ORLANDO, Fla.—Israel recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, and many Jews and Christians see the state’s existence as a fulfillment of biblical prophecy, but a former Israeli general also raised the alarm about the growing threats from Iran and its allies in the East.
“Things have changed dramatically in the last year,” Amir Avivi, a retired brigadier general in the Israeli Defense Forces, told The Daily Signal in an interview at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention last week. “We’ve seen the East moving towards adapting to the sanctions the West is imposing in the last year, especially on Russia and rightly so. But China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, all of these countries are getting closer and closer together. It enables them to overcome sanctions.”
In April, China brokered a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia, signaling a new balance of power in the Middle East.
“When they look at the West, they see a strong military power, but with zero willingness to use power,” Avivi warned. “When this is the reality, they feel they can pretty much do whatever they want and this is destabilizing the whole globe.”
“We see the Chinese aggression in the Pacific. We see Russians fighting on European soil, and in the Middle East, Iran is getting more and more emboldened, building forces all around Israel,” the retired general added. “They’re building Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. They’re building Hezbollah in Lebanon. They’re building the militias in Iraq and in Yemen, and trying to create this nuclear umbrella that will enable them basically to take over the whole Middle East.”
“From there, their aspiration is world domination,” he warned. “This is what the Iranians want, and we are seeing lack of leadership on behalf of the U.S. Without the U.S. presence in the Middle East, the Middle East is not stable and the prospects of a large war are growing steadily.”
Avivi, who currently serves as founder and chairman of the Israeli Defense and Security Forum, suggested the U.S. should engage more in the Middle East.
“The other option is the U.S. stepping forward, building a coalition in the Middle East, posing a credible military threat on Iran, and by doing so, stabilizing the region,” the retired general said. “Bringing peace agreements—because the Saudis are willing to do peace with Israel. They’re willing to expand this peace also to Pakistan and Indonesia and Oman.”
“But they will not go forward with a peace agreement without American commitment to stand strong with Israel and the Sunni world,” Avivi said.
The retired general, who also served as aide-de-camp to the chief of the General Staff of the IDF, said that Israel can defend itself by itself and has extremely strong capabilities, which he cannot reveal.
Avivi also shared the story of how a visit to Jerusalem’s holy sites inspired his men to fight harder on the front lines against Palestinian terrorism.
Rabbi Dov Lipman, a former Knesset member and CEO of Yad L’Olim, also joined the podcast. He spoke about “this incredible miracle called Israel” that he views as the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. His organization has helped over 30,000 Jewish families from over 41 different countries to move to Israel and adjust to life in the Holy Land.
Listen to the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:
Tyler O’Neil: This is Tyler O’Neil, managing editor at The Daily Signal. I’m joined by Amir Avivi, a retired brigadier general in the Israeli Defense Forces and founder and chairman of the Israeli Defense and Security Forum. Brigadier General, it’s an honor to speak with you.
Amir Avivi: Thank you very much, Tyler. It’s good to be here.
O’Neil: Awesome. I’d like to start off, you’re focused on telling Americans how important it is for the U.S. to stand with Israel against the growing Iran, China, Russia axis. How would you describe Israel’s strength and the threats that it faces right after its 75th anniversary?
Avivi: I think we are in a very unique time. Things have changed dramatically in the last year. We’ve seen the East moving toward adapting to the sanctions the West is imposing in the last year, especially on Russia, and rightly so.
But China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, all of these countries are getting closer and closer together. It enables them to overcome sanctions. When they look at the West, they see a strong military power, but with zero willingness to use power. When this is the reality, they feel they can pretty much do whatever they want and this is destabilizing the whole globe.
We see the Chinese aggression in the Pacific. We see Russians fighting on European soil, and in the Middle East, Iran is getting more and more emboldened, building forces all around Israel. They’re building Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. They’re building Hezbollah in Lebanon. They’re building the militias in Iraq and in Yemen, and trying to create this nuclear umbrella that will enable them basically to take over the whole Middle East. From there, their aspiration is world domination. This is what the Iranians want.
And we are seeing lack of leadership on behalf of the U.S. Without the U.S. presence in the Middle East, the Middle East is not stable and the prospects of a large war are growing steadily.
O’Neil: What has Israel been doing to counter these aggressive forces and what should the United States do?
Avivi: Israel is preparing to be able to defend itself by itself. We are building our capabilities for many, many years. I can tell you, as somebody who has been the aide-de-camp of the chief of General Staff, and also the chief auditor of the whole Israeli defense establishment, I remember as a pretty young officer, lieutenant colonel, when I became aide-de-camp of the chief of General Staff, that what amazed me is the ingenuity of the IDF. People cannot even imagine what we are capable of doing. There is really amazing capabilities and we might need to use them pretty soon.
O’Neil: No, that’s shocking and terrifying, but comforting that they have those capabilities. What did your experience in the IDF teach you about the threats that Israel faces?
Avivi: Well, there are many threats, but I think the most important thing that I found out in my 30 years of service is that the greatest power we have, and we have to cultivate, is our ability to stand to our values. It’s all about Judaism and Zionism. National security is first and foremost about national values. If you have the drive, if you have the spirit, that’s the key.
When I was a battalion commander in Operation Defensive Shield, I found myself 10 months fighting with my soldiers day and night, day and night, operating inside Palestinian cities. Fighting fiercely, knowing that if we do one mistake, there will be a major terror attack and many people will get killed.
After 10 months when the soldiers are really tired for this fight, we were told we have three weeks to organize and we’re going back to 10 months more, which is unbelievable.
I took my whole battalion, to talk with them, and I found myself asking them very strange questions talking about Israeli soldiers: “How many of you have ever visited Jerusalem?” I found out that half of my battalion, although they’re Israeli soldiers, have never been in Jerusalem, which was shocking to me. The ones that actually were in Jerusalem, half of them have never been in Temple Mount in the Kotel (the Western Wall).
I had three weeks. One week, it was vacation, one week to organize the equipment, and one week of training. I said to myself, “We’re not going to train. I am taking my whole battalion to Jerusalem.” Indeed, the whole battalion spent the whole week in Jerusalem.
We went to David’s City. We connected back to who we are as Jews who have been living in Jerusalem for more than 3,000 years. We went to the Kotel and to the Old City. We visited the Knesset and also the Supreme Court. On the last day, 800 soldiers sat at the president’s house and talked to the president.
When this battalion came back to combat, it was a completely different battalion. People were full of spirit, strong. They fought as no battalion fought at that time. We managed to foil a 100% of all terror attempts. I didn’t lose even one soldier.
This captured the attention of the chief of staff. He invited me to a meeting and asked me, “What did you do? How come this battalion is performing the way it is?” I told him, “It’s not about what we did, it’s about what Israel did for us. It’s about the connection they got from visiting Jerusalem. It’s about spirit.” Since then, every soldier in the IDF goes to Jerusalem because it’s really all about spirit.
O’Neil: That’s an inspiring story. Would you mention a few of those capabilities you say that Israel has that you hope they’d never have to use? Of course, I understand some of them are state secrets, so whatever you can hint at or speak without endangering anything.
Avivi: Well, I cannot really speak about what are the capabilities because they are secret and have been developed for a long time. But I can say that Israel has a variety of capabilities. We can defend ourselves by ourselves. But we have to understand that if Israel goes to war alone, this will bring regional war, and this regional war will destabilize the whole globe economically. Every single American will be impacted by that.
I say it because I visit Washington, D.C., quite often, and even when I talk to our biggest supporters, they say, “Yeah, you know you Israelis, you do what you need to do. If you need to attack Iran, attack.” They don’t understand the consequences of us attacking alone, but there is another option.
The other option is the U.S. stepping forward, building a coalition in the Middle East, posing a credible military threat on Iran, and by doing so, stabilizing the region. Bringing peace agreements because the Saudis are willing to do peace with Israel. They’re willing to expand this peace also to Pakistan and Indonesia and Daman. But they will not go forward with a peace agreement without American commitment to stand strong with Israel and the Sunni world.
It can go two ways. Either we’re on our way to prosperity, to peace agreements, to building back the American deterrents against China, Russia, and deterring Iran from becoming nuclear, or regional war. We need to choose.
And I think it’s clear not from an Israeli point of view, from an American global point of view, that America must stand strong with Israel and the region. By doing that, this will stabilize not only the Middle East but the whole globe because America will build the deterrence once again.
O’Neil: We saw under President [Donald] Trump the forging of historic pacts in the Abraham Accords with majority-Muslim countries there in the area, even establishing embassies in Jerusalem, like the United States did. But that progress slowed under President [Joe] Biden, if it hasn’t stopped entirely. We begin to hear that Saudi Arabia might make that deal. You’re saying that they are on the cusp if they have the right U.S. leadership?
Avivi: Well, the reason why the region is doing peace with Israel is that they feel Iran is an existential threat for them. So is, by the way, the Muslim Brotherhood, the Sunni extremists—as we saw in Afghanistan—ISIS, al-Qaeda, all these groups are endangering the moderate Sunni regimes. They feel that in order to exist, in order to be able to maintain stability, they need Israel and they need the U.S.
When President Trump said, “I am with you and I am supportive,” this encouraged them to move toward peace agreements. They knew that by joining with Israel, they have American support. Without this American support, it’s very, very hard to expand these peace agreements.
And not only that, it might endanger the existing agreements because when we see Saudis starting to move toward Iran, renewing relations, a deal brokered by China, contemplating maybe to move toward the Chinese and the Russians, this is very, very bad news to the Middle East and to the U.S. dominance in the Middle East, which is crucial in order to maintain stability and prosperity.
O’Neil: We just saw the 75th anniversary of Israel. Is there anything particularly resonant about that for you and about Israel’s situation on the world stage that you would talk about in connection with?
Avivi: For me, as a general that looks to Israel’s national security for generations, I think that after two exiles, after 2,000 years in the diaspora, after persecutions, after the Holocaust, we cannot take for granted our existence.
We need to be proactive. We need to build our capabilities. We need to be able to defend ourselves by ourselves. But more than anything else, we need spirit. We need to build a resilient young generation connected to their roots because it’s all about spirit. This is what enables, really, a nation to thrive.
We are working very hard educating the young generation in high schools and in pre-army programs, reaching to the societies through media and social media, and in this way really building the Israeli society.
Now that we have done it very successfully in Israel with thousands of officials that we deploy, we’re expanding these education programs also to the Jewish community and to the evangelical world. Because I think it’s all about really connecting with leaders and with strong Jews who know exactly who they are and what the purpose of their existence is to promote, really, world peace and what Jews need to do in this world.
O’Neil: Well, thank you so much for joining me, General Avivi.
Avivi: It’s a pleasure. Thank you very much.
Tyler O’Neil: This is Tyler O’Neil. I’m managing editor at The Daily Signal. I’m joined by Rabbi Dov Lipman, a former Knesset member and CEO of Yad L’Olim. It’s a pleasure to speak with you.
Dov Lipman: It’s great to be with you, Tyler.
O’Neil: So, would you first explain, Rabbi Lipman, what Olim is and the whole concept of Aliyah?
Lipman: It’s a great question. There’s an undercurrent of the story of Israel, which no one really talks about very much, and especially not in the faith-based world. We talk about security issues and Iran and terrorism, and those are all obviously important. We talk about diplomacy. But the real story of what’s happening in Israel is the fulfillment of biblical prophecies in front of our eyes and part of that is the in-gathering of the exiles.
Olim is the terminology that’s used for someone who moves to Israel, but in Hebrew it means “those who are moving up,” it’s a spiritual uplifting that’s taking place.
And we’ve seen in 75 years of this incredible miracle called Israel a country that in 1948 had somewhere around 600,000 Jews living there and now you’re talking about over 7 million. In 75 years, a growth exponentially.
And the incredible part is you open up the Bible and you see a description of the Jews being exiled all around the world and persecuted. And then it says, “A time will come when God will gather them from around the world and come back.”
My organization is just in existence for two years and we’ve had over 30,000 families from Jews living in 41 different countries reach out to us and get our assistance to get to Israel and settle successfully in Israel. So there’s a story of biblical proportions that’s taking place, and that’s what I’m blessed to be part of in Yad L’Olim.
O’Neil: So those are just the families that you’ve actually helped, not the ones who might have also reached out and haven’t moved yet?
Lipman: That’s correct. And there’s also people who were able to move with the help of the government and didn’t need [a nongovernmental organization] to assist them with bureaucratic issues. So the numbers are just staggering.
I myself was blessed to—it’s called—“make Aliyah” from the United States in 2004, and I was on a flight with 300 people who said, “Israel’s going to be our home. We’re not running away from anything in America, but running to something in Israel.”
And I’ve been blessed to raise my four children as Israelis in a Jewish state, a son who is a commander in an elite combat unit in the IDF, and by the way, also a pitcher for the Israel baseball team, so we got the American side going as well.
But just amazing things that are happening as you see Jews from around the world saying, “I want to make Israel my home.” And the truth is, that gives more strength to Israel.
As more Jews come and more Jews make Israel their home and we cement the statement that we’re not occupiers, we’re not conquerors, we’re not aggressors, we’re just people who are rightfully taking our birthright in our biblical ancestral homeland, that’s an important message for the world as well.
O’Neil: Yeah, I think that’s key because we hear so often the narrative of the Palestinians, the narrative that there should be two states, all of this, these claims. How does biblical prophecy equip us to respond to those claims?
Lipman: It’s a fantastic question, and in the question, you actually gave the answer. What I mean by that is, I wrote a book called “Fact Over Fiction: A Challenge to Barack Obama’s History of Israel” because I read Chapter 25 of his memoirs, which is all about Israel, and literally sentence after sentence was a revisionist history that’s just not based on the reality and it’s portrayed as if we’re some people who just woke up one morning and decided, “Yeah, there might be Arabs living in Palestine, we want to be there as well.”
The term Palestine comes from a time when the Romans were trying to eradicate a Jewish presence in the land. That’s where the term comes from. We returned it to Palestine for hundreds of years. There were no nation called the Palestinians. That didn’t exist there.
But if you read the Bible and you understand that this is a land that God has given to the Jewish people—but more than that, we were there, we lived there. You can feel it in the soil, you can tour the land. And I invite Christians from all around the world to come and see it themselves and see your own history in that land. That is the answer to this revisionist history. It’s just opening up your eyes.
And I want to tell you, I often host delegations in Israel and I don’t have to say a word. They can just travel around and they see the Jewish history there. They can go to King David’s palace from thousands of years ago and they say, “Wait a minute, the Jews were here. You can’t be occupying your own land.”
Judea and Samaria, which the world calls the West Bank, which they want us to give to the Palestinians, that was the biblical heartland, every story in the Bible that took place there. So when you go there and you see it with your own eyes, it gives you your own answer. These are not occupiers.
And the second part is studying the history.
How many times have we as peace-loving people made offers to our Arab neighbors and even our Palestinian neighbors? And not only are they rejected, usually it leads to greater terrorism, even more attacks against us. So our answer to that is we’ll continue making it our home, we are going to live in this land.
Those who are listening can go to yadlolim.org and literally see the story of the Jewish people returning to their homeland. That is our response. We are not going to cower to terrorism. We’re not going to give in to anybody. We actually build more. You want to hurt us.
The Bible talks about, at the time of Egypt, the more Pharaoh persecuted the Jewish people, the more they increased and multiplied. That’s what we’re doing as well.
And therefore our response—and people of faith, first of all, prayer, pray for us. We need the prayers. We all should pray for each other, but also to be supportive of this effort and be partners with us in bringing the Jewish people home and cementing our stake in our biblical and ancestral homeland.
O’Neil: So how would you describe the movement of the modern state of Israel compared to the return of the exiles under the Persian Empire? It’s fascinating because you had the 70 years of exile and then now you have 2,000 years.
Lipman: It’s an excellent question. The truth is, it’s interesting that both of those exiles come to an end with the permission of kings of the world, so to speak, in the times of Persia, certainly with Cyrus and others that were involved in that. And here we have the United Nations that somehow miraculously, on Nov. 29, 1947, says, “The Jews have a right to have a peace of the land of Israel” and gave us permission, so to speak, to do so.
But the biggest difference is what was formed when those people came back. In the time of the first return, there were small numbers that came back. The Bible even talks about 40 families or so that decided—most of the people were very comfortable in Babylonia and the Persian Empire and they stayed there.
And what we’re seeing here is an awakening of Jews from every single continent. We have every single continent, like I said, 41 different countries, saying, “It’s time to go back home.” And that is the significant change.
So the kingdom, so to speak, that we’re building in Israel today, which has literally, in seven decades, become a world power in security and in intelligence and in technology and the good that we bring to the world, I think that’s a result of the awakening of the Jews around the world to say, “It’s time for us to go back to the land,” which didn’t happen the previous time. And that’s why we feel so confident with God’s help that this effort will not only last 75, 100 years, but this is going to be something which is there forever.
O’Neil: And which prophecies do you point to that are being fulfilled by the modern state of Israel?
Lipman: So, I’m just going to read one to you straight out because the words are just so obvious. Isaiah, Chapter 11, Verse 12, “He will raise a banner to the nations, gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.”
That’s a literal description of what you can see happening at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel every single day as flights come in and you’ll see people get off the plane and kiss the ground and give thanks to God that after 2,000 years of persecution, literally as Isaiah says it, we will come back.
But you also have the prophecies of the flourishing of the land of Israel taking place. You can open up Amos Chapter 9 where he says, “A day will come when the fruits will grow from the trees, and you’ll see vineyards flowing with wine.” And for 2,000 years, people of faith read that and must have scratched their heads because it was a wasteland.
Mark Twain visited Israel in 1867 and said, “Palestine sits in ashes and sackcloth because there was nothing growing there,” as the Bible says what happened. And then the 20th century comes and a bunch of refugees return from all around the world and everything that’s growing there today, this lush land of fruits and flowers and trees, that’s fulfillment of biblical prophecy as well.
So we are so blessed to live in a time where we can open up the Bible and not just say, “I believe in God and his word,” but I can actually see it happening and it’s happening in the land of Israel on an hourly basis.
O’Neil: Well, it’s interesting because those prophets wrote before the Babylonian captivity and the Jews did have the smaller return under Cyrus. But you’re saying that those prophecies didn’t fully get fulfilled until now.
Lipman: Correct. That’s what we’re saying. There’s no doubt about it that they had an intention of a time when 7 million Jews in the land of Israel, who could have imagined such a thing?
And I’m sitting here as the grandson of a Holocaust survivor who survived Auschwitz-Birkenau, and I mean, she survived that hell. And 70 years later, she was sitting in my Knesset office with a grandson as a member of the Israeli Knesset. And she said, “This doesn’t make any sense. Jewish state, Israel, Jewish capital, Jerusalem, Jewish Parliament, the Knesset, my grandson is a member.” And she’s right, it doesn’t make any sense because it’s God’s work happening in front of our eyes.
So yes, our understanding is that those prophecies are really taking hold today and we almost see word-by-word how they’re being fulfilled.
O’Neil: And we’ve seen a lot of turmoil in Israel, not just countries around saber-rattling, but also huge protests against [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s attempt to restructure the judicial system, which appears not to have any checks and balances. But how do you see that movement and the future of Israel at this 75th anniversary?
Lipman: When I travel around, a lot of people say to me, “Oh my goodness, Israel’s democracy is falling apart.” And I say, “I think it’s just the opposite.”
In November, we had a democratically-elected government. There are people who are bothered by some of the decisions about the government. They are protesting in the streets and they’re, for the most part, very peaceful demonstrations. And that led to some discussion of compromise. That’s a democratic process that’s playing out in front of our eyes.
So I was never in this doomsday place of, “Oh my goodness, it’s falling apart.” I think that this is the way democracy works. And there have been times that the opposite—there have been times that the Left has been in power and the Right went to the streets and demonstrated and had some success, had some failures. That’s part of the democratic process.
So when I look at what’s happening in Israel, I actually see a vibrant democracy, which follows the rule of law. We have peaceful transfer of power from election to election, and even those who are against Netanyahu, but we don’t see armed resistance in the street. They’re using democratic tools at their disposal to try to bring down a government and that’s allowed in our system.
At 75 years, I see an Israel that is so strong and so vibrant and contributing so much to the world. And I do believe that this discussion that we’re having in Israel right now about the courts and oversight, and we don’t have a constitution, maybe this is forcing that issue and this is a good time for that to happen.
We haven’t had it for 75 years and maybe the time has come for all the powers that be to sit together and try to figure out, “OK, what do we want the next 75 years to look like? What is the relationship between religion and state in a Jewish and democratic state?”
That’s complicated. This is really difficult to work out, but I feel like this controversy and this internal conflict is forcing us to talk about those issues even more. And that’s good for a country. That’s a vibrancy of a country that we can have that process.
So I look forward to an incredible 75 years to come.
I’m blessed now to see little Israeli grandchildren being born and going to play their role in the continuation of this story. And as a Jewish person, but as a person of faith, and that’s why I’m here with my Christian brothers and sisters as well, we share in this story, we share in the belief of the righteousness of Israel and that it is the homeland for the Jewish people.
And as long as we continue working together on that front and fighting against all the anti-Israel forces in the world who are sharing false narratives and revisionist history, and really targeting those who don’t deserve to be targeted at all, if we stick together through prayer and through support and work together, I think that Israel will just continue to get stronger and stronger, and the U.S.-Israel relationship will continue, hopefully, to light up the world as well.
O’Neil: Thank you so much, rabbi, for joining me. And where can people follow your important organization and help the work of helping the Olim?
Lipman: Thank you so much. So, they can go to yadlolim.org. They can see all the information there about the organization.
We actually invite Christians to partner with us in this effort. We’re doing the work of God by bringing Jews home to Israel, and the opportunity is there to partner with us. You can reach out to me via the website or my own personal email, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we would welcome that partnership.
I also am willing to travel to churches and to people of faith around the world and share the tidings of the prophecies that are coming true in Israel. People are always inspired by that and you’re welcome to reach out to me via the website for that as well.
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