Checking Up on the ‘Big Split’

We were recently taken by a headline that appeared in The Jewish Week. It read, “Evangelical Split Over Israel Batters Bush.” The crux of the article rested on the premise that evangelical Christianity is divided over Israel, as evidenced by “dueling letters” recently sent to President Bush. Wrote Larry Cohler-Esses:

The two groups’ dueling letters to the president, each critical of Israeli policies from respective viewpoints, marked a new, more complex phase in evangelical Christianity’s political stand towards Israel and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, observers and partisans from all sides agreed.

The Jewish Week article echoed the same strain flowing in the American secular media that for years has attempted to create a schism in the Christian-Zionist movement supporting Israel’s rights in the battle against terrorism.

The fact is that these letters show that nothing of any material consequence has changed. There are still millions of pro-Israel evangelicals in North America. Allow me to explain.

Those who question the feasibility of Israel and a future Palestinian state living side by side in peace have consistently believed the idea is unworkable and will only fortify radical Islam’s determination to eradicate the Jewish state. Israel’s sacrifice of substance, in the form of land, for meaningless Palestinian promises written on worthless pieces of paper has confirmed the objections to negotiating with parties that have no intention of truly making peace. The validity of this position can readily be seen in the new, Islamicized Bethlehem and in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip.

The only acceptable solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict will come when Palestinian and Arab radicals are convinced they will never succeed in their quest to drive Israel into the sea. When Israel’s leaders and Western allies demonstrate the fortitude to say no to more dangerous concessions and yes to survival through strength and unity, then perhaps negotiations based on realistic goals can begin.

A first step toward creating acceptable negotiating conditions must be to stop the shooting. In late August, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, the armed wing of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah Party, renounced its so-called truce with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and attacked IDF soldiers near Ramallah. The same day, Israel suffered rocket attacks on its communities near the Gaza Strip and destroyed tunnels that Hamas terrorists were using to smuggle fighters and weapons into Gaza. To say the least, this is no way to establish conditions conducive to a peace initiative.

With regard to the contentious, verbal sorties of those who have made themselves spokespeople for evangelical Christianity—on either side of the controversy—we say the following with confidence: Pro-Israel, Zionist Christians are not more divided today than they have been all along.

For the most part, the 30-plus signatories to the letter endorsing the president’s two-state plan can hardly be viewed as stalwart, pro-Israel advocates. Many are heartily pro-Palestinian, while others entertain the Replacement Theology fiction that the church has become the true Israel of God and that God’s promise of land rights to the Jewish people is null and void. It is therefore not surprising that their document assigns equal culpability for Mideast violence to both Israel and Palestinian terrorists.

“Both Israelis and Palestinians,” their letter states, “have legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine. Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other.”

In actuality, these self-anointed “evangelical leaders” are positioned where they have always been. Conversely, pro-Zionist, evangelical proclamations for a Jewish state with clear and secure boundaries are also nothing new.

While we’re at it, we must also say that Israel’s Christian friends cannot appoint themselves to dictate national policy for sovereign countries. Biblical Zionism is not fundamentally a political action. Israel’s leaders and citizens must decide what terms Israel can accept. Evangelical leaders can pray, comfort, and speak their piece; but when push comes to shove, America’s individual evangelicals will do what they’ve always done: take their convictions to the polling booths and vote.

Perhaps all of this commotion only confirms the axiom “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” And, we might add, they stay the same despite political and left-leaning media powerbrokers who try to manipulate a change.

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