In his first post-inauguration interview, with an Arabic language television channel, President Obama said he wanted to "initiate a new partnership based on mutual respect and mutual interest" between America and the Muslim world.
On the On Faith website run by the Washington Post and Newsweek, I applauded the President's comments. What I wanted to add, but didn't, was the fact that the Christian West has been treating Islam with great respect and sensitivity for decades.
Americans, for example, have gone to war to free Muslim nations like Bosnia, whose people were being persecuted by tyrants. And in Western democracies, Muslim citizens do not face persecution.
By contrast, in many Muslim nations like Egypt, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Christians often endure life-threatening persecution and mob violence.
And what has Obama gotten for his outreach to Muslims? The answer can be found in a fascinating New York Times article entitled "Why the Muslim World Can't Hear Obama." The author, an Egyptian named Aswany, wrote that Egyptians were wildly supportive of Obama's victory, seeing him as a symbol of justice.
But then came his first test: Gaza. Egyptians expected Obama to "take a stand against Israel's war on Gaza," Aswany wrote. But because he did not, Aswany said, Egyptians began to tune him out. And unless America condemns Israel, Egyptians will continue to tune him out.
If Obama, with his Muslim family ties and openness, cannot get a respectful hearing by Middle Eastern Muslims, we have to ask ourselves: What do they really want?
The answer, of course, is plain—the destruction of Israel.
Why should the United States support Israel, anyway? This question is already being asked in the mainstream media, Internet chat rooms, and in private conversations. Ominously, most European nations, given a choice, would choose the Islamic world over Israel in a heartbeat. The reason boils down to oil. Oil speaks louder than commitment to a free state.
But what about America? Is it really so hard to image a scenario in which, as the economy worsens and Islam's threat grows, America will face a dreadful choice: Do we abandon Israel to appease the Muslim world?
When we hear arguments like this, we must recall the words of Genesis 12, verses 1 and 2, regarding the ancient Israelites. God says, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse."
Of course, we must not confuse the modern nation-state of Israel with the people of the Old Covenant. But it's clear in Romans 10 and 11 that Paul understands God's special concern for the Jews. Certainly America's own sense of decency demands that we help protect Israel—the Jewish homeland and the only true democracy in the Middle East.
But how strong will America's sense of decency remain when it is put under pressure? How strong, when the Muslim world puts it so simply—peace or Israel?
That's what they're saying, and we can't smooth talk that away. The future of Israel may depend on American Christians, whom I hope and pray will speak out on behalf of Israel and be prepared to defend the right of the Jewish people to their homeland.