Why There is Controversy Over Israel’s Judicial Reform

In this episode of Inside The Epicenter, Joel Rosenberg and Dr. Carl Moeller explore the ongoing crisis in Israel surrounding judicial reform and its repercussions. 

With over 10,000 Israeli Defense Forces officers and elite combat unit soldiers expressing concern about a potential dictatorship forming and the legitimacy problems it poses, the situation is causing ripples throughout the nation. Why are people taking to the streets to protest, and what national and international problems may be on the horizon for Israel? 

Listen to this episode to find out!

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Transcript: 

- We often talk about praying for the peace of Jerusalem when we think of external threats, the Iranian nuclear threat, threat by terrorist organizations. But what we're looking at right now, Carl, is the most severe internal threat of massive division that could even blow up into Civil War.

- Weeks of protests, hundreds of thousands of people in the streets, military officers refusing to serve in the reserve forces of Israel's army, all over the issue of judicial reform. What is this issue of judicial reform and how is it positioning today to be such a force to tear Israel apart? Hi, welcome to this episode of Inside the Epicenter, a podcast of the Joshua Fund, a ministry dedicated to blessing Israel and her neighbors. I'm Carl Moeller, executive Director of the Joshua Fund, and today I'm joined by Joel Rosenberg while we are here in Canada at a board meeting to answer this very important question regarding what's tearing Israel apart today. Hi, Joel, welcome to Inside the Epicenter Podcast, and glad you can add some light to this very troubling question.

- Carl, great to be with you. And this may be one of the most important episodes of Inside the Epicenter we've ever done. I feel strangely out of position to be halfway around the world here in Canada. I'm glad to be with you. Glad to be with the Joshua Fund Board because we're focused on how to bless Israel and our neighbors in the name of Jesus. But I feel like I should be in Israel right now, should be in Jerusalem as really, the one of the most dramatic and painful eras of internal division and tension, like we've never seen it before is unfolding before our eyes. And the media is covering it terribly, if they cover it at all. They're covering it from a one-sided angle in which Prime Minister Netanyahu and his allies are horrible anti-democratic people, and the rest of the country's trying to save Israel's democracy. That's not actually what's happening, but let's unpack it bit by bit. But this is a moment that evangelical Christians need to be praying for Israel. We often talk about praying for the peace of Jerusalem when we think of external threats, the Iranian nuclear threat, threat by terrorist organizations. But what we're looking at right now, Carl, is the most severe internal threat of massive division that could even blow up into Civil War. I mean, that's something that's being said by some of the top leaders in the country. I don't think we're gonna get to that point, but the fact that major leaders are worried about it, it worries me and we need Christians to be praying, and hopefully this podcast will help illuminate what's really happening and why it matters. Because I'm not hearing this in any, now that I'm in the United States and Canada over the past six weeks, I'm not hearing anybody lay this out. They're covering the conflict, but they're not covering the issue. And President Biden has weighed in and he's really upset with Netanyahu, won't talk to him. So anyway, lots to talk about in this podcast.

- Well let's take that to that level. Let's go back a little bit and let's just talk about what is this reasonableness standard bill and how is it related to Israel's judicial reforms and unrest? What is that?

- Right, so today as we record this, which is Monday, July 24th, I think, what day is it? Moving fast, as we record this, the bill that has just passed into law in Israel, in the Knesset, in the Parliament, is what's known as the reasonableness standard bill. What does that mean? What's happening is that Netanyahu and his team had unveiled, six, seven months ago a full judicial reform, legal reform package of multiple elements of their reforms. Those were so controversial, as we have discussed on this podcast. And of course, on all Israel news and the Rosenberg report in the past that Netanyahu paused, he said, let's slow down, let's discuss it with the opposition, try to come up with a reasonable compromise. But he felt like there was no compromise. So he decided to break out apart the bill and start to debate them on individual basis. So this is called a reasonableness standard or, what does that mean? It means that the Supreme Court of Israel has consistently over the last 25 or 30 years, struck down laws passed by the Parliament, by the Knesset, or administrative decisions by various members of various Israeli governments, including appointments by the Prime Minister to certain positions. The Supreme Court has struck those down, many of them on a basis that they were unreasonable or sometimes they'll use the term unreasonable in the extreme. What does that mean? Because then you have to understand what that means before you say, well, how would you reform that? And why would you reform it? What it means is the Supreme Court, nine justices decided we don't like that. It that doesn't sound right to us. Whatever decision or appointment that, the problem is, there's no legal definition in Israeli law. This is effectively an invention of the Supreme Court. They have granted themselves the right to decide. That doesn't seem kosher as it were, legal, okay.

- Right, yeah.

- Well, Netanyahu and many of the Israelis on the center right, which is the majority of the country by far, have gotten to the point where like, who gave these Supreme Court justices the ability, the right even, the legal justification to shoot something down because they decide it's unreasonable. Okay. And so what Netanyahu and his team are trying to do is say, we need to define what reasonableness mean. What does that standard or say, no, that is not a thing. Like if the Supreme Court looks at it and says, well, that's against our basic laws, or this new law or decision is against some piece of previous legislation, or it's against the Human Rights declaration of 1949 that Israel signed with all other countries in the world, most other countries in the world with the United Nations, then we're gonna strike that down. So in other words, there are plenty of standards, legal ones, defined ones that the Supreme Court can say, that's not kosher. Okay or I guess if you're Muslim, you might say, that's not halal, it's not reasonable, it doesn't work. But this idea that reasonableness, you can't strike things down based on no standard if you don't define this. And this is not a law that was grant to certain powers to the Supreme Court. So that's what happened today. Today after lots of debate and three rounds of voting, the Knesset passed a law that says, no, the Supreme Court cannot use this reasonableness standard anymore. That's the simple way to put it. I think I ought to give an example of how Netanyahu has used it and how it's been used against him to explain this.

- Well, that would be great. Maybe you could also just define for us, who listened from the United States, what relationship this might have to our Supreme Court and the Constitution versus the Israeli Supreme Court in this.

- Right, so the debate in the United States, and it's a hotly contested debate, whether it's affirmative action or Roe V Wade, that maybe that's the best decision, best example of a decision that Supreme Court Justice made in 1973 that legalized abortion in all 50 states up to nine months of pregnancy. In that decision in 1973, the Supreme Court decided that banning abortion was a violation of a woman's privacy. There's no actual written, defined right to privacy in the US Constitution, but of course, it's implied in certain articles, right? If it says, government can't do an unlawful search and seizure of someone's home. The implications 'cause they have legal privacy, and you can't just barge in unless you have a warrant that's legal and passes various tests. So even though there's no right to privacy, it's not one of the 10, part of the Bill of Rights or anything. Then many people, myself included, many conservatives, many Christians, felt that the Supreme Court was overreaching because it was inventing a right that wasn't stated. And they argue right up to today, well, what about the 14th Amendment that gives people basically protections over their personhood whatever. So the point is, many people feel, Christians and conservatives feel like it was judicial overreach.

- [Speaker] Yes.

- Even people who are supportive of abortion rights in America, some of them have felt, but that decision was unjust because they were creating a right that didn't exist in the US constitution. So that's an example for an American audience at least. And for those of you who listen around the world, forgive us, you are using examples that may not exactly make sense, but I hope you understand that the question is, is a law constitutional or unconstitutional and strict constructionists, meaning conservatives say, if the Constitution doesn't say that, you can't just invent something. And other people say, well, it sort of says it, the Constitution isn't, you don't go by what it says, it's a living document, and you can infer it and apply it to modern issues, even though it didn't really cover it. The problem in Israel is there actually isn't a constitution. So in America it's a fight over, did the Constitution give the Supreme Court the right to make murdering a baby in their mother's womb legal up to nine months to the point of delivery in all 50 states, or didn't it?

- [Speaker] Right.

- That's based on an actual written constitution and all 200 plus years of precedence, in Israel, we don't even have a constitution. So we have a series of called basic laws, and we have all kinds of other laws over the last 75 years. So the problem is what Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu and his team, they're saying, we don't have a constitution, but we have laws, and there is no law that gives the Supreme Court of Israel the right to strike down a law or an appointment to a government position based on this concept of unreasonableness or reasonableness, which doesn't exist in a law.

- [Speaker] Right.

- So if you're gonna pass a law that says what it is, fine, but we're saying you can't use a standard that isn't a legal thing in Israel. The problem, and I agree with that point, I agree with Netanyahu's concern. And now let me illustrate with one example. So earlier, so Netanyahu was of course, we had five rounds of elections, and he finally put together a government coalition and was re sworn in as the longest serving Prime Minister of Israel, right? On December 29th, right at the end of the year, 2022. Soon thereafter, under pressure from his political partners in his coalition, he decided, Netanyahu decided to appoint a man named Aryeh Deri to be Netanyahu's Vice Prime Minister, the number two guy in the country,

- [Speaker] Pretty big position.

- He's the head of an ultra orthodox political party in Israel called the Shas Party. And they have a lot of power. And BB Netanyahu needed him in his coalition to make the coalition even happen. So that pressure by Shas to say, hey, appoint our guy to number two, and he was like, okay, I'll do it because I wanna accomplish other things. The Supreme Court then announced that this was unreasonable disappointment was unreasonable in the extreme. Why, because Aryeh Deri has twice been convicted of tax evasion and various corruption charges, felonies, okay? And they said, you can't, it's unreasonable to point as the number two guy in the country somebody who has that felon record, what's more, Netanyahu appointed Aryeh Deri for now as health minister. And then in two years, Deri was gonna rotate into the finance ministry. So the Supreme Court said, look, you can't have a tax evader and a convicted felon, a confessed felon running the tax agency, the finance ministry. So now, so this became a very interesting question. So Netanyahu had to fire him, right? The rule of law, the Supreme Court shoots it down, says you have to fire him. So Netanyahu has to fire him. But this created, this was like the straw that the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. So the Netanyahu allies said, this is insane. There's no law in Israel, that says the Prime minister who's been elected by the people cannot appoint whoever he wants as long as they're duly elected members of the Knesset.

- [Speaker] Right.

- And I will tell you that I thought it was unreasonable in the extreme that Netanyahu would appoint him. I agree with the Supreme Court thing. That's crazy basically. But there's no law that says.

- It's not against the law, right.

- So even though the appointment was unreasonable, crazy in my view, that's a political assessment by me and by many others, and by the court. But it shouldn't be a legal assessment by a Supreme Court that has nothing to point to. What's the standard? You could say, well, that guy is left-handed, that's unreasonable. Everybody should be a right-handed legislator. Well, I mean, I know it sounds ridiculous, but if the guy is an elected official and Netanyahu wants to roll the dice and say, well, this is the guy I want, why can't he do that? And then take it out of the bad box anyway, but this put the emphasis on, well, what is unreasonable and what is that standard? And so I agree with Netanyahu on this one, that it's crazy that the Supreme Court is going into far left wing judicial activism. Now as you and I record this, one last point on this part.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- All Israel News is having the actual reasonableness standard bill, which is now a law, translated professionally into English. So in the next day or two, we will publish, and hopefully by the time this gets posted, we will have an article and we can put the link in the show notes so you can read the bill for yourself and I'll do an analysis. But right now, having not read the exact wording, my sense is, but I'm saying this tentatively and with lots of caveats, that this bill that was just passed into law is in fact reasonable and that all this opposition, oh, Netanyahu's destroying democracy. That is not reasonable, in my view. But I'm holding a final judgment until I've actually read the precise language.

- Well, Joel, thank you. And we're gonna take a break right now. When we come back, we're gonna talk about some of the implications potentially currently and in the future for this entire crisis, what's been happening. And just what you said at the end just made me think, though for a second, could the Supreme Court in Israel not rule that this reasonableness definition bill was itself unreasonable?

- Oh, I expect that to happen. And I will be shocked if it doesn't happen.

- All of a sudden we're down an inception hole.

- So when we come back, we'll talk about the crisis of, like in America, we call that a constitutional crisis, but we don't have the Constitution in Israel, but it's gonna be a major crisis. Who is the country supposed to listen to? The legislature that passed a law legally, which restrains the Supreme Court from giving itself powers. Nobody ever gave it. Or the Supreme Court who says, no, those powers are ours. That's a train wreck coming.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- And it's leading to a train wreck in our military in Israel and in US Israel relations. And also the possibility that tourists and investors, businesses will retreat from Israel. There are a lot of implications of what could happen from this point forward.

- That's right. We're gonna talk about those in just a minute. Our verse of the day today is found in Psalm 122, verses six to seven, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May they be secure, who love you. Peace be within your walls and security within your towers." And our prayer request today is number one, to pray for Israel's peace and its people's safety during this crucial and crisis-driven time. And secondly, pray for the leadership of Israel to do the right thing for the success of the nation and not for just personal interests. Well, Joel, we're back and we left that section with so many of these hanging implications, particularly military, economic, as well as social for this unrest that's going on right now. Let's talk a little bit about the military, one of the most dramatic elements of this protest is that officers from Israeli reserve forces and others have literally protested and said, we will not fight for Israel, will not fight for Israel if this is what they see as a an erosion of democracy in Israel. Can you comment on that implication militarily?

- Yeah, this is a huge implication. And crisis that's building, which is more than 10,000 Israeli defense forces officers and elite combat unit soldiers and air force pilots in the reserves have all said, this is leading us to a dictatorship. You're blowing up democracy and we won't serve. Now is true that everybody in a democracy has the right to say what they believe. But I think this is creating a crisis of legitimacy inside Israel. I don't think an act of serving officer, if you wanna quit and there's a legal mechanism for quitting, I guess you do that. And it maybe that's what these guys are all saying that they're gonna do. I think it's a little unclear to me right now, are they saying, because in the United States, a military officer is not allowed legally to make a political statement against the commander in chief and the political leadership of the country.

- [Speaker] Yep.

- The civilian leadership. Much less the military leadership. This is a huge problem. Now, I'm sympathetic to a combat soldier, a fighter pilot, whatever your role is saying, I'm upset and I think you're beginning to unravel the sweater, you're starting this bill won't do it. I mean, I don't think this is anti-democratic at all. I think this is democratic as far as I understand it. And we'll again, we will analyze it more in the next few days. But I can understand where some people would fear, this is just the beginning and Netanyahu and his team are gonna pull this thing and the sweater's gonna unravel, and we're gonna have a dictatorship, not a democracy, but I don't think the military should be involved in the political fight. Israel's unique because it's a civilian army, right? It's, we don't, we have professional soldiers, but everybody gets drafted. Everybody has to serve. I mean, there are some exceptions, but we would never be able to countenance this in the American military because then the question is, are you following the orders of the commander in chief? Even if you didn't vote for him or her, you didn't like him or her, I don't agree with the policy, they say, hey, you're going to Iraq to fight, and you say, I don't believe in that. Well, that's not your right. You serve because you signed up and when you're done, you can leave. But until then, you have to obey the orders if they're legal orders. But this becomes, this question, who's defining legality here? The Supreme Court, that that has no law that gives it the authority to shoot down these things as unreasonable or the actual parliament of the country that's voting to say this is the law.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- And I think what you're seeing mostly Carl, you're seeing two things, but first, these hundreds of hundreds of thousands of people that are marching and demonstrating all over Israel, most of them hate Netanyahu no matter what and they're against him, and they're trying to bring his government down, Because they want somebody else. Sometimes they would say anybody else, but there are others, some on the center right who are worried also. That maybe this law isn't the problem, but the basic direction that Netanyahu is going is a problem and they're worried about him, right? So we've talked about that in the past, right? Most of the leaders of the opposition are people who served with Netanyahu as his chief of staff. As his top cabinet members in the past, but feel so burned by him for whatever their reasons. Obviously Netanyahu has a different assessment of it in his team, but a lot of these people are former very close advisors to Netanyahu, and they're like, I'm never gonna serve with him again. So their voices carry a lot of weight on the center right. In Israel, because they are not seen as leftists. They're seen as right wingers who think that Netanyahu's going in the wrong direction. One of the things we're gonna do in the next day or two on All Israel news also is publish a list of people on the center right who either supports this or who don't. Just so you can begin to see, this isn't a left right issue entirely. Although most of the protestors are left-wingers.

- Well, and its implications for US and Israeli relations are huge here as well, because, and I think a lot of us watching this take place from the United States overseas, we might be tempted to think of it just in terms of American left right politics. But it's not, but it does have some significant implications potentially for Israeli US relations, doesn't it?

- Yeah, yeah. I think that's absolutely right. One more point on the military, just briefly, I sort of left, I hope it's obvious to everybody, but if you have 10,000 people saying, I'm not serving, what if that metastasize to 15,000, 20,000, 30,000? You're talking about a small military in a small country, you can't have people just saying, I'm not gonna serve and feel like your government is illegitimate, even if they serve, they're gonna be deeply wounded. This is why some on the center right are saying the timing is wrong. You've gotta work better to explain this bill, why it's important, why it's necessary. And you've gotta find a way to build more consensus because it feels to some jammed down people's throats. And so that could create a military readiness crisis just as we're facing Iran and other terrorist organizations. So that's the military side. Then there's the US, Israel relationship train wreck. I talked about this on the Rosenberg report this past week, and I commend people to go to Rosenbergreport.TV to watch if you've missed it. 'Cause I walk through what's happening. What what's happening is President Joe Biden describes himself as super pro Israel. He calls himself a Zionist. And within the Democratic party, Biden is the most, or one of the most pro-Israel people in the party. However, Biden, yeah, is the Hebrew word for however, Biden has refused to even invite Netanyahu to come to the White House and sit down for substantive meetings about dealing with neutralizing the Iran nuclear threat or making peace with Saudi Arabia or all these other issues for the entire time that Netanyahu has been in office since December 29th. And you're like, wait a minute, isn't the king of Morocco? Didn't he just invite Netanyahu to come visit him? Yes, he did. A Muslim monarch, a Muslim Arab monarch is saying, Netanyahu, come, I would like to sit down with you and break bread together, let's talk. Did the Turkish president just invite Netanyahu to come to Turkey, to Ankara the capital of Turkey and say, let's sit down, let's talk, we don't agree on everything. Erdoğan as I've just described on this podcast in past, he's a huge problem. But he seems to be trying to make a with Israel. I don't believe him, but there's two regional Muslim leaders who say, I don't agree with you on everything, but come and let's break bread.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- Joe Biden, the most pro-Israel person in the Democratic Party won't even sit down with Netanyahu. That's a problem.

- [Speaker] That is a problem. Why does Biden not wanna sit down with Netanyahu? And they've spoken on the phone just to be clear, but he won't invite him, which is a huge signal. It means the two closest it allies in the Middle East are at odds and everybody can see it. Israel's enemies can see it. Israel's friends can see it.

- [Speaker] Yeah. Why is Biden doing this? Three reasons. One, I mean, it's two main reasons. The bottom line is he's trying to pressure Netanyahu to stop pursuing Netanyahu's reform agenda. That means an American president is trying to interfere in domestic Israeli issues, which seems quite an overreach by many people who love Israel. He's doing it for two reasons. One, Biden says, I don't like these reforms and other policies by Netanyahu. That's one, I don't like these policies. And second, I don't like some of the people in Netanyahu's political orbit. Okay, some of the cabinet ministers that BB's appointed stuff. Okay, really quick, do you think that Netanyahu agrees with all of the policies that the Biden administration is pursuing? What about the effort to try to give billions of dollars to Iran?

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- Without forcing them to stop their nuclear program and dismantle it, BB doesn't like that policy. The pulling out of Afghanistan, all US forces out of Afghanistan on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, so that the whole Democratic government collapsed under the Biden administration. And the terrorist Taliban that we've been fighting for 20 years took over on the 20th anniversary of nine 11. Did that make the US look strong? No, did it embolden radical Islamist terrorists? Yes, did Netanyahu like it? No. So there are things that Netanyahu and Israelis fear about how Biden is pursuing things. But there's also look at the people in Biden's political orbit. I won't go through the whole list, but we'll put a link in the show notes, the number of anti-Semites, democratic members of Congress. I'm not saying all Democrats, and I'm not trying to even make a partisan point. I'm just literally saying that if you look at Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, for example. She hates Israel and she's super open about it. And she said, there's no way in hell that I'm gonna go sit in, watch the Israeli president, Isaac Herzog, who came and gave a address last week to the joint session of Congress, a wonderful address. A pitch perfect address that was very bipartisan. And by the way, Isaac Herzog is not a right winger. He's a left winger. He's a very good president, very calm, very measured, very balanced. But he comes from the left wing socialist labor party. Bernie Sanders, who was senator from Vermont, ran for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016 and 2020, came in second both times, he hates Israel and he's Jewish. I give examples in one of my columns, but just, I won't go in. He calls Israel an apartheid country, which it isn't. He has moved legislation to try to block the United States from selling defensive arms to Israel to protect ourselves from terrorists. This is not pro-Israel.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- And there's a whole list, I lay it out a partial list in my column on All Israel News. But the point is, Netanyahu is not a fan of those people.

- [Speaker] Nope.

- But that doesn't mean, and Biden hasn't distanced himself. He doesn't criticize these people. He embraces them. He wants their political endorsements. He wants them to vote on his policies. So my point is, both sides have people around them that are extremists.

- [Speaker] Sure.

- They are. True friends keep working their way through that.

- Yeah, and I think that's the tell, right. that there's a sense in which actions speak louder than words. You can say you're the most pro-Israeli president in US history or whatever other superlative he applies to that viewpoint. But what you actually do and who you actually stand with when it comes down to it, and we're gonna talk about the address that President Isaac Herzog saw gave future podcast. But I wanna keep on this issue because I don't know exactly when this will be broadcast or when people will listen to it. But the issues that we're bringing out with this reasonablist standard for the judicial reform bill, I think they're long-term issues in Israel. These are long-term things that need to be resolved. And in some sense, it's really, it's important to sometimes bring these things out, even if it causes immense social and political fractures in the country. And going through something difficult is sometimes the sign of leadership. Now, I'm not saying that Prime Minister Netanyahu has done everything well in this debate, in this discussion, in this procedure. But doing something like this is certainly, you cannot escape the fact that it is leadership to take a nation to this point, and to push forward something that you truly believe in and to move forward with that. So maybe some comments about that before and maybe some of the comments about some of his, some of the comments made by some of his cabinet members before we discuss about this. Maybe they're not helping make this situation a little better.

- Well, some of Netanyahu's cabinet ministers are extremists, we've mentioned in the past. Itamar Ben-Gvir and, both of whom I've written about, we've spoken about, Joshua Fund doesn't take a position on these things, but me in my personal capacity, yeah. I think these guys are dangerous actually. They're dangerous to Christians, they're dangerous to Israeli Arabs. They're dangerous to Jews that don't agree exactly with some of their very extreme views. And so that's a problem. But Netanyahu is chosen this is his only way to build a government. And that's a problem to me whom I admire Netanyahu in many ways, but I think he's making some bad choices in certain areas, in this particular area I think he wants to move in the right direction. I think judicial activism has gone crazy in Israel, and there need to be reforms. But you could also argue, why would Netanyahu push through this reform, this particular one on the actual day that is the anniversary of two Jewish temples, the first and the second being destroyed by enemy invasions and the Jewish people of Israel being so divided amongst themselves and so hostile to the word of God that God allowed these judgments to come. It seems like just for the pure optics of it, it seems like a bad idea to pass a bill that's so divisive on the actual day, two painful moments, most painful moments aside from the Holocaust in all of Jewish history. So why does he do that? I don't know exactly why I'm being candid, I would say probably because his political coalition is saying, listen, you've gotta start moving these reforms down the track. We are not gonna wait anymore. You think we're in trouble now, we're gonna really exert all kinds of pain on you politically, Mr. Netanyahu, if you don't start moving this agenda that we want to get done. And Netanyahu wants to get it done too. But there are implications. There are implications that businesses are gonna start pulling out, international businesses, that investors will say, you know what? I don't have confidence that there's a stable legal structure and a stable economic and social structure, I have other options. I'm gonna put my money someplace else. Or the possibility that this blood in the water feeling of vulnerability of Israel because of the military divisions could lead bad guys to try to take advantage of this militarily.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- And then of course, the US Israel train wreck, all of which does not bode well for the near term for Israel. how does it play out over long term? I don't know. But this is testing Netanyahu in ways that I've never seen him tested. He is the longest serving prime minister in the history of modern Israel. And that tells you that many, many Israelis think, okay, he's got flaws, but this is the guy, let's stick with him. He knows how to get things done, that we want to get done. But he's never been in this type of internal crisis. And could this thing blow up into violence on the streets? Yes, it could. And we need to really pray.

- Yeah, that's our prayer request today. We recorded this podcast, again, to bring back that psalm that says, pray for the peace of Jerusalem and for all of Israel, Joel, I mean, that's probably a good enough segue for us to maybe talk about maybe some of the potential, we've talked about things that, that in the past, with the Abraham Accords and things that have been sort of wonderful expressions perhaps of how Israel's prophetic future is described, but are there, and again, I don't know the answer to this, and I certainly am very curious. Do you feel that there's any potentially biblical implications for this in terms of where Israel would be in these last days?

- I mean, clearly as we get closer to the Messiah coming to reign over the whole world, including over Israel, my inference from looking at all of Bible prophecy is that God is going to allow many, many governments become quite bad, even horrible. Even evil. I'm not saying that Netanyahu is there, what I'm saying it's messy, obviously I think that Vladimir Putin is an evil leader and running an evil government in Russia that has completely illegally and immorally invaded multiple other countries. Georgia, Ukraine obviously, Syria, he's a monster. I think that government of China with Xi Jinping is an evil government that's imprisoning and torturing and persecuting Christians. Imprisoning, enslaving a million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps, is preparing to invade, and threatening to invade a democratic elected government and country of Taiwan. So, North Korea, there's a list, but just focusing on Israel, ultimately Israel has to see the difference between government that's following the word of God and the spirit of God versus government that isn't, as a general principle, I would expect Israel's government on the whole, and on the average to be getting messier and more disappointing to set up a contrast. Why would you need the Messiah, if everything's going fine? If the country's peaceful and prosperous and everybody's happy and there's no lawlessness, and the economy's working great and everything's hunky dory, most people think, why do I need a messiah?

- [Speaker] Right.

- Israel desperately needs the Messiah in individual, but overall, the whole country. And I think that messy bad government causes people to think, people to get scared. This is why hundreds of thousands people are out on the streets. And, and I think even though in some ways I think it's hyperbolic and overstated their fears, I'm not saying they're insincere, and so just like if you look at, do hardcore leftists in America, did they fear the Trump, Pence administration? Yes, they did. Did other people say no, those two were the greatest in sliced bread. And the political debate in America has been tearing Americans apart, the debates over moral issues, abortion, gender, transgender marriage, and so people bring their fears legitimately, doesn't mean both sides are right. It doesn't mean that both sides are wrong. I don't wanna get into each of those individual issues. My point is, there are right and wrong. My point is, Israelis are not overall following God. They're not following the Bible. Most Israelis don't read the Bible. They're not looking at the prophecies. They're not thinking about how to live their lives in the Holy Spirit and in the word of God. They've already written off Jesus.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- They don't believe in the New Testament. They don't believe in the apostles and so they don't have the ability to know God personally and say, all right, well, what is right and wrong? And what is the right way to organize your society to be as healthy as possible in a broken and flawed world.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- So Israel is a miracle. And again, we're not getting into the whole depth of it today, but I thought Israeli president Isaac Hertzog, his speech to Congress was beautiful because it talked about, it was honest about Israel's flaws, including this judicial reform process. But it also said, look at the miracles of what we've done, even though it's messy and difficult. And Hertzog also made an important point. He said, criticism of Israel is legitimate. What you're seeing on the streets are Israelis criticizing Israelis. That is not wrong. But there is a Rubicon, there is a line that one can cross where you're beginning to de-legitimize Israel and say, see, they're all a bunch of racist thugs and they're anti-democratic and they're horrible people. And therefore we should turn against Israel. No, that crosses the line. And that's what those members, unfortunately they're all Democrats, are doing. That's what many countries are doing. That's what many organizations are doing. That's what many corporations are doing. They're trying to de-legitimize Israel as though Israel's flaws are somehow uniquely bad, whereas everybody else's flaws are, well, we're all flawed. And so antisemites look for every opportunity they can to attack Israel and make it seem like Israel's the worst country in the world. And that's why Israel has to be extra careful in every step they make. They're not gonna be able to please everybody, but they have to be careful not to make it easy for anti-Israel, anti-Semite forces to say, aha.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- And I think Netanyahu, by bringing some of these people into his government has made it a little bit easier. I don't think this bill, as far as I understand it is as is anywhere near as bad, not at all as what is being said. But there are other elements of the judicial reform package that we haven't gotten gotten into today, we've talked about in the past. Those are very problematic and could unravel democracy. So look, Israelis are scared. And when you're scared of your government and you're scared of your society, I think this begins to set up the conditions for maybe there isn't hope in this world. Maybe there isn't. Maybe I've been looking to government to solve problems, but maybe they can't.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- Who can? And that, I don't want that to lead to despair, but if it leads to God, a search to know God personally, who is the one true God, and for Jews, who is our Messiah that we've waited for, that's a healthy dynamic and one that maybe God is sovereignly allowing to happen right now. So people don't say, oh, 75 years Israel is a wonderful miracle, which it is. And that's enough, which it isn't.

- Yeah, for not having really considered that question before, you really hit exactly what I think most of our listeners would wanna know. What does this mean for us for Israel in these days? And Joel, I want to thank you for the opportunity to talk with you about this in a really timely way, and it's our prayer. We're gonna come back and talk about more on President Herzog's address to Congress and some of the other things. But we really felt this issue needed to be addressed right away and get out as quickly as we could on the subject. And who knows, we may be doing more on this one as well as the possibility of unrest continues even as this bill has been passed. I will say this, something you told me yesterday and in the car as we were driving, if Israel's enemies look on her political and social unrest as a sign of weakness and choose unwittingly or unintelligently to attack, nothing draws Israel closer together than being under attack. And at this stage.

- Yes, that's true.

- I don't think any of Israel's enemy should draw any encouragement from the political and social debate that they're having right now.

- That's right. And let me just add the corollary, which is, it's a sign of how safe overall Israelis feel right now that they're turning on each other.

- [Speaker] Yeah.

- Usually when Israelis feel threatened from the outside, they work hard to be unified on the inside. But it's a sign, the unintended consequence of having 39, I think F35 stealth fighter jets, three more just arrived in Israel, having nuclear armed submarines, having the best fighter jets in the world, having six Arab Israeli peace treaties, including the Abraham Accords and talk of a peace treaty coming with the Saudis. All of that is making Israelis feel good. The problem historically is that Israelis have so many tensions between themselves as Jews that they're now turning on each other because there is no external threat to focus our attention. Will God allow, I mean, which do you want, the internal tension or the external threat? I don't want either.

- [Speaker] That's right.

- But both we need to pray. This is my last point, and I'm underscoring what I said before. We wanna pray that things settle down and become calm. But in the meantime, we also want to ask the Lord, will you stir in the hearts of every Israeli Jew or Muslim, or nominal Christian or Christian, I mean true Messianic Jew to draw near to God, to say, Lord, we can't govern ourselves. Right, even Solomon, when he was about to become king, he's like, I'm too young. I don't know how to govern this great people of yours. And I think it's true that every leader in Israel is not quite sure how to govern this people that God has created. And what we wanna do is ask people to say, Lord, will you help us, show us how to know you. Show us how to please you, show us how to love our neighbor, show us how to govern ourselves. And the only answer is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, who came and was rejected, but still loves the people of Israel, loves the Jewish people and the neighbors, and is ready and waiting and holding his hands out, saying, his nail scarred hands out saying, turn to me and I will bring you peace.

- Yeah, well, we can pray for that for sure. And we pray that the people of Israel would know their Messiah personally. And Joel, thank you for this time. It's been great, to our listeners.

- Honor, thank you for wanting to do it.

- And to our listeners, if you'd like to learn more about the Joshua Fund, visit our website at joshuafund.com. And here you can learn about what we're doing in the Middle East to bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, and how you can participate in the healing work we're doing in this critical region. As always, you can check out our show notes for anything you heard on this program that you'd like more information on. For Joel Rosenberg, I'm Carl Moeller, Thanks for listening to this episode of "Inside The Epicenter".

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