giving away any part of its biblical inheritance forever.

In June 1967, Israel came into possession of Judea/Samaria – the heartland of ancient Israel – in a war of self-defense. God miraculously delivered these territories into Israel’s hands, but the world has been trying to talk Israel out of them ever since.

Yet the lesson of the peace process over the intervening decades is that – whether under outside pressure or not – every time Israelis have been ready to cede in perpetuity any part of their God-given land heritage to the Palestinians for the sake of peace, it always seems to blow up in their faces in the form of violence and terrorism.

Instead, the Israeli people and their leaders need to have patience and faith in God, and allow Him time and room to work out His purposes for their nation. To surrender all future right and claim to major portions of Judea/Samaria just seems to me like a serious expression of unbelief, because it says God is not able to deliver these lands to Israel in rest and peace, as He has promised.

Rather, Israel should find a way for the Palestinians to run their own lives and affairs, but without ever having to permanently relinquish its claim and title to these contested areas. In other words, something akin to the status quo – which is not perfect by any means, but still may be the best answer until God provides a better one.

The international community also needs to learn the lesson that every time they try to birth a Palestinian state on lands divinely promised to Israel, that state always comes out stillborn. The Palestinians have declared statehood several times already and many nations have recognized it, and yet there is still no viable Palestinian state. Instead, we only wind up suffering through the birth pangs. May that not be the fate of the Trump plan.

ICEJ Statement on Annexation

With a new Israeli government finally in place, the debate is now fully engaged – at home and abroad –as to whether Israel should “annex” portions of Judea/Samaria under the terms of the Trump peace plan.

As this debate unfolds, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem will remain respectful of Israeli democracy and the right of its citizens to decide these matters of great national concern. Yet we also realise not everyone will afford Israel the same respect, and thus we will stand with Israel’s historic claim to the lands under consideration and its right to make these decisions free of undue interference, pressure and threats.

The term “annexation” is actually a misnomer in this instance, as it commonly denotes the forcible taking of the territory of another. But here, Israel already held a legitimate historic right and claim to Judea/Samaria even before it came into possession of these areas in an act of self-defense in 1967. The question now facing Israel is whether to fully assert its sovereign title to certain of these territories by simply extending its laws there.

The Jewish people’s claim to the historic Land of Israel was recognized by the international community at the San Remo Conference in 1920 and in the League of Nations’ mandate decisions in 1922. This was not the granting of a new right to the land, but recognition of the Jewish people’s pre-existing claim as an indigenous people seeking to reconstitute their national sovereignty in their ancestral homeland. Nothing since has abrogated or voided that right to sovereignty over the Land of Israel, including those areas now commonly referred to as the West Bank.

In fact, Israel’s title to Judea/Samaria under international law is just as valid today as the sovereign claims of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq to their own lands, since they all trace their title back to a common source. That is, the same decision-makers resolved in the same basic transactions to recognize the respective rights of each nation based on the same set of legal principles.

By its nature, sovereignty also includes the right to cede lands, and the Israeli people must now decide whether to fully assert their rights to certain portions of Judea/Samaria and to cede other areas to their rival Palestinian claimants for the sake of peace. Sadly, previous Israeli attempts to achieve peace by conceding disputed lands to the Palestinians were met by rejection, violence and bloodshed.

The Trump plan represents a clear departure from these failed peace efforts of the past. It dramatically reverses the trend of recent decades whereby the international community has slowly eroded away at Israel’s rights and positions without requiring any Palestinian concessions. It also truly tests, for the first time, the real intentions of the Palestinian leadership.

Meanwhile, the plan has many benefits for Israel, but it also would require painful concessions and involve huge security risks. There are a number of other factors which will need to be considered, such as the repercussions in the region and the re-election chances of President Trump. But these are decisions for the Israeli people to make, and the leadership and global following of the ICEJ will stand beside them in a responsible, constructive role as committed friends and supporters no matter the outcome.

Dr. Jürgen Bühler
President
International Christian Embassy Jerusalem
 

Deleting ‘Israel’ from the Bible?

In April, Christians in Denmark raised the alarm about a new translation of the Bible published by the Danish Bible Society which omits or replaces hundreds of references to “Israel” in both the Old and New Testaments.

In the new Contemporary Danish Bible 2020, the name “Israel” is deleted in all but two of the sixty places it appears in the New Testament, and in some instances it is replaced with phrases like “the Jews” or “land of the Jews.” In the revised Old Testament, some 250 references to Israel are similarly erased or replaced, amounting to just under 10% of all such references in the Tanakh.

The Danish Bible Society contends that these changes were necessary so that ordinary Danes will not mistakenly connect Biblical Israel with modern Israel. However, this can never justify such an assault on the integrity of the Holy Scriptures and their eternal truths. And because most national Bible societies around the world receive broad support from Evangelical believers, it is important that we raise our voices about this errant work of Bible translation.

First of all, we must uphold the Holy Scriptures as inviolable – their original, essential meaning must never be changed. Now translating the Bible into various languages can present many challenges, especially when it comes to certain Hebrew or Greek words in rare use or with multiple meanings. But “Israel” is “Israel”, and there is no need or rationale for ever changing it.

Secondly, it is impossible to remove the nation and people of Israel from their central role in God’s redemptive plan for all humanity, as is so consistently affirmed throughout the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. The New Testament concurs with theOld Testament that God’s election over both the land and people of Israel are inseparable and enduring. But the Danish Bible Society is seeking to sever that connection in people’s mind, which would render of no effect the many divine promises of Israel’s last-day restoration to the land. This would mean God is unfaithful or untrustworthy concerning His promises, and even turn Him into a liar. Heaven forbid!

In an exchange of letters between the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem and the director general of the Danish Bible Society, they have insisted that the Danish public has a problem when they read the Bible, see the word “Israel,” and immediately equate it with the modern-day state of Israel. It seems that today’s Israel is viewed in such a negative light throughout Denmark (thanks largely to the Danish media’s incessant bias against Israel), making any connection to it skews the average Dane’s understanding of the historic Israel of the Bible.

Their answer is to steer the reader’s attention away from Israel as a nation inhabiting a particular land, and focus it instead on the ancient (and modern) Jewish people. But, more often than not in the Bible, “Israel” refers to both the land and the people – that is, the nation of Israel. This is an inescapable truth! And the two cannot be separated so easily, as it does incalculable harm to its original, fundamental meaning – and to the immutable counsel and purpose of God (Hebrews 6:13-20).

Now what the Danish Bible Society has sought to accomplish, they easily could have done in column or foot notes alongside the Bible text, which has become the accepted practice in the field of Bible translation. But here, the sacred words themselves were changed in order to accommodate shifting secular views.

It is one thing to seek to interpret biblical passages in a way which divests the Jewish people of their unique place in Scripture or their irrevocable heritage in the Land of Israel. This is a grave mistake which many Christians have been making for centuries now. But to translate actual passages of the Bible by erasing key references to Israel in this way is an even greater travesty.

Where does this folly end? Will they one day replace the word “Church” in Scripture with the name of some popular socialist movement? Will they replace the name of Jesus with some false savior?

And how can you rob God of His very own identity, seeing that He repeatedly describes Himself in Scripture as the “God of Israel”? (See e.g., Exodus 5:1; 2 Samuel 12:7; Psalm 72:18; Isaiah 45:3; Jeremiah 31:23; Ezekiel 44:2; Malachi 2:16; Matthew 15:31; Luke 1:68; Acts 13:17). Sure, He was the God of an ancient people known as Israel, but He also gave this people a specific land as an “eternal possession” (Genesis 17:8), planted them in that land so they could become a unique nation in the earth, and promised to watch over them in that land. Some may not be comfortable with what the contemporary nation of Israel is doing today, but God has brought the Jewish people back to their eternal homeland to do great and marvelous things with them here which will bless the whole world. This is not something to run from but to embrace, and to take the time to explain as best we can to every Dane and anyone else who will listen.

The international network of Bible Societies around the world are widely respected within the Christian world for their noble mission of making the Word of God available to all peoples and nations in their native languages. But the Danish Bible Society has now brought disgrace upon its own chapter of this revered association by its disturbing and unacceptable actions. They need to honor the integrity of the Holy Scriptures by withdrawing this seriously flawed Bible translation from circulation.

Please sign our online petition to the Danish Bible Society 

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and Senior Spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. 

A Bridge Too Far?

The row between Israeli authorities and GOD TV over its new license to broadcast Gospel programming in Hebrew on HOT cable is a story that is not going away soon, and many are now joining the fray. It is a dispute that is beginning to tear at decades of efforts to build bridges between pro-Israel Christians and their Jewish friends. Now that the facts are a little clearer, it is time to weigh in on the matter, appeal for calm, and seek to preserve those hard-won advances in Jewish-Christian relations.

The story broke several weeks ago when Ward Simpson, CEO of GOD TV, announced in an online video that Israeli authorities had approved their new channel for carrying the message of Yeshua to the Israeli people, while also appealing for donations to support the new channel. Facing a sudden public outcry, the head of Israel’s Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Council tried to plead that they were misled and to deflect blame.*

Thus the initial media reports suggested that GOD TV may have misled the Council about its intentions to evangelize on air when applying for a license to broadcast its new Hebrew channel Shelanu (“Ours”) on HOT. But the station’s local Messianic Jewish leaders are now insisting that they were clear about their plans with HOT representatives, who offered to draft and submit a license application on their behalf and came back with the license for Shelanu.*

The Council is scheduled to meet next week to review the license application and decide whether to revoke it for violating Israeli laws against proselytizing. Shelanu has retained legal counsel to assert its democratic rights to free speech and salvage its seven-year contract with HOT, the largest cable provider in Israel. The most severe measure would likely be that this new channel will wind up behind some sort of parental code restriction, for reasons stated later.

A Hot Button Issue

As that bureaucratic process runs its course, many Christians and Jews are voicing their positions on this sensitive issue of missionizing in Israel. Some of the reactions have been measured, reasoned and constructive; others have been heated, alarmist and way off-topic.

Many of the Jewish contributors to the debate have said this episode has confirmed their suspicions that pro-Israel Evangelicals were hiding their real intentions all along. They also have accused Messianic Jews in particular of using deceptive tactics to blur the differences between Judaism and Christianity.

On the Christian side, a surprising number of Evangelical leaders have openly called for an end to any preaching of the Gospel to Jews, due to either the history of Christian antisemitism, the teaching of Replacement theology, or their belief that the Jewish people have their own covenant of salvation. One leading pro-Israel Evangelical activist even wrote to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging him to ban the channel from broadcasting missionary content in Israel.

One of the most thoughtful, balanced responses overall came from Jonathan S. Tobin, the veteran American Jewish journalist who currently serves as editor-in-chief of the Jewish News Service. Writing in Haaretz this week (“Evangelicals Trying to Convert Jews: A Fair Price for Christian Support for Israel?” – 11 May 2020), Tobin laid out the pros and cons of accepting Evangelical support for Israel and then concluded: “If Jews, whether they are settlers or liberals, are genuinely alarmed about Christians seeking converts, they should compete against them in a free market of ideas rather than just fume about the sinister nature of missionizing.”

Here, Tobin touches on the real heart of the issue at hand – the tension of Israel being both a democratic and a Jewish state.

A Delicate Balancing Act

As Christians, we regularly and robustly defend Israel as the only true democracy in the Middle East, and rightfully so. This necessarily includes the right of all Israelis to free speech – including its Messianic Jewish citizens. Yet weighed against this is the Jewish vision that the restored nation of Israel would serve as a safe haven from all the abuses and atrocities the Jewish people faced out among the nations – especially in Christian lands. This includes an expectation to never be bothered again by any attempts to convert them to another religion.

Now for whatever reason, there is a broad misperception that missionary activity is completely banned in Israel. It is true that there is a strong cultural stigma against proselytizing here, but so far the Knesset has enacted only two laws regulating this area. One makes it a crime to offer material inducements to persuade someone to change their religion, while the other forbids proselytizing a minor (under 18) without the consent of their parents. These are both reasonable measures. And there have been few criminal prosecutions and no successful convictions yet under either law.

There have been other legislative efforts to significantly broaden the legal limits on missionizing in Israel. The most serious attempt came in 1998 after a prominent Pentecostal minister mailed an evangelistic book in Hebrew to nearly one million Israeli homes. In response, a bill was introduced in the Knesset which would have effectively made it illegal to possess the New Testament in Israel. The proposed law was a clear overreach for a democratic country, and it was eventually withdrawn amid fruitful dialogue efforts between Christian and Jewish clergy in Jerusalem.

Meantime, in a more recent test of the limits of Israel’s anti-missionary restrictions, the Supreme Court upheld the religious freedoms of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to hold a public event in Raanana after the city sought to close it down for fear of proselytizing.

Thus, it is clear that one is fairly free to share one's faith in Israel. You just have to stay within the confines of the two relevant laws while also being prepared to face some form of societal backlash, such as eggs and tomatoes thrown by haredi youths. In fact, there have been violent demonstrations in front of Messianic congregations, and some Christians have encountered visa problems at the Ministry of Interior due to zealous lobbying by anti-missionary groups. Or a state broadcasting board might try to withdraw your cable license under public pressure.

Even so, Christians also must take into account the uniqueness of Israel as the Jewish nation, First, we owe Israel a generous measure of humility and respect in light of the unavoidable, undeniable history of Christian antisemitism. To exercise the right of free speech here without any regard for that history or the Jewish sensitives against missionizing would be a callous misuse of that right. 

In addition, the Jewish people are not just like any other nation or people who need to hear the Good News, since it was through them that faith in the God of Israel, the God of the Bible, came to the Gentile nations. The very first missionaries to bring the Gospel to Greek and Barbarian lands were what we would today call "Messianic Jews," who within a generation or so had turned multitudes in the Greco-Roman world into believers in a loving and redeeming God. 

The Evangelical Approach 

With these truths in mind, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem was founded on a biblical mandate to acknowledge, repent of and redress the wrongs and deep wounds inflicted on Jews in the name of Christ by our forebearers in the faith down through the centuries. We are primarily evangelical Christians who have been working for forty years now to remove this greatest of stains on the Church and to establish a new attitude towards Israel within churches worldwide. In addition, we believe that the modern-day restoration of Israel is in line with ancient biblical promises that God would restore His people back to their land one day.

It is true to say that leading Evangelical figures openly advocated for a future restoration of the Jewish people back to their homeland even before the emergence of Jewish political Zionism.

Our Jewish friends also should remember that in the 500-year history of the Evangelical movement, there is little record of antisemitic violence or hostilities against Jews. There have been some Evangelical proponents of anti-Jewish beliefs and Replacement teachings as well as the lamentable failings and silence of Christians in general during the Holocaust. But there are no instances of forced conversions, inquisitions or pogroms carried out by Evangelical Christians. These things indeed happened to the Jews! We acknowledge them, we regret them, and we willingly take responsibility for repairing their damage as best we can. But we Evangelicals did not commit them ourselves. Thus it is wrong for Jews to project onto their Evangelical friends the fears they still harbor of religious coercion which arose out of the abuses committed by other Christian traditions in the past.

The core of Evangelical belief is a personal relationship with God, rather than belonging to a state religion or denomincation. We view faith as precious and something which can only be received freely by a willing heart. We agree that no one can or should be compelled to believe something contrary to their conscience. Thus, we do not practice coercion. Rather we believe that faith is ultimately a gift from God and our calling is merely to share that Good News with others. 

Furthermore, we have never tried to hide who we are. We are Christians who believe Jesus is the promised Jewish Messiah, and that we received the message and gift of salvation from the Jewish people. Much like the Hebrew Bible, even our New Testament was written by Jewish apostles who arose in Israel. The command to share our faith with the entire world is a major tenet of Christianity. To demand that we refrain from giving witness to our faith is like asking the Jewish people not to keep Shabbat. And yet through this very command of the Great Commission, faith in the God of Israel has reached literally to the ends of the earth. The consequence is that Israel today has faithful friends in every country of the world. 

Yet because of the long, painful history of Christian antisemitism, the ICEJ has made a voluntary commitment not to engage in missionary activity towards the Jewish people, and this we have faithfully kept for the past four decades. Our support for Israel is not contingent on Jews accepting our beliefs as to who the Messiah is, but rather we stand with Israel and fight antisemitism around the world because Israel is the "apple of God's eye" (Zechariah 2:8). The Apostle Paul even instructs all Christians to love and bless the Jewish people. because they remain "beloved for the sake of the fathers" (Romans 11:28).

At the same time, we cannot demand that all Christians refrain from sharing the Gospel with Jews. Nor will we disassociate ourselves from our Messianic Jewish brethren. Those Christians who are doing so in response to the GOD TV controversy not only contradict Christian teaching but also risk becoming outcasts from the mainstream Evangelical movement. Rather, we must strive to forge an honest, genuine friendship with the Jewish people, even while never removing the tension of Jesus from between us.

We fully understand that Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism each have a different "end of history." But ever since the nadir of Auschwitz, many Jews and Christians have come to realize that we need to build secure bridges between our faiths without any hidden agendas. This historic shift has meant that there are now hundreds of millions of Christians who feel immense gratitude towards the Jewish people and are even more impassioned to express it because their Messiah declared that salvation has come from the Jews (John 4:22).

We can and must continue to build strong, lasting relations between Christians and Jews, while doing so along clearly understood parameters. Evangelicals should never condition our support for Israel and the Jewish people on whether they will allow us to preach the Gospel to them. By the same token, our Jewish colleagues in this endeavor cannot expect Christians to affirm their rejection of Jesus as a condition of our friendship.

I firmly believe that the bridges built between Jews and Christians over recent decades is a remarkable historic phenomenon orchestrated by the Holy Spirit. This new-found relationship is a fascinating and enriching journey for both sides. And I am confident it will survive the current dust-up over GOD TV. It is not a bridge too far.

David Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist, and ordained minister who serves as Vice President and Senior Spokesman for the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. 

* Details in these paragraphs were corrected for accuracy as of 20:35 on 16 May 2020, to clarify the role of HOT cable in this matter.

Israel's New Government & the Annexation Puzzle

After three elections and seventeen months of political deadlock, it was a relief for most Israelis this week when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and rival Benny Gantz finally agreed on a deal to form a unity government. The coalition agreement hinges around a rotation formula between the two rivals, and even though there are still many hurdles to overcome before the new government can be sworn in, the logjam does appear to be broken.

Yet the broad coalition will instantly face some steep challenges, such as ending the Coronavirus lockdowns, reviving a shuttered economy, and deciding whether to annex parts of Judea/Samaria under the favorable terms of the Trump peace plan. The annexation quandary could prove especially thorny, for several reasons.

To begin with, the national religious camp has been pressuring Netanyahu to forge ahead with his recent campaign promise to annex the Jordan Valley, plus the larger settlement blocs. Some contend it is especially critical to do so while US President Donald Trump is still in the White House.

But others insist such a move could easily backfire, as Trump may lose his re-election bid come November and the next US president might come down hard on Israel. And even if he wins re-election, annexing lands under Trump’s plan also would require Israel to accept a demilitarized Palestinian state in the rest of the West Bank. Meanwhile, the Palestinians can be expected to vehemently oppose any annexation moves. But perhaps the biggest worry is that annexation of the Jordan Valley could endanger Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan and even destabilize the Kingdom due to anger among its Palestinian majority.

No matter how this annexation decision plays out over coming months, the irony is that history has somehow cornered Israel into an internal debate about annexing lands that it already owns. So how did this come about?

Remember San Remo
Among the recent casualties of the Coronavirus threat were well-laid plans to celebrate the centennial of the San Remo Conference, a diplomatic conclave which took place exactly 100 years ago this week and served as a monumental moment in the modern-day rebirth of Israel as a nation. It was at San Remo that the international community first recognized the Jewish people’s historic right to reconstitute their national sovereignty in their ancestral homeland – which included what we now call the West Bank.

At the end of World War One, the victorious Allied Powers met with the vanquished German side at the Palace of Versailles in 1919 and agreed on how to redraw the map of Europe. They then gathered a second time the following spring in San Remo to sit with the defeated Turks and divvy up the lands the Ottomans had just lost in the Middle East.

San Remo is a gem of the Italian Riviera. In April, the orange trees begin blossoming and sea breezes carry the sweet scents up the green hillsides. As key world leaders gathered there in late April 1920, it must have provided an intoxicating atmosphere in which to finally unwind from four horrible years of war and two years of the even deadlier Spanish flu pandemic.

When the San Remo delegates did get down to business, the leaders of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Japan – with American foreknowledge and acquiescence – made some fateful decisions which still resonate to this day.

These ‘Principal Allied Powers’ did an unusual thing at San Remo. Rather than claiming lands conquered in war as their own territory, as with most victors before them, they decided to maintain possession of the Ottoman lands and hold the sovereign title in trust for the benefit of the local inhabitants until they were ready to govern themselves. This was accomplished through the novel concept of the mandate system.

In fact, the San Remo conference actually marks a self-imposed end of the colonial era. The age of empires exploiting the populations and resources of foreign lands for their own enrichment was passing. US president Woodrow Wilsonian was advocating freedom and self-determination for native peoples worldwide. And the European powers responded with the concept of mandates, or trusteeships, to help them develop and mature as free, self-governing nations.

Credit for the mandate concept belongs to Mark Sykes (of the secret Sykes-Picot accord) and more directly to Jan Christiaan Smuts, a quite remarkable figure. He fought against the British as a commander of South African forces in the Second Boer War, only to later serve as a member of the British cabinet. He was the only person to sign both peace treaties ending the First and Second World wars. Smuts also became a champion of respecting and empowering native peoples, and he had a special affinity for the Jewish people.

In 1919, Smuts had drafted a memorandum setting out the mandate concept, which later became Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations. This document, first unveiled at San Remo, specifically mentions Palestine as a mandated territory to be developed into a Jewish state in accordance with the Balfour Declaration of 1917.

At San Remo, the allied powers agreed to apply the mandate system to the vacated Ottoman territories. The British were assigned trusteeships over Palestine (including Transjordan) and “Mesopotamia” (later Iraq), while the French were given guardianship over the areas of today’s Syria and Lebanon. The mandatory powers were to hold sovereign title in trust for the native peoples and help them progress towards self-rule. And, quite importantly, the Jewish people were recognized as indigenous to Palestine to the same degree as the Arab peoples were considered indigenous to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan. Further, the national beneficiaries of the Palestine mandate were deemed to be the entire Jewish people, even those still living in exile.

These decisions were encapsulated in the San Remo resolutions, and two years later they were affirmed by the League of Nations when approving the British and French mandates in the region.

So the British recognized the pre-existing right and claim of the Jewish people to the historic Land of Israel in the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which was then endorsed by other leading world powers at San Remo in 1920, and finally affirmed by the broader League of Nations in 1922. The United States promptly endorsed Britain’s Mandate in Palestine, both in a joint act of Congress in 1922 and in a treaty with Great Britain two years later, and pledged to be a guarantor of its provisions, which included the obligation to encourage “close settlement of Jews on the land.”

Nothing since has nullified the Jewish right and title to the entire lands west of the Jordan River. Not the UN Partition Plan of 1947, which was rejected by the Arabs. Not even the Oslo accords (although it certainly helps when Israel asserts more vigorously its title to Judea/Samaria).

As Noble as the Neighbors
What all this means is that the nation and people of Israel are now considering whether to annex something they already own. The Jewish people may have lost possession of the West Bank during the 19 years it was (illegally) occupied by Jordan, but they never lost their sovereign title to it. The state of Israel came back into possession of these territories in 1967, and it is just that the world has been trying to talk them out of it ever since.

Yet those who question or deny Israel’s legal claim to Judea/Samaria need to realize that Israel’s title to this land is just as solid as the sovereign claims of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Iraq to their own lands. The reason is that they all can be traced back to a “common grantor.”

Under this legal principle, the source and quality of one man’s title to a piece of land is considered to be just as good as his neighbors if they can both trace title back to the same grantor in the same basic transaction. In this case, Israel can trace its claim of ownership to Judea/Samaria back to the same decisionmakers, meeting at the same San Remo conference and relying on the very same principles of international law which created the sovereign states of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

So if Damascus is truly Syrian, if the Lebanese belong in Beirut, and the Iraqi people own the land between the two rivers, then the Jewish people have every right to lay claim to the Jordan Valley as their home.

When God Says ‘Never Again!’

Early next week, Israel will mark Yom HaShoah, its annual Holocaust Remembrance Day to honor the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Normally, it is a very solemn occasion. Everyone stands in silence when the nationwide siren blares. There are no entertainment programs on Israeli television, just shows paying tribute to the countless victims of the Nazi genocide. The restaurants and bars, movie theaters and dance halls are all closed for this one singular day.


But this year, Yom HaShoah will feel a little different. The restaurants and bars, movie theaters and dance halls have been closed for weeks already due to Coronavirus threat. Israel just went through a most unusual Passover due to this global health crisis, and now they must remember those lost in the Shoah under these same trying circumstances.

Israel’s founders deliberately set the official date for commemorating the Holocaust so as to honor the heroes of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, which was launched by courageous, poorly-armed Jewish resistance fighters during Passover in April of 1943. But because the Passover week is a sacred biblical holiday, Yom HaShaoh is marked five days after the end of Pessach. Still, most Israelis are well aware that the uprising took place during the feast of unleavened bread, and that it marked yet another difficult Passover in Jewish history.

For the Jewish people, Passover has always been about deliverance, freedom and national identity. But down through the many centuries of their dispersion, it also became a season of fear and dread as many Jewish communities faced blood libels and pogroms around this time of year. This was especially so in Christian lands, when many in the churches exploited Easter observances to turn people against the “Christ killers.” Even Jews returning to the Land of Israel faced deadly Arab riots whipped up by Muslim clerics around Passover/Easter, such as the Nebi Musa riots in Jerusalem in April 1920.

This Passover was no exception. As the Coronavirus spread worldwide, Jews were quickly scapegoated for being the source of this pandemic. There are far too many recent examples of this odious wave of antisemitism to cite here, but perhaps the most repulsive came from a professed evangelical, Rick Wiles of the TruNews program. The Florida pastor recently insisted that the spread of Coronavirus in synagogues was a divine punishment of the Jewish people for still opposing Jesus. (He also claimed in the same show that the effort to impeach US President Donald Trump was a “Jew coup.”)

This is why Christian observance of Yom HaShoah is so important. We must remember the cruelty and atrocities of Hitler and his many Christian accomplices. We must recall how far too often the worst tormentors of the Jews were Christians. We must renew our efforts to educate for a better future between Jews and Christians. We must renounce Jew-haters even within our own Evangelical ranks. And we must resolve that what happened in the Holocaust will never happen again!

Now many today readily endorse the slogan “Never Again!” But do they really mean it? And can we be sure that humanity will indeed prevent another mass genocide against the Jews gathered back in their ancient homeland?

I do not know about humanity, but I take great comfort in the fact that God has said: “Never Again!” Consider these amazing verses from the Word of God, all related to His sworn promise to regather the Jewish people safely back in the Land of Israel in the last days.

“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, who has dealt wondrously with you. And My people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else. And My people shall never again be put to shame." (Joel 2:26-27 / ESV)

“Thus says your Lord, the Lord, even your God Who contends for His people, ‘Behold, I have taken out of your hand the cup of reeling, the chalice of My anger; You will never drink it again. I will put it into the hand of your tormentors, who have said to you, “Lie down that we may walk over you.” You have even made your back like the ground and like the street for those who walk over it.’” (Isaiah 51:22-23 / NASB)

“I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations.” (Ezekiel 36:30 / ESV)

“’I will plant them on their land, and they shall never again be uprooted out of the land that I have given them,’ says the Lord your God.” (Amos 9:15 / ESV)

“The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; He has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil.” (Zephaniah 3:15 / ESV)

“And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.” (Zechariah 14:11 / ESV)

Finally, the words of the prophet Ezekiel…. “And because of all your abominations, I will do among you what I have not done, and the like of which I will never do again. (Ezekiel 5:9 / NASB)

Taken together, this all means that although God indeed punished and scattered the Jewish people for their sin and rebellion against Him, the worst He would ever do to them has passed and we are now in a season of return and restoration for Israel. And in this appointed time of mercy and favor upon Zion (Psalm 102:13), those who come against the Jewish people and nation today are opposing the plan and purpose of a mighty God and will eventually come to ruin (Isaiah 54:14-15 / NKJV).

So God has sworn that He will never again allow the calamities of previous generations to happen to Israel. That is a great comfort as we mark Yom HaShoah once more. But it does not absolve us of the moral duty for every Christian to speak up and defend the Jewish people from antisemitism. We must warn those who still drink from this toxic trough that it is wrong, it is cruel, it is deceitful, and it will only lead to their own ruin.

THE SPIRITUAL ROOT OF THE CORONAVIRUS

“…the curse causeless shall not come.” Proverbs 26:2 (AKJV)
 
By now, everyone on earth has been impacted by the Coronavirus pandemic in some way. With the number of infections and deaths still rising and stock markets crashing, people are beginning to seriously worry about not only catching the virus, but also whether they might lose their jobs, their pensions and perhaps even their homes. 
 
People also are looking for answers. How did this health crisis come upon us so suddenly and with such devastating effects? How long will it last? Where is God in this global crisis? And could this actually be a sign of the End Times?
 
No one knows all the answers to these questions. But I would like to offer some key prophetic insights which shed light on how this happened, and why. I believe these biblical explanations actually lay at the spiritual root of the current Corona crisis.
 
FIRST, there is a widespread sense that no one saw this coming. It is true that nobody predicted this particular viral threat arising from this specific source at this exact time and having these certain consequences. However, there have been ample credible voices of late predicting the outbreak of major viral threats to humans originating from animals.
 
For instance, when researching my book Floodgates (Whitaker Press, 2018), I ran across a recent edition of the US National Intelligence Council’s “Global Trends” publication which expressed heightened concerns about such uncontrollable pandemics. Before his passing, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking also stated one of his greatest fears was that mankind could be wiped out one day by a pathogen which jumps from animals to humans.
 
It was easy to make these predictions because they have become rather commonplace over the past one hundred years. The grimmest example was the Spanish flu epidemic from 1918-19, which killed between 50 and 100 million people – at least four times more than died in World War I. The origin of this viral beast was believed to be swine, or perhaps poultry. The Asian flu of 1957 was an avian influenza that likely came from ducks. The Hong Kong flu of 1968-69 was considered another strain of bird flu. In more recent times, we have seen the AIDS virus, Ebola, swine flu, and the earlier Coronavirus strains MERS and SARS. Each of these illnesses have been traced back to monkeys, pigs or bats, and perhaps other intermediate host animals before they were transmitted to humans.
 
Based on this century long record, we should be able to put to rest all these conspiracy theories floating around about the COVID-19 virus being deliberately cooked up in a lab by the Chinese or US military. I also am skeptical of claims made by eco-scientists that these pandemics are occurring because mankind has destroyed the natural habitants of wild animals. To the contrary, many of these viruses have come from domesticated animals.
 
It also is quite evident by now that animal diseases and pathogens are jumping to humans more frequently these days, and scientists and medical researchers fear these viruses are mutating into stronger, more resistant strains at rates which will outpace our capabilities to defeat them.
 
And the question is – Why?
 
I believe the answer has a spiritual root or cause. It is because mankind has erased the line between us and the animals established by God in Scripture, and instead has come to view the human race as originating from animals. The Bible declares that humans are a special creation of God made in His image – the closest thing in creation to our Maker. We are of a higher order created separately by Him. But ever since the mainstream acceptance of Darwinian evolution, which coincidentally started around 100 years ago, much of humanity has abandoned this core principle of Scripture. We have denied the existence of God, taught only Evolution in our schools, erased the line between us and the animals, and now are paying the price. So we should not be surprised when diseases lurking in animals suddenly start infecting us at alarmingly new rates.
 
It also should not surprise us that this latest Coronavirus originated in China. The Chinese Communist regime has been extremely lax about regulating scientific experimentation, especially in gene-editing and crossbreeding of humans and animals. In fact in August of last year – just months before the Corona outbreak – there were numerous reports of a team of scientists in China who had created a human-monkey hybrid embryo… a chimera.
 
Such actions are a serious violation of the natural order set by God, and the spiritual consequences are that we are opening ever wider a portal or gateway for deadly animal diseases to leap into the human race. The biblical basis for this principle can be found in the story of Noah and the Flood.
THE FLOOD story is found in Genesis chapters 6 to 9. It is closely related to the Creation account of Genesis 1, where God looked down on everything He created (plants, animals, mankind) and saw it was all “good.” Yet by Genesis six, He looks down and sees mankind in open rebellion against Him. Man’s thoughts were “evil continuously,” the earth was “filled with violence,” and all flesh had been corrupted. Thus, the Lord decided to judge the ancient world through a global flood. Yet He waited 120 years before carrying out the judgment, giving time for His faithful servant Noah to build an ark to preserve his family and the animal kingdom, and also to warn the world of the looming judgment.
 
After the Deluge, God then offered mankind a new beginning. His covenant with Noah set the order for the turning of the seasons which we still enjoy to this day. But this covenant came with a rule, which we often overlook.
 
In Genesis 9:3-6, Noah was told mankind could now eat of all things, even the animals, just do not eat live flesh, with its blood. That makes more sense to us now that we know eating live animal flesh can bring lethal diseases. But this is more than a dietary law. The Lord adds that He will require an account from every life – the first place this important principle appears in the Bible. The passage also prohibits murder. But the rule goes deeper and is founded on the concept of Imago Dei - that mankind is a special creation of God made in His image.
 
Basically, this all means that we must draw a bold line between ourselves and the animal world. Mankind must treat every human life with dignity and respect, and maintain a high view of ourselves as the closest thing in Creation to God.
 
In a similar way, Adam was given one rule. He could eat of every tree in the Garden except for one tree (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam also was warned of the consequences for breaking the rule – death entered the world!
 
So what happens if we violate the one rule of the Noahide covenant? It means God would no longer be bound by His side of the covenant, and can severely judge the earth again – just not by water. This is why Jesus warned that the time of His second coming would be “as in Days of Noah.” (Matthew 24:36-39)
 
Jesus takes this prophetic warning from Isaiah 24, which foretells of a time when the earth will be made waste and its surface distorted (v.1); the inhabitants of the earth will be burned and few men left (v. 6); the earth will split open and be violently shaken (v. 19). All this will be happening because mankind has “broken the everlasting covenant” (v. 5) – a reference to God’s covenant with Noah (see Genesis 9:16). In other words, Isaiah foresaw an ominous day when humanity would be in violation of the one rule of the Noahide covenant.
 
In Floodgates, I make the case that humanity has been in breach of the Noahide command ever since the mainstream acceptance of Darwinian evolution. It is a direct refutation of the divine origin of man. Instead, it erases the line between humans and animals and says we came from them. Among the spiritual consequences of this violation of the divine order is that we have opened ourselves up more and more to sickness and diseases lurking inside animals. And this pandemic is but one of the many birth pangs – with many other causes – which will usher the world into the Messianic Age.
 
Our world also has used Darwinism to discard with God and any moral accountability to Him. In the process, the worship owed to God as our Creator necessarily must be directed somewhere else. Many elevate Science and human intellect to the status of an idol, believing it can provide the answer to anything. Rather than repenting and calling on God for deliverance from the Coronavirus threat, much of the world is trusting science and medicine to deliver the remedy to this plague. They are hoping some medical researcher will come up with a treatment or vaccine in time to save their job, their pension and their home.
 
I am hoping and praying that God indeed will soon lift this dark cloud from over all of us. Yet even when it does lift, rest assured that Science is not going to be able to save anyone from the wrath of God still to come. 
 
David R. Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist and ordained minister who serves as Vice President & Senior Spokesman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.
 
For more prophetic insights by the author on the Days of Noah and its applications to today, order his book "Floodgates" from the ICEJ online Store at:   https://www.icejstore.com/collections/books/products/flood-gates-by-david-r-parsons-book
 

FRIDAY FEATURE – Third Time Not the Charm

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party were euphoric at their unexpectedly strong showing in Israel’s third round of elections on Monday, but by week’s end the reality has set in that the nation is still locked in the same political quagmire that has dogged the public here for the past year. But unlike the inconclusive ballot results in April and September of last year, this time Netanyahu is now under criminal indictment and a majority of Knesset members may have the leverage to use that fact to deny him another term in office.
 
The official results will only be released this Monday, but the outcome is already clear. Thanks to a late surge, Netanyahu bested the rival Blue & White party by a surprising margin of 36 to 33 Knesset seats. But his allies on the Right can only muster 58 votes, three short of the 61-seat majority needed to form a ruling coalition and provide him immunity from prosecution. That also means the Center/Left parties, while probably unable to forge a coalition among themselves, still have enough mandates to block Netanyahu’s path to power.
 
Given a closer gap of only one or two Knesset seats, Netanyahu had his sights on several members on the opposing side that might be persuaded to join his camp with promises of cabinet positions or committee chairmanships. But all the likely targets rebuffed those efforts this week, Likud dropped a seat as the votes were tallied, and the entire strategy collapsed on Thursday when Avigdor Liberman announced that his Yisrael Beitenu faction would support a bill to bar an indicted MK from serving as prime minister.
 
Whether such a proposed law can be passed by a transition parliament and survive judicial scrutiny remains an open question that could take months to resolve. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin may also refuse on his own to hand Netanyahu a mandate to form a government due to the indictments, taking the political crisis to yet another level. But what was once considered only hypothetical is now an urgent legal quandary that will only deepen and prolong the year-long standoff.
 
Liberman is trying to pressure Likud to dump Netanyahu, pick a new leader and enter a secular, Zionist government of national unity with his party and the Blue & White list, led by former general Benny Gantz.
 
In response, Netanyahu can be expected to stand firm once more and force Liberman to decide between joining either him or a Left-leaning government supported by the (Arab) Joint List, which Liberman has always rejected. This is otherwise known as the “Bibi or Tibi” option.
 
This, of course, is the same dilemma that has been confronting the Israeli electorate for 17 months now. The drama is far from over, but here are some observations and conclusions to be drawn so far as this third attempt to resolve the political impasse has not yet been the charm many hoped for.
 
Netanyahu is a Political Maestro
Despite being under criminal indictment on counts of bribery, fraud and breach of trust, Netanyahu still managed a last-minute surge which propelled Likud to its highest-ever number of Knesset seats. A full third of the nation believes “only Bibi” can deliver the goods. He demonstrated as much just days before the election, when he dashed off to Uganda for a secret breakthrough meeting with the new leader of Sudan, until now one of Israel’s staunchest enemies. This came on the heels of President Donald Trump’s gift of a very pro-Israel peace plan, and Vladimir Putin’s release of an Israeli backpacker from the Russian gulag. Will he get another chance to work his magic?
 
Israeli Voters are not Budging
I have visited or lived in Israel for nearly forty years, and in that span I have witnessed the political pendulum swing back-and-forth, left-to-right, many times. And it always seemed Israelis were very malleable in their views and also could be very forgiving, as they ran off leaders like Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon only to embrace them again years later. But for now, the pendulum appears to be stuck. Very few have changed their minds and switched parties in three straight elections now. Will they get a fourth chance to do so?
 
The ‘Lot’ Falls on Liberman
If you want to identify exactly who is at fault for Israel’s current political meltdown, start with ‘kingmaker’ Avigdor Liberman. After spending ten years at Bibi’s side in Right-wing governments, he suddenly decided after the April 2019 elections to challenge the religious status quo, triggering a second and eventually a third election. For most Israelis, Liberman raised a valid point, that the ultra-Orthodox parties have been granted too much power and privilege for far too long, but he may not be the best one to champion this cause. And while most Israelis are standing put, he is shifting at will. Consider that after the first elections last year, he completely ignored the criminal probes against Netanyahu and demanded that UTJ and Shas finally compromise on the haredi draft bill. After the second elections, Liberman wished Netanyahu well in beating the pending charges and simply refused to sit with the ultra-Orthodox. This time, however, Liberman has decided to ditch Netanyahu as if he just learned of the corruption cases. Hardly a principled stand. Even so, Liberman could end Israel’s political misery in an instant, but will he?
 
Pride and Patriotism
At the heart of Israel’s political problems right now is a basic human trait we all struggle with – pride. The leaders of the political parties all think their path is moral and just and the right one for the nation. They each have set ‘red lines’ and will not move. Gantz will not sit with Netanyahu in a government, Liberman will not sit with the ultra-religious or the Arabs, and Netanyahu is resisting all pressure to step down. Everyone is waiting for someone to take the lead by humbling themselves and seeking a compromise for the good of the whole nation. We will see in coming days who that might be, as a fourth election would be unthinkable.
 
Results of Third Israel Elections on 2 March 2020 (Unofficial)
Likud – 36
Blue & White – 33
Joint List (Arab) – 15
Shas – 9
United Torah Judaism – 7
Labor-Gesher-Meretz – 7
Yisrael Beitenu – 7
Yamina – 6
 
David R. Parsons is an author, attorney, journalist and ordained minister who serves as Vice President & Senior Spokesman of the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.

FRIDAY FEATURE – The Best and Worst of Times

As Israelis prepare to celebrate Shabbat this Friday afternoon, they have a great deal to be grateful for and a few things to be very anxious about. On one hand, the countdown has begun to Purim and Passover, two of the most beloved holidays on the national calendar. On the other hand, earlier in the week, there was a reminder that the terrorist groups which rule the Gaza Strip can, whenever they wish and/or whenever their Iranian masters order them to, send a barrage of rockets and other implements of terror against the Israeli communities of southern Israel. The near-weekly reports of “unidentified” aircraft which strike Iranian targets in Syria also remind them that the threat from the north is ever-present. The announcement this week that the COVID-19 coronavirus has spread to the Jewish State has given rise to widespread distress (before the potential for massive economic pain has even begun to manifest itself) and last but certainly not least, there are Knesset elections, the third in less than a year, for Israelis to look forward to on Monday.

The home stretch if the election campaign in recent weeks reminded many of the “Rocky” movies, with the leaders of the two major Left and Right factions exhausted and barely able to remain standing, but neither willing to admit defeat. However, some major, late-breaking news came on Friday morning when reports surfaced that Blue and White leader Benny Gantz had fired the leading strategist for his campaign, Israel Bachar, after a recording of a private conversation he had had with a friend, in which he had harshly criticized his client as, among other things being a danger to the country because he lacked the courage to attack Iran if necessary, was broadcast by Channel 12’s evening news program the day before.

Another conversation in which Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich also surfaced in which she allegedly called Gantz "weak and stupid." However, she issued a strong denial of having ever said those words and Gantz announced that he accepted her denial and would keep her on the Blue and White list for Monday’s election.

Furthermore, Gantz issued a statement announcing that he was firing Bachar, adding however that he had been set up by “cheap” and “unacceptable” political trickery and that the culprits in the plot would soon be revealed. However, most analysts agreed that the recordings would probably do considerable damage to Blue and White in terms of voter support in Monday’s election.

“We’ve just seen that Gantz’s own people don’t have much confidence in him,” said one Jerusalem-based political analyst. “Many voters who were on the fence will see that and it will cause them, quite reasonably, to ask themselves if they should have confidence in him themselves. The rocket barrage from Gaza earlier this week and other regional issues, not to mention this coronavirus threat which has suddenly appeared in our midst, makes it a very serious question that can’t be easily brushed aside. Even many people who voted for Blue and White in the last two elections because they thought it’s time for a change might not be ready to take Netanyahu’s proven hand off the wheel at a time like this.”

Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party issued a statement that "Gantz fired his closest advisor for telling the truth. Gantz will be a dangerous prime minister to Israel, we must not gamble our security and let Gantz form a dangerous government with Ahmed Tibi, someone he tried to form a government within the last elections."

Meanwhile, the growing coronavirus epidemic has already caused ripples in Israel’s economy, despite only a small handful of confirmed cases in the Jewish State. Israel’s national flag air carrier, El Al, has suspended flights to several countries in Europe and the Far East where large outbreaks have been reported and has issued a report to stockholders in the company saying it estimates that it will lose between $50 and $70 million in the first quarter of 2020. Hotel’s, restaurants and other parts of the tourism industry are also expecting to absorb losses. Government ministers and industry leaders warn that many jobs could be lost in the coming months as the economic effects of the coronavirus epidemic continue to ripple through the global economy.

All of these issues and more will be filling the hearts and minds of Israelis as they prepare for Shabbat this Friday evening, with an eye towards the upcoming holidays. It truly is the best and worst of times for Israelis and their friends around the world, amidst an ever-growing list of issues to pray about. 

Here is a podcast giving some analysis of the COVID-19 problem and a video showing how Israel is helping to confront it




 

Israeli Returning from Italy Tests Positive for COVID-19

Israel’s Health Ministry took an unprecedented step on Wednesday, urging Israeli citizens to drop nearly all non-essential travel abroad until further notice in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. “Travel to conferences and other international gatherings should be avoided, including trips for religious events. International conferences in Israel should also be avoided," the Ministry said in a statement. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry announced on Thursday morning that an Israeli citizen returning from Italy had tested positive for the virus.

Here is a podcast giving some analysis of the COVID-19 problem and a video showing how Israel is helping to confront it





Iran Announces Sharp Increase in COVID-19 Infections
The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak in Iran took a dramatic turn on Wednesday evening when the Health Ministry announced that the death toll from the outbreak was being officially increased from four to nineteen, while the number of confirmed cases jumped from 44-139. Both numbers are estimated by many analysts to be vastly underestimated. Meanwhile, the NGO Reporters Without Borders issued a statement on Wednesday accusing the clerical regime that rules Iran of interfering in the attempts by journalists to report the truth about the outbreak there.

Israel Blesses the World
Research by a team of scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, led by Prof. Itzhak Mizrahi in collaboration with experts from the Agricultural Research Organization and The Hebrew University announced this week that they have developed new methods for growing fish in ponds, allowing for the development of a highly nutritious source of protein for at-risk populations around the world. The research was published this week in the journal Nature Microbiology and has aroused great interest.

Gaza Border Crossings Re-Opened
Following the cessation of rocket fire into Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the Erez and Kerem Shalom border crossings were scheduled to be re-opened Thursday morning. Israeli officials made the announcement following consultations with representatives from Egypt and Qatar, which have diplomatic relations with the Islamist terror militia Hamas which rules the Strip.

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