As White House Shifts Policy on Jerusalem, Rosenberg Says Radicals May Incite Violence
Israel and its neighboring nations are ‘epicenter’ of conflict, says Joel Rosenberg. He notes the announcement regarding Jerusalem could spark violent protests.
On Wednesday, in remarks from the White House, President Donald Trump made a statement that echoed around the world. “Today, we finally acknowledge the obvious: that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital.” He signed a presidential proclamation, setting in motion a plan to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
As leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey have expressed opposition, President Trump’s remarks may result in protests across the Middle East.
Faith leaders in the U.S. have been closely watching Mideast unrest for decades. On Monday, a coalition of ministries announced the formation of the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem. Led by author Joel Rosenberg, it provides a new platform for united response.
The initial rollout of the new alliance presented results of an extensive survey on evangelicals’ views regarding Israel. They intend for the faith-based coalition to address issues of Mideast peace and security. It will also provide education for church and other audiences, leaders stated.
Speaking at the press conference in addition to Rosenberg were Mitch Glaser, president of Chosen People Ministries, Dallas Theological Seminary professor Darrell L. Bock, and the executive director of LifeWay Research, Scott McConnell. The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference’s Rev. Tony Suaréz and Bishop Harry Jackson of the High Impact Leadership Coalition responded.
Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem
An advisor to government leaders and a frequent media commentator, Rosenberg now lives in Jerusalem and leads humanitarian efforts through The Joshua Fund. Following a briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Rosenberg shared his expert views on current events in the Middle East.
The Stream: Reports indicate that the Trump Administration will formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. How do you respond?
Joel Rosenberg: There’s no better time to be praying for the peace of Jerusalem than this week. This is an historic and highly controversial time. These are big geopolitical questions.
We see that reflected in this survey. I’ve been traveling in and through Jerusalem for more than 30 years, and I’ve never seen a survey on these issues as detailed as this. We find a lack of clarity and even conflict among evangelicals. If I believe Israel has a divine right to be there by God’s grace, then what is our responsibility to share the land? Or to love our neighbors?
The Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem could not be more timely. This is an important new organization coming at a really critical moment.
The Stream: What do you expect will be the security implications for Jerusalem?
Rosenberg: We don’t want to see violence, but I wouldn’t rule out that serious possibility. Some radicals may seize this moment as one more opportunity and justification for violence.
It concerns me greatly, especially since I live in Jerusalem with my wife and children. We surely pray for peace.
The Threat of Iran and Turkey
The Stream: Both Israel and the U.S. have spoken strongly against Iran and its ambitions in the Middle East. How great of a threat is Iran to peace in the region?
Rosenberg: Iran is the biggest threat to peace, security and democracy in the Middle East — at the moment. What you’re watching is a tectonic shift in regional views of who’s the problem. The Sunni Arabs have historically said, Israel and the Zionists are the problem! They focused all their attention there.
This shift started with the Egyptians and Jordanians. They were the first to say: We’re going to make peace with Israel, despite our disagreements. They suddenly saw other threats in the region. Now we’re seeing the Saudis and the Gulf Emirates, among others, say: Iran, not Israel, is our biggest threat. So they are figuring out a way to live in peace with Israel.
Ultimately, I believe Russia is an even greater threat than Iran. Vladimir Putin is emerging as a much more serious threat to the security of the Middle East than even radical Islam. It’s because he is supporting radical movements like in Iran.
If it were completely isolated from the international community, we could deal with Iran. But when you have a nuclear superpower like Russia, then that’s a major global problem. Currently they are funding, arming, politically supporting and encouraging Iranian expansion and aggression in the region.
It complicates this new Sunni Arab-Israeli-American alliance against Iran. Again, it’s a great reason to be praying for the peace of Jerusalem.
The Stream: We’ve seen the Trump Administration align closely with Turkey in recent months. Does this concern you?
Rosenberg: Turkey is turning to the dark side. It’s a NATO ally that finds more affinity these days with Russia and Iran than with the United States and the NATO alliance. This is a great concern.
Evangelicals and Israel
The Stream: Turning to the new survey, we find 80 percent of evangelicals believe the rebirth of Israel fulfills biblical prophecy. What is your view of these events?
Rosenberg: The rebirth of Israel is actually a series of prophecies. It’s about the Jewish people coming back to the land, the re-formation of the sovereign State of Israel, rebuilding the ancient ruins, and Jewish people beginning to come to faith in the Messiah. There’s a whole series of things we put under the umbrella of “the rebirth of Israel.”
Those are huge end-times prophecies that much of the church for the last 1,900-plus years didn’t even take literally. One thousand years after the fall of Jerusalem, it was understandable to think, The rebirth of Israel and Jews coming back to the land must be allegorical.
But since 1948, we’re watching major prophecies either be fulfilled or at least be filled. Sometimes they’re not “full”-filled, but they’re beginning to come into fruition. That’s exciting, even dramatic! Not everyone in the church sees it that way, and that’s part of the discussion the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem will be having.
The End Times
The Stream: Earlier you criticized believers who publicly set dates for the end times, such as the recent September 23 incident. Why are you opposed to this approach?
Rosenberg: First, because it’s nutty. Jesus said that nobody knows the day or the hour of His return, so how do these people know? They don’t know.
They’re always wrong. That level of foolish sensationalism causes too many in the church to say, I’m not going to talk about prophecy because I don’t want to be lumped in with those guys. So a lot of pastors and theologians will just steer clear.
But 27 percent of the Bible is prophecy. That’s one of every four verses. That means God thinks this is pretty important. There are things He wants to say to us that we should be listening to. We may have disagreements about exactly what it means, but we need to have that conversation.
I’ll put it this way. If you had a 16-year-old daughter and you teach her 27 percent less than what she needs to drive a car safely, are you doing her a benefit? What about the other people on the road?
Or if you run a medical school and teach your students 27 percent less of what they need to know to heal people and save lives, are you doing these future doctors any good? And what about their patients?
When the church decides to not teach 27 percent of the Bible, it is not healthy for the church or society. The nut cases will always be there, but they should not dissuade us from sound, calm, reasonable teaching of Scripture. And I mean all of Scripture, from Genesis through Revelation.
Watch the press conference to launch the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem.