Interview: Steve Herzig, Israel & the Middle East
Israel has sure been busy lately. This week we’re covering the most encouraging development in the region: Israel’s recent peace deals with the United Arab Emirates and with Bahrain, which we’re discussing with Steve Herzig, our director of North American Ministries here at The Friends of Israel. As positive as the agreements are, they may be just the beginning of a greater chain of events soon to come in the region.
The success of these deals shows Israel’s ability to identify and overcome what Prime Minister Netanyahu considers “failed strategies of the past.” We’ll determine what those strategies were and how Israel can continue its run of good news. A large part of this success hinges on the Palestinians and their relationships with Israel and the Arab world. As always, we’ll provide a biblical look at these issues with Scripture to learn how to accurately assess these recent happenings.
Steve Conover: Welcome to The Friends of Israel Today. I'm Steve Conover, and with me is our host and teacher Chris Katulka. We have an exciting show for you today, but before Chris comes, I'd like to encourage you to visit our website, foiradio.org. On our website, you'll find trustworthy and accurate news on Israel and the Middle East, and while you're there, you can support our ministry by clicking on the donate button and help us continue teaching biblical truth about Israel and the Jewish people. Again, visit us at foiradio.org.
Chris Katulka: Today on the program, we have a very special guest with us, Steve Herzig, who is the Director of North American Ministries here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. I've got him in the studio because we're going to be talking about what's going on in the Middle East, the peace that has been made in the Middle East between Bahrain and the UAE and Israel. Really two birds with one stone that's happening out of Washington. This is going to be a great time to talk about the peace that's come, how it happened, but then we're also going to talk about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent UN speech as well.
It's going to be an episode you want to stick around and listen to. I'm excited to have Steve Herzig in the studio.
Now, before we get to that, though, I've been so encouraged by the comments that are being left for our podcast. I want to read this one to you. It says, "I'm blessed to hear this show, The Friends of Israel Today Podcast. I'm blessed to hear this show as I learn so much and it's always interesting and informative. I love the Jewish roots of my Christian faith."
Can I tell you something? That's what this program is all about. Connecting believers with the truth that their Savior, Jesus, is the Jewish Messiah and what all of that means for their faith and how it applies to today, what we see happening in the Middle East. So thank you so much for listening online. We love our podcast listeners, so be sure to rate and comment on our program that can be heard on Apple, Spotify, Google, Tune In, Stitcher, and a host of many other platforms. Maybe we'll read your comment. So we'd love to hear from you, please rate The Friends of Israel Today. If you value our program, let us know, and thanks for listening online.
Steve Conover: In the news, as Israel continues its second national lockdown after seeing a spike in COVID cases, a new Israeli immunotherapy, Allocetra, saw positive results when five COVID-19 patients who were in severe to critical condition recovered from the disease within days of receiving their experimental treatment. They all tested negative for the coronavirus when they were released, the company reported.
Chris Katulka: Yeah. See, when I read this article, it was interesting. When they took the therapy, these patients that were in critical or severe condition were either healed within five days with no coronavirus or eight days. I believe three of the patients were at five days, the other two were eight days, which is just amazing.
This is really positive news for Israel since they're about to go back into a lockdown, or they're in a lockdown right now, their second lockdown. So this isn't just good news for Israel, but this is also good news for the whole world.
You know, scientists actually believe that the deaths from COVID-19 come from an over response of a patient's immune system. So Allocetra suppresses the body's hyper immune response. It's currently in phase two clinical trials for coronavirus patients, so for my listeners, let's keep praying that this new Israeli therapeutic has a positive result for Israel and for the world.
Chris Katulka: In the studio, we have a dear friend, a colleague, a boss of mine, as well, Steve Herzig. He's the director of North American Ministries here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We're going to talk about something that's really, really important. I think it's really significant. We're going to be talking about the recent peace treaty, the recent peace deals that were made between the UAE, Bahrain, and Israel. Two countries, two Arab countries, these Gulf States, that made peace with Israel. We're going to talk about what kind of peace was made, whether or not it's significant or not, and what does the Bible have to say about all of this?
So Steve, great to have you in the studio.
Steve Herzig: Chris, great to be here.
Chris Katulka: It's always fun to have you. I mean, it's always a great time.
Steve Herzig: Well, I have a fun time coming.
Chris Katulka: But we're talking about some important stuff right now.
Steve Herzig: Yes, we are.
Chris Katulka: I mean, the last time a peace deal was made with Israel was nearly 25 years ago between Jordan and Israel, and then back in the late seventies, early eighties, there was a peace deal made between Israel and Egypt, but never two countries at one time.
So as peace was just made, I've been telling our audience in our news spots that we've been doing that this is a big deal. Let me ask you, do you think that this is a big deal?
Steve Herzig: Chris, I think it's a very big deal. In fact, the very question and the way you asked it. 25 years ago, 1994, King Hussein in Jordan, the same king who oversaw the attack of Israel in 1967, where Israel captured what is called the West Bank, or Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem. He recognized a Jewish state. I can tell you that's a big deal.
Before that, 1978, and really the treaty was signed in 1979, Begin and Sadat and Jimmy Carter, Egypt recognized a Jewish state.
So fast forward, as you just said, 25 years, and now we have two countries in the same month. Arab nations, who for years said there is no Jewish state have said there is a Jewish state.
So yes, it sickens me, it really does, that more news agencies don't really make a big deal.
Chris Katulka: I wanted to ask you this, because I don't want to go down this rabbit hole of media and Trump. I don't want to go there because that's not our objective, but I do want to acknowledge it for a moment. When Egypt signed a peace deal with Israel, when Jordan signed a peace deal with Israel, was it big news then in the news?
Steve Herzig: Huge news.
Chris Katulka: Yeah.
Steve Herzig: Huge news, and all kinds of ceremonies. We did have a small ceremony. It was as though it never happened. In comparison, as you compare the two. Recognizing the existence of a Jewish state is a huge deal internationally.
Chris Katulka: We're talking about countries like the UAE, who with their airplanes would blot out Israel as a state. As you fly over and you see the digital map of the globe and you're flying over to go to Dubai, Israel would be kind of blurred out. Now all of a sudden, they're best friends. So this is a big deal in my eyes, and I'm glad you see it the same way.
Steve Herzig: Huge deal. Even the flight, the initial flight from Tel Aviv to Dubai, that should have been broadcast everywhere. It's huge. A Jewish delegation in Dubai? Unbelievable.
Chris Katulka: Now this kind of peace that we're talking about, is this just a peace just to make the quote-unquote, headlines, or is there actually some depth to this peace? What's in this peace?
Steve Herzig: Well, Chris, if you read the news and try to find out the particulars, this treaty, with both nations, covers trade, investment, commerce, transportation, tourism. Tourism!
Chris Katulka: Yeah.
Steve Herzig: Tourism. They are actually envisioning people from Bahrain coming, landing in Tel-Aviv, taking a bus to Jerusalem or the train, and going there and going to the Temple Mount. I think it's huge.
Chris Katulka: And flip it the other way. Israelis boarding a plane and flying directly to Abu Dhabi or flying to Dubai. Because people vacation out there, actually. It's a big vacation spot in the Middle East.
Steve Herzig: They do. I know it's not going to happen, but wouldn't it be a riot, Hasidic Jews on a plane to Dubai getting out and seeing the women who are all draped up, and they're all draped up. It would be hysterical. But as funny as that sounds, that's at least the provisions in those treaties for both countries make that possible.
Chris Katulka: It's not just tourism. It's not just financial connections. I know the banks, big banks, have made connections already. We're also talking about ambassadorial ties as well. We're talking about the fact that Abu Dhabi, or I'm sorry, the UAE and Bahrain will have an actual embassy in Israel.
Steve Herzig: Which makes it a big deal. That means that there's recognition. Both countries recognize the existence of each other and exchange all the particulars of politics and ambassadors, just like you said. That's significant.
Chris Katulka: Now I have my opinions on why I think UAE and Bahrain came to the table to establish peace, but Netanyahu said in a recent speech to the UN, he said this. "This good news about peace came about because of a clear break with the failed strategies of the past."
So my question, Steve, is what do you think were those failed strategies of the past?
Steve Herzig: Well, you know, Chris, if you keep trying to do the same thing over and over and expect different results, you're crazy. That's a sign of insanity. The Palestinians have for years made certain demands. Those demands include Israel withdrawing from the borders to back to the 1967 borders. Security, where Israel would have to turn their security over to them, that they would oversee it. They're talking about expelling Jewish people who are in what is called “occupied country” and sending them back. And reparations, huge reparations to be paid. Also, the influx of Palestinians into Israel.
Chris Katulka: The right of return. Yeah.
Steve Herzig: Those are non-starters for Israel. They've said they're non-starters. So the Palestinians know that and have kind of lived off of that. Keep getting money from Europe and the United States, at least in the past through past presidents, whether they're Democrat or Republican, giving them large amounts of money. United Nation giving them a lot of money. It just continues the same way. They won't budge on it.
Chris, I can't tell you, you keep trying to do some, expect a different result, it's just not going to happen. That's what makes this exciting.
Chris Katulka: You know, we're talking bi-partisan here. We're not talking this is a Democrat issue or a Republican issue. You know, in the past, the Democrats and Republicans have approached the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from the same angle. It's trying to show favor to Israelis, at the same time, trying to show favor to Palestinians, and in the meantime, they almost offer up these pie in the sky peace deals that will never land at all.
I actually think this is where Donald Trump comes in. He is the trump card here, if you will. He changes everything when it comes to this peace deal, wouldn't you say?
Steve Herzig: Chris, Donald Trump brought the embassy to Jerusalem. That was passed a long time ago by bi-partisan. 97 to 3, our Congress passed it. He finally did it. Every president had the opportunity. Every president postponed, including Donald Trump, the first time. That's number one.
He recognized Israel sovereignty over the Golan Heights, ensuring their security. He put a peace plan together that recognizes Israel's right and addresses Israel security. He has given Israel the kinds of assurances that they need, and at the same time, telling the Palestinians, "Hey, we want to negotiate, but these things aren't up in the air. They're a real country. They're a real place. United States is recognizing them. We want you to come to the table, but if you're not willing to do that, we'll go elsewhere."
Chris Katulka: Yeah. This is huge. Now, listen, we're going to take a break here in a moment, everybody. I have Steve Herzig, who is the Director of North American Ministries here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, in the studio. We're talking all about the peace deal that was recently made and brokered by the U.S., but between Bahrain and Israel and the UAE and Israel. We're looking at the peace deal not only from a political perspective, a geopolitical perspective, but we're also going to ask the question, what does the Bible say about this?
You know, here at The Friends of Israel, we don't just look at what's going on in the Middle East from a worldly perspective, we always filter everything that's happening in the Middle East and all around the world from a biblical worldview. We believe this is incredibly important, especially when it comes to the Middle East.
So when we come back, we're going to continue our discussion on peace in the Middle East, and also what the Bible has to say about it. So be sure to stick around.
Steve Conover: It's always great to have Steve Herzig in the studio with us. We'll return to Chris and Steve in a moment, but I wanted to tell you about a book we have in our store called The Case for Zionism, and it's by our friend, Thomas Ice. Why should Christians support Israel? It's a topic we think about a lot here at The Friends of Israel.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, especially as we're having this discussion with Steve Herzig. We're talking about the Middle East peace. We're talking about what the Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said about Israel. You know, all of this, we wouldn't be talking about this if it wasn't for the fact that there is a Jewish state in the Middle East right now, Israel.
That's what this book is all about. The Case for Zionism doesn't just look at what's going on in the Middle East from a political perspective, it looks at it from a biblical perspective. As Christians, we need to look at it from both sides of the coin. We need to have both a political understanding and a biblical understanding, and The Case for Zionism: Why Christians Should Support Israel helps the Christian understand and know the history, the biblical history, the political history, all behind the creation of the modern state of Israel.
So I really would encourage our listeners to get The Case for Zionism: Why Christians Should Support Israel by Tommy Ice.
Steve Conover: To purchase a copy of The Case for Zionism by Thomas Ice, visit us at foiradio.org. Again, that's foiradio.org. We'll have a link on our homepage. Or you can call our listener line, at that number is (888) 343-6940, again, that's (888) 343-6940, and someone will return your call during our regular business hours.
In Canada, call (888) 664-2584. Again, in Canada, call (888) 664-2584.
Chris Katulka: Steve, we were just talking about the recent peace deal that was made and the failed strategies of the past and what's different about today. You had mentioned that Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, moved the embassy. He recognized the Golan Heights as sovereign Israeli territory. He even, in the peace deal, said that Israel has a right to annex major portions of the West Bank, and that was a big move.
You know, the thing I thought right away when I was reading his peace deal is there is no other past administration that I remember that would ever accept anything Donald Trump put on the table. You know, I don't think Bush would have accepted that, I don't think Obama would have accepted that, and yet it worked.
Steve Herzig: Well, Donald Trump, regardless of your politics, I'm not here to talk about politics, but Donald Trump has been a successful and, some from time to time, failed businessman, but you can't escape the fact that he wants to put deals together. He probably looked over the situation, and again, they were trying to do the same thing, whether they're Democrat or Republican, try to put the same thing, get them together in a diplomatic way and give and take, Donald Trump decided for whatever reason that he was going to go backdoor on this.
He started with the country that he knew. He gets along very well with Bibi Netanyahu. He recognized that Israel is a country, as the United States has, and he probably said something like, "You know what? I'm going to first lock these things down and then move over here. It hasn't been done before. It's worth a try." Donald Trump has said publicly in various venues to different situations, "What do you got to lose?" That's kind of the attitude he's taken. So he dealt with Israel first. Palestinians, not involved at all, whining about what was going on. All the other nations observing these things.
Chris, there is something that Donald Trump knew about. It's the elephant in the room, and it's four letters long. I know you know it. It's a country, and its name is Iran. That is the key, and I think Donald Trump knew that. So he was going to deal with Israel, communicate something to the other nations, and then other nations begin to talk amongst themselves because they're fearful of Iran.
Chris Katulka: Because we know already that Israel was working with many of these. Now, from a very global, political, your upfront policy.
Steve Herzig: Under the table, so to speak.
Chris Katulka: They're not talking about their relationship, but like you said, under the table they've got security that they're working on together that they partner with on. I know the Saudis and Israel have certain deals that they've worked out. All in order to protect themselves against Iran.
So the question then, though, becomes what about the Palestinians? You know, like you had said, the Palestinians just kind of sat there with their arms crossed and whined the whole time. Now they're kind of left out there and it seems like they've been left behind. UAE is making deals with Israel. Bahrain is making deals. I think more countries will come to the table. Have they left the Palestinians in the lurch?
Steve Herzig: What they've done is they've communicated to the Palestinians, "You're welcome to come, but other nations are going to come." Again, to me, it's Iran.
2015, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to the United Nations. At the time, Chris, 2015, you'll remember, he was alone. He spoke against that treaty that Obama put forth. He was against it. He talked about how it was a dangerous thing, not just to his country, but to others. Donald Trump agreed. Donald Trump saw that treaty, and one of the first things he did was back out of it and immediately put sanctions on Iran.
I believe by doing that, Israel, knowing where Israel's at, and now knowing where the United States is, I think Bahrain and the UAE said, "Hey, we've got to find where our toast is buttered." They threw themselves to the United States because they're against Iran. They like their style of living and they don't want them to acquire nuclear weapons. So I think they felt that that's a bigger enemy, let's come here.
In the meanwhile, the Palestinians are saying, "How could you do this?" But they're probably saying to them, "Why don't you get with the program? This is not the way to continue. You can be much more prosperous if you're willing to do that." But so far Mahmoud Abbas is unwilling to do it.
Chris Katulka: Yeah, it's interesting, when Trump put forth his Peace to Prosperity plan last December, there were some Arab countries that were there to hear the deal and to understand how. I mean, that had never happened before, you know? The Palestinians didn't show up. The Israelis and certain other Arab Gulf States were there and representing the area for the Middle East. That's a big deal.
So you could see that there was some advanced work going on. For everybody else, and it kind of appeared out of nowhere, but really, I think there has been a strategy set up that's been moving the ball forward, and one that you can't just turn your head to, like the media has been. They've been just ignoring it. You can't ignore it.
But I think the question a lot of Christians are asking themselves is, is this in the Bible? There's peace happening in the Middle East. Two countries, now you've got the four countries, and there's others that are coming. There's a transition that's happening. So my question is is this in the Bible?
Steve Herzig: Well, you know, Chris, I just returned from a conference I was at, and I get questions all the time that are looking for things that are happening in the newspaper and trying to find a biblical verse to talk about it. Well, I hope it's not going to be misunderstood by my audience, but in a sense, the times in which we live prophetically are pretty boring.
What I mean by that is the next event on the prophetic calendar, at least from Friends of Israel's perspective, and mine certainly, is the rapture of the church. That doesn't mean that things that are happening currently aren't significant. It simply means that's what we're looking for next, the rapture of the church and God is going to once again deal with Israel.
However, staging, is there staging? Is God moving the chess pieces in order to accomplish that? It's really hard for us to identify, but I can tell you that when you're talking about the Middle East, according to Ezekiel 5:5, the Jerusalem, the middle of the world, that means that anything surrounding there could have great significance.
When you're talking about Iran and its proxy, Syria, Yemen, Gaza, where Hamas is, Lebanon, where Beirut, the explosions take place because of Hezbollah storing their stuff, that is major stuff. We can go to Daniel 9, we can talk about a covenant that has to be signed. That covenant, I remember Rennie Showers, Dr. Showers, always talking about that covenant and the Hebrew word for it has to do with strengthening a covenant. Which means that things that are being written right now, might, and I underscore might, we don't know, might have great significance to what the antichrist will finally fashion in a covenant signing thing.
So that's what makes you and I look at the news, because maybe the stage is being set. I think we can say that. The stage is being set.
Chris Katulka: The relationships are being established in some way, and there is an essence of peace that does come. There are moments before even the staging of Gog and Magog that there's a peace and security at that time. The walls are down. Everybody's having a peaceful relationship. So there's some interesting things that could be connected, and definitely we know this: God is sovereign. He's in control. All of this is being organized and structured by him.
So is it in the Bible? Of course, God's the one moving all the pieces forward for his glory.
Steve Herzig: Isn't it great news.
Chris Katulka: It's fantastic.
Steve Herzig: To me, we can rest in him.
Chris Katulka: That's right. Steve, thank you so much for joining us. For our listeners, just a fresh reminder, Steve Herzig is the Director of North American Ministries here at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, our outreach arm here at The Friends of Israel, where we minister to our Jewish friends all around the United States and in Canada. So Steve, thanks so much for being on the program with us and I hope that this was a blessing to our listeners.
Steve Herzig: Love doing it.
Steve Conover: Thank you for joining us today. Chris, what can we expect next week?
Chris Katulka: Yeah, we're going to be looking at the doctrine of the rapture. I know it can be controversial to talk about the rapture. Will it happen at all? Does it happen before the tribulation, in the middle of the tribulation, at the end of the tribulation? We here at The Friends of Israel believe it happens before the tribulation. It's a pre-trib rapture.
But I want to share something a little bit different next week, and I want to encourage our guests to come back because I think it's going to be something that they're going to find encouragement from out of the theology of the rapture.
Steve Conover: We hope you'll join us then. Our host and teacher is Chris Katulka. Today's program was produced by Tom Gallione. Our theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong. I'm Steve Conover, executive producer.
One last quick reminder to visit us at foiradio.org.
The Friends of Israel Today is a production of The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry. We are a worldwide evangelical ministry, proclaiming biblical truth about Israel and the Messiah while bringing physical and spiritual comfort to the Jewish people.
The Case for Zionism
By Thomas Ice
Our love for the nation of Israel drives us here at The Friends of Israel. But just why should we as Christians support Israel?
Thomas Ice answers this question thoroughly in his book The Case for Zionism. Though some evangelical communities have begun to abandon modern Israel and its importance in Bible prophecy, this book counters that movement, explaining why Zionism is more important than ever.
The Friends of Israel Today and Apples of Gold theme music was composed and performed by Jeremy Strong.
Your gifts help us reach people all around the globe with our message of truth to bless the Jewish people. If the Lord leads you and you believe Christians need to hear the truth about Israel and the Jewish people, we ask that you prayerfully consider a gift so we can continue to bring these truths to you and others as well. Any amount is a blessing to our program and we are so thankful for your support.