- The Washington Times - Monday, June 21, 2021

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS — Novelist, journalist, and political insider Joel C. Rosenberg, whose Middle East connections extend from the top echelons of Israeli governments to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, believes there is room for optimism over U.S.-Israeli relations despite changes in administrations in Washington and Jerusalem.

“We are in a very strange moment,” Mr. Rosenberg conceded during an interview at the National Religious Broadcasters convention, an event where he will host former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday for a live discussion before an audience of Christian media professionals.

Mr. Rosenberg, a Jewish-Christian evangelical who divides his time between the U.S. and Jerusalem, was a researcher for the late Rush Limbaugh, a campaign advisor to 2000 GOP presidential hopeful Steve Forbes and a consultant in the late 1990s for Israeli politicians Natan Sharansky and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who recently was turned out of office.

But Mr. Rosenberg is as well known, if not more so, as a suspense/action/thriller novelist, whose current fictional hero, Marcus Ryker, faces new and chilling dangers on the eve of a peace pact between Israel and Saudi Arabia in “The Beirut Protocol,” a novel Tyndale House released in April. His next nonfiction book, “Enemies and Allies,” due in September, details the growing entente between the Jewish state and its Arab neighbors, many of whom are increasingly alarmed by an ascendant, hard-line Iranian regime.

Since the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Biden, both Israel and Iran have chosen or installed new leaders. Naftali Bennett, a Netanyahu protege now estranged from his mentor, became Israel’s 13th prime minister less than 10 days ago. And Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline Iranian politician, was elected June 20th as Iran’s president.

Mr. Rosenberg sees positives for Israel and her evangelical Christian supporters in the U.S. in the arrival of both Mr. Biden and Mr. Bennett — and a fair amount of concern about Mr. Raisi, who is slated to take office on Aug. 3.

“I think President Biden, himself really is a Zionist,” Mr. Rosenberg explained. “He‘s one of the few American politicians who calls himself a Zionist, meaning he truly believes Israel has the right to be there and to defend herself. If you just take the Iron Dome funding, for example, the Obama-Biden administration was the ones that funded the anti-rocket defenses. And that has saved my life, my wife’s life, the lives of my children and lives of countless thousands of Israelis. So that’s good.”

A key differentiator between Israel’s Mr. Bennett and his immediate predecessor was the proposal to send the Palestinian Authority 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer anti-COVID-19 vaccine, in exchange for a similar number from the Palestinians later this year, when Israelis may need a booster shot. Though agreed to on both sides, the Palestinians later scrapped the deal, claiming the promised Israeli doses were too close to expiration for them to use.

Mr. Rosenberg said the incident shows that “Nafali Bennett is looking for opportunities to be positive, not just because of the Palestinians, but because he’s trying to send a message to Biden: ‘I am not Netanyahu, when it comes to Iran, when it comes to security. I’m a hawk. But when it comes to trying to be friendly with my neighbors, including the Palestinians, I am not going to dig my heels in and say no, no, no, it’s never gonna happen.’”

On the American side, along with Mr. Biden’s stated Zionism — which Mr. Rosenberg said is a bulwark against the more extreme positions of lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — the family background of Secretary of State Anthony Blinken as the stepson of a Holocaust survivor is notable.

“This guy understands how the Holocaust and anti-Semitism and [the] demonic hatred of the Jewish people can have an effect if it’s not confronted and contained,” Mr. Rosenberg said.

While he said it’s difficult to assess where Vice President Kamala Harris stands in the midst of this, Mr. Rosenberg noted some interesting factors there, as well: “On the positive side, she‘s married to a Jewish man. She has Jewish stepdaughters, she‘s visited Israel, [and] her voting record is reasonably pro-Israel.”

He noted that his 2020 novel, “The Jerusalem Assassin” was ahead of the curve in predicting an eventual Israel-Saudia Arabia peace treaty. Mr. Rosenberg said reality may catch up with the dramatic storyline sooner than many might expect.

“I’m the only political thriller writer in the world, who has sat down not once, but twice with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, and had hours and hours of conversations with him about every issue in the Middle East, including how he sees the future of Israeli-Saudi relations,” Mr. Rosenberg said. “So while ‘The Jerusalem Assassin’ is fiction today, two, three, or five years from now, I think that it’s actually increasingly likely that we’re going to see a Saudi-Israeli summit and an actual peace treaty.”

• Mark A. Kellner can be reached at mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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