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Middle East Trip Update: Thank you for your prayers and generous support – Bill Koenig

Thank you for your prayers and generous financial support of my trip to Israel and five Middle Eastern countries.

The trip was timely, went smoothly and was very successful. Its outcome was an excellent example of the importance and power of prayer and being in God's will.

I had many opportunities to share my thoughts on Israel and the Middle East with the other journalists — many of whom were Jewish.

I also made some excellent inroads with members of the Bush Administration who work with President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezzaa Rice — thus creating the opportunity to share more upon our return to Washington, D.C., and hopefully and prayerfully with the President in the Lord's perfect timing.

As you could tell by following the trip, President Bush and Secretary of State Rice were juggling a lot of balls diplomatically.

Trip highlights

I had breakfast with a good friend of President George Herbert Walker Bush the morning of my departure to Israel. The man is a very committed Christian with a heart for Israel who had very much enjoyed my book Eye to Eye: Facing the Consequences of Dividing Israel. We discussed giving the book to President Bush Sr.

When I arrived in Israel, I spoke with a Jewish friend who lives in Jerusalem, and he said he had spent a few days of the Christmas holiday with his good friend Jeb Bush during his visit to Jerusalem. We are sending a copy of Eye to Eye to Jeb next week.

I gave Eye to Eye to Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. I met Mark when he was the spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C.

I had a 45-minute interview with Tamar Yonah on Israel National Radio on Saturday, Jan. 12, in which I summarized President Bush's Israel trip. Our discussion was heard throughout Israel and over the Internet.

I also had an interview with CBN's Jerusalem Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell for his "Jerusalem Dateline" feature. Click here to watch the web cast.

New relationships

The eight days of travel to Israel; Kuwait City, Kuwait; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, provided a unique opportunity to develop new relationships and talk about the trip and its significance.

There were many Jewish journalists on the trip with whom I had a number of good conversations. They represented FOX News, National Public Radio (NPR), The Washington Post, USA Today, Time, Bloomberg, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), Voice of America, Chicago Jewish News and Yedioth Ahronoth (owner of Ynet and the newspaper with the largest circulation in Israel). I also made initial contacts with the Chicago Tribune, CBS and NBC correspondents.

I had some very good talks with two Christian correspondents — one from Chosun Ilbo (the largest newspaper in South Korea with a circulation of 2.3 million and the 15th largest newspaper in the world) and the other from The Washington Times.

I had some interesting conversations with correspondents from the BBC, the Financial Times, and ITN (Headline News) — all of which are headquartered in the UK.

For our Middle East flights, I was assigned a seat next to the White House correspondent for Al-Arabiya. It is the top TV network in seven Middle Eastern countries and is owned by a wealthy Saudi. The correspondent grew up in Gaza. We had some very interesting and insightful discussions.

On Tuesday afternoon, she commented to me on how strange the weather was that day. She said there was strong rain in Dubai that shut down city traffic for a while, cold throughout the Middle East, snow flurries and bitter cold in Riyadh, and a major snowstorm in the northeast U.S.

She said a U.S. Embassy staff member in Saudi Arabia had told her that the weather the week before our arrival was summer-like. She asked me with much curiosity, "Could this be God?" I said I believed it was and that I document this kind of news. I told her I would explain more when we return to Washington.

The Bush Legacy and the Next President

I pondered during the trip what the next president will have to deal with after President Bush leaves office.

He birthed "Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security," which has become the mantra of the land-for-peace process, greatly affecting the focus and expectations of the Palestinians, Middle Eastern countries and international community.

He committed the U.S. to nation-building in Iraq and a war that is costing America $10 billion a month—totaling $500 billion so far in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no easy exit. Moreover, his democracy vision for the Middle East will likely leave with him at the completion of his second term.

The next president will have to deal with the after-effects of a subprime fiasco, a highly leveraged American public, a possible recession, a much greater reliance on oil from foreign sources, a weak dollar, record gold prices, a very difficult Middle East situation, Pakistan, and Iran ... to name a few.

Further Observations

I will have further observations on the trip in another posting later today and more this coming week.