President Bush is moving forward with his “roadmap” for peace in the Middle East despite calls from the religious right to take the plan back to the drawing board.
Bush’s plan calls for a Palestinian state with permanent borders by 2005 and immediate cessation of violence against Israel.
Israel’s cabinet endorsed the roadmap Sunday, while noting 14 objections. Palestinian leaders questioned whether those reservations indicated a lack of Israeli resolve to follow through on the peace process.
Bush will meet with Israeli, Palestinian and Arab leaders in the Middle East early next month to push the peace plan forward, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.
Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said in a statement Friday that the United States recognized the Israeli government’s concerns and would address them “fully and seriously” in implementation of the roadmap, first outlined by the president in a speech last year.
Earlier, a group of evangelical leaders signed an open letter noting “deep concerns” about suggestions that the U.S. should pressure Israel to make concessions to Palestinians.
“There is no moral equivalency between the free nation of Israel that believes in the consent of the governed and individual human dignity and the terrorist thugs that celebrate the deaths of innocent Israelis and Americans,” Gary Bauer said in a May 19 letter to Bush. Twenty-three others joined Bauer in signing the letter, including Southern Baptists Richard Land, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Falwell and Ed McAteer.
Bauer, a former Republican candidate for president and head of the conservative organization American Values, has said he believes the Bible commands support for Israel.
In a speech March 30 to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Bauer said: “We believe in the Abrahamic covenant. We believe God owns the land and he has deeded it to the Jewish people, a deed that cannot be canceled by Yasser Arafat and cannot be amended–even by a president. This God has spoken clearly. He said, ‘He who blesses Israel I will bless, he who curses Israel, I will curse.’ For believing Christians that is clear enough, and good enough for us.”
Not all conservative Christians take the view that the Bible’s promises to the patriarchs translate into support for Israel’s leaders today, however.
Wheaton College New Testament scholar Gary Burge has written a book challenging so-called “Christian Zionism,” the “unqualified endorsement of Israel’s politics” by conservative Christians who wed apocalyptic biblical passages with Israel’s policies.
Danny Hays, a professor at Ouachita Baptist University, says even a literalistic reading of God’s covenant with Abraham needs to be taken in context.
“Our understanding of God’s blessing to Abraham in Genesis must also be interpreted in light of the apostasy and judgment of Israel as proclaimed in the prophets,” Hays said.
God did not hesitate to judge Israel in the Old Testament for theological infidelity and social injustice, Hays told EthicsDaily.com in an e-mail interview. And the New Testament, he added, is clear that Christians in America should regard Arab Christians as brothers and sisters. “Why are American Christians not concerned for the treatment of Christian Arabs by the Israelis in towns like Nazareth?” he asked.
“The Israelis must be forced to the peace table and a Palestinian state must be created in order for peace to have any fragment of a chance,” Hays said.
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com
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