5 Jun 2023

Bibi the Conquerer

There is a story from the time of Benjamin Netanyahu’s first turn as prime minister of Israel, and it is slightly amusing but highly symbolic of how his political rivals seem to underestimate him, even today.

In the spring of 1996, Netanyahu was an electric, 46-year-old rising star. His education and years in America had blessed him with perfect English, thus making him Israel’s most articulate ambassador abroad, rivaling perhaps the famous Abba Eban, whose erudite bearing served Israel well in the early years.

This one evening in ’96, Netanyahu found himself opposite the wily old socialist, Shimon Peres, in a fight for the premiership. The two were to debate. This came on the heels of the failed Oslo Accords. Netanyahu, schooled in his family’s home for decades on a steady diet of Zionism, was ready for the spotlight. Peres, however, thought himself too clever. He thought Bibi was a lightweight, an empty suit, not ready for the moment.

As the two made uncomfortable small talk backstage, Peres calmly and quietly pointed to Netanyahu’s tie, and told him there was a spot on it. Rattled for a nanosecond, the image-conscious Bibi fiddled with the tie while Peres quietly chuckled. Whether there was truly a stain on his tie is irrelevant. It is instructive though to realize that Peres was not above telling even a small lie in order to rattle his opponent.

In any event, Bibi had the last laugh, narrowly defeating the old political lion by around one percent of the final tally. His subsequent three-year term (before going to early elections and defeat at the hands of former military and political rival Ehud Barak) was tumultuous, as he attempted to slow-walk the Oslo insanity. This caused members of the Left to despise him.

Now, as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Netanyahu is again neck-deep in political intrigue as his rivals attempt to outmaneuver him. Once again, he seems to have outfoxed them for the moment.

Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid, once full of warm hugs for each other, are each jockeying for position as the true threat to the prime minister. More than three years ago, the two combined to form “Blue and White,” a new movement that sought to outflank Likud. Such alliances are never secure though, because at this level, there are no true bonds, only pragmatic ones. As soon as one political friend has outlived his usefulness, it’s time to jettison him for someone or something else.

So it is that as the two try to split Netanyahu’s followers over the judicial reform process, they are finding out that much like Donald Trump in America, the Boss has a solid base of true believers. So the question becomes: How do we elevate ourselves in the eyes of the electorate?

On a personal courage level, neither can match Netanyahu’s combat bravery (which, admittedly, he does not shy away from retelling). The photos of a wounded Netanyahu in the aftermath of the Sabeena airline hijacking in 1972 are hard to overcome, especially for a guy like Lapid. Too, Netanyahu immediately flew home from university in America in October, 1973, as Israel faced an unexpected existential war.

Again, like Trump, Netanyahu has to constantly fight-off a corrupt Media. Notice this editorial insertion in a piece in this week’s Jerusalem Post:

“In the world of media images and pollsters, Gantz is a star on a roll, but in the real world, in which no elections are in sight, Lapid is still the leader of the opposition and of the largest party in the anti-Netanyahu bloc, bonding him and his ex-buddy to cooperate and fight together against the judicial overhaul and other menaces of Netanyahu’s extremist and fundamentalist coalition.” [emphasis added]

It’s common to say now that Netanyahu wants judicial reform because he’s on trial for corruption. I happen to believe him when he appeals to it as a clarion call to establish a just judicial community. Various judges and others in Israel’s judicial system are just as politically corrupt as they are in America. Yet his opponents paint him as an equally corrupt guy only intent on sweeping away the legal challenges to his premiership, and to his personal freedom.

The word is today that Lapid and Gantz are just the latest allied duo bent on taking-down Netanyahu…but failing ultimately.

At the moment, Gantz has built a better following (Lapid’s soggy few months as prime minister don’t exactly inspire confidence in him as a better alternative to Netanyahu). His current 12-seat coalition in the Knesset could allegedly grow to double that if new elections were held.

But no such elections are on the horizon, and in Israeli politics, five minutes is an eternity. If, say, elections are called next year, Gantz might turn out to have only a handful of seats.

In fact, it’s almost fun to see Netanyahu’s political rivals talk day and night about his imminent demise and political obituary. Because at a moment they least expect, he wriggles out of danger and ends up more popular than ever.

In the end, Benjamin Netanyahu is a once-in-a-lifetime politician. His current rivals are not.

One cannot shake the feeling that he will be the man in charge as Israel navigates a time of unprecedented trouble, predicted in the Bible. I’d feel better knowing he was in charge in Jerusalem, rather than the pretenders to the throne.

We’ll see.






29 May 2023

Israel stands alone

Deuteronomy 7 tells us that God chose the Jewish people as His Chosen, but not because they were superior to others. He selected them to be a light unto the nations, and with that came blessings and curses.

I have long thought though that Israel’s “aloneness” is not always such a bad thing. We know from prophecy that in the end, Israel will find herself alone in a hailstorm of fire from surrounding nations and their global confederates. If not for the intervention of the Lord, she would disappear.

But she won’t disappear.

I was reminded of that all during my recent trip to the country. And I wanted to tell you about one particular place I visited that at first glance is not a destination spot for tourists/pilgrims, but I think it should be.

The Armored Corps Museum at Latrun was nothing short of amazing. Latrun of course is the scene of fierce battles during the War of Independence in 1948. Ariel Sharon was almost killed there when he was pinned down in open country. He survived of course and probably saved Israel in 1973 with his daring crossing of the Suez Canal, which cut Egypt’s legs out from under her. I am certain God was with Sharon in ’48; he had many things left to do.

But here is the mystery of Israel.

When you visit, you are aware—all the time—that Israel’s past is swirling together with the present and even the future. I say it all the time. Ancient sites are rebuilt as new cities. The desert is certainly blooming like a rose. The Knesset has 120 members because that’s how many elders led during the Babylonian exile. The people speak Hebrew, a dead language until 100 years ago, after 2,000 years of exile. Archaeological sites sprout up all over. Literally right next to the City of David dig is the fortress of Antiochus Epiphanes.

And when I visited the tank museum at Latrun (perhaps the repository of more tanks than any other museum in the world; hundreds dot the landscape, ranging from early tanks to American Shermans to a Russian T-72, and modern Israeli tanks), I made my way onto the roof of a building used during the British Mandate, as a headquarters. One almost gasps on the roof, gazing out over the Ayalon Valley.

This vista has special significance, since it is the site of Joshua’s famous battle with the Amorites! Yes, it was here that the fearless Israelite commander asked God for extra daylight in order to finish-off his enemies. No other country in the world has this kind of history. Modern battles fought on ground where ancient ones raged. It was profound looking at that scene.

And it doesn’t matter to me at all that the critics mock the historicity of such events. I believe 100 percent that Joshua’s Long Day happened. Just like I believe Jonah sailed from Jaffa and was swallowed by a large fish.

I guarantee you the stories and narratives created by the critics—many of them embracing evolutionary theory—are far crazier than biblical accounts featuring 1,000-year-old men and talking animals. I don’t have to cower in the face of the critics. The Bible is defensible and accurate. You can stand at Latrun and see easily how the battlefield below accommodated both the Israelites and the modern Israelis.

In the Valley of Elah, one can easily visualize the battle lines drawn between Goliath’s Philistines and David’s Israelites. The hills on which each army headquartered are only a few hundred yards apart. The dry streambed where David selected five stones is just behind the Israelite hill.

It all makes sense. Our faith makes sense and is defensible.

And in all this history, Israel is affirming Bible prophecy. Increasingly, the country is isolated internationally. In a normal world, this would be alarming. God though has promised He will preserve His people.

This week it was announced that Iran has tested a new long-range missile, the Kheibar. The Islamic terror state has supplied the Russians with drones and missiles and the growing menace of their missile program is spilling-out to be more than a regional threat. Toothless UN Resolution 2231 forbids this type of development and testing, but of course the Iranians laugh and flout the resolution. And Israel is in the crosshairs.

The supposedly stealth missile can reach Europe. It can leave Earth’s atmosphere then reappear and the Iranians claim it can escape radar detection, making it a silent, catastrophic and sudden killer.

I have to tell you though, as I stood at Latrun and Elah, remembering that Israel won miraculous, supernatural victories there, I do not fear modern threats to Israel.

They simply will not come to fruition. God has decreed it.

Alone. But not.