* * * * FLASH TRAFFIC: WASHINGTON UPDATE * * * *
DISPATCH FROM MOROCCO:
ASSESSING PRESIDENT BUSH'S TRIP TO MIDDLE EAST
Plus: Israeli town hit with more than 120 rockets from Gaza since Bush visit. Joshua Fund responds with emergency aid.
By Joel C. Rosenberg (Casablanca, Morocco, January 18, 2008) -- I'm just wrapping up a fascinating week in Morocco where I've been interviewing senior government and Islamic leaders in this Kingdom about their brand of moderate, reform-minded Islam for a new non-fiction book and documentary film I'm working on that will focus on the battle between radicals and reformers for the heart and soul of the modern Middle East.
It's been an intriguing time to be in the region. Morocco's King Mohammed VI and Jordan's King Abdullah II have been holding a summit in the gorgeous city of Marrakesh, mapping out ways to strengthen their economic and political ties as well as continue to play a strategic, positive, but somewhat understated and often behind-the-scenes role in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. President Bush, meanwhile, has just wrapped up a sweeping nine-day trip through the epicenter. And the world seems to have all but forgotten an Israeli town situated on the border with Gaza that has been under withering and nearly non-stop attack. Sderot has actually been hit with more than 120 Palestinian terror rockets and mortars this week and with more than 1,500 rockets since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June. Yet where is the outrage? Where is the international condemnation of the terrorists and the states who support them? How can either side -- the Israeli people or the Palestinians who do want peace and security for both sides -- ever make peace until these radical Islamic jihadists are stopped?
A few notes and thoughts:
1.) I have to admit, I've fallen in love with Morocco. Situated on the northwestern corner of Africa along the Atlantic and the Med, it's beautiful, friendly, peaceful, vibrant, and welcoming to Jews and Christians. No wonder I've been here four times. This week I had the privilege of meeting with top security officials, Islamic religious scholars, Christian leaders, as well as U.S. Ambassador Thomas Riley.
2.) Morocco ranks with Jordan with Turkey as the most moderate, peaceful and thus far stable Muslim nation states in the region. All three have faced serious threats from radical jihadist leaders and organizations over the years, and all three will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But with strong, sensible leadership -- and societies generally eschewing jihadist theology and political dogmas -- each are effectively weathering the storm. They have chosen close economic, political, military and intelligence ties with the U.S. and NATO. Each can be accessed by people with Israeli stamps in their passports. Israelis traveling on their own passports can travel to each country safely.
3.) Big question: Does Morocco, Jordan and/or Turkey have a model that other Islamic countries can or want to emulate or adapt? The jury is still out on that one. The Moroccan and Jordanian monarchs can trace their lineage back to Mohammed himself, and thus have tremendous legitimacy within their societies. What's more, both monarchs are young (40s), dynamic reformers who are expanding democratic participation in their parliaments, improving their human rights records, and attracting tourism and foreign direct investment. Turkey is a full-fledged (secular) democracy and likewise making significant improvements in the areas of economic growth and the protection of human rights, though much more progress needs to be made in all three countries, especially in the area of safeguarding religious freedom.
4.) Egypt should be a prime candidate for following the Moroccan-Jordanian-Turkish model, or surpassing it. They have a peace-treaty with Israel that has held since 1979. They have close ties with the U.S. They have significant natural resources, including natural gas; close proximity to European markets; and the opportunity to draw millions of tourists from around the globe. Indeed, they have the potential to be the leader of the moderate, pro-growth, pro-Western camp in the epicenter. Yet thus far, they have not had the political or social will to make the real and serious changes necessary. President Hosni Mubarak is aging and ill. He has done nothing to promote true democracy much less prepare for his departure from the political scene (other than grooming his son, Gamal). A succession crisis looms.
5.) Overall, I have been impressed with President Bush's trip through the epicenter. I was disappointed that he encouraged the Israelis to put the division of Jerusalem on the table. That's a mistake. It will only encourage the radicals in the region who see it as a sign of weakness, not goodwill. I was also disapppointed that he did not speak out forcefully on the fact that Israeli towns on the southern border with Gaza are being hit with hundreds of rockets and mortars. Still, I was glad he visited Israel. It was the right thing to do. It was a visit long overdue. He sent the message that the U.S. is standing with the Jewish State. That's no small thing. Throughout the rest of the region, the President generally communicated the right message in the right tone. He made it clear he regards Iran as a threat. He met with young people, women, moderate Islamic reformers, and entrepreneurs. In Kuwait, he met with his top military leadership from Iraq, and heard good news. The surge is working. Violence is down. U.S. casualties are down. Iraqi civilian casualities are down. Thank God. And thank the U.S. military.
6.) Let's not overlook the President's basic strategy in the epicenter: make friends with true democrats and reformers; visit your friends and stand shoulder to shoulder with them because a picture is worth a thousand words; help your friends economically and militarily; and keep the moderates' eyes fixed on the real threats to the safety and stability of the region -- radical Islamic jihadists and an Iranian nuclear bomb, not Israel.
7.) What will 2008 hold? It's anybody's guess. So let us continue to pray for peace, but prepare for war.
Photo: Morocco's King Mohammed VI, right, and Jordan King Abdullah II applaud after a signing ceremony between Morocco and Jordan at the Royal Palace in Marrakesh, Morocco, Sunday, Jan. 13, 2008. (AP)
To visit Joel's WEBLOG with the latest on events in the Middle East and Russia, please click here.
To sign up for free >> FLASH TRAFFIC << geopolitical and prayer updates, please click here.
To visit www.epicenter08.com -- for more information and/or to sign up for the Epicenter conference -- please click here
To learn more about The Joshua Fund and "Operation Epicenter," and/or make a secure, tax-deductible financial contribution -- even on-line -- please click here.
To visit The Joshua Fund's WEBLOG and see the latest prayer needs for the Middle East, please click here
JOSHUA FUND PROJECTS UPDATE
In the summer of 2005, Israel gave land (the Gaza Strip), but did it get peace? Hardly. More than 1,500 rockets and missiles have hit southern Israeli towns such as Sderot since Hamas took over Gaza last June. More than 120 rockets and mortars have hit Sderot just since President Bush visited Israel to boost the "peace process." The President didn't speak out forcefully when he was in the Holy Land, but we must. Israelis are suffering, and as evangelical Christians we should respond with unconditional love.
First, please pray for the residents of Sderot and southern Israel for courage and protection.
Second, please pray for wisdom, courage and unfailing strength for the local officials, police officers and relief workers as they face what seems to be a never-ending barrage of attacks.
Third, please pray for the Israeli political and military leaders in Jerusalem to have the wisdom and courage to take whatever action is necessary -- and quickly -- to stop these horrible attacks.
Fourth, please pray for my Joshua Fund colleagues and me as we head to Israel next week to visit Sderot and meet with key political, military, religious and humanitarian relief leaders in the country.
The Joshua Fund is responding immediately by providing $100,000 for emergency relief projects, including desperately needed medical equipment for the leading Israeli hospital and trauma center in the southern region, as well as blankets and heaters for needy residents of Sderot who are now facing the cold winter months.
If you would like to help, please make your check payable to "The Joshua Fund" and send to:
The Joshua Fund
18950 Base Camp Road
Monument, Colorado 80132-8009
Thanks so much and may God richly bless you and your family as you bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus.
Thank you for reading. Please feel free to forward to others.
TO BOOK JOEL FOR AN INTERVIEW please contact Beverly Rykerd at 1-888-481-0405, (719) 481-0537, or (719) 440-2746 (cell), or email@example.com.
TO BOOK JOEL FOR A SPEECH please contact Edward Hunt at (703) 303-4998, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.