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Thursday, March 19, 2015
Should Christians Support a Palestinian State?

Should Christians Support a Palestinian State?

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill, March 3, 2015. | (Photo: REUTERS/Gary Cameron)

Israeli elections are over and the big story is Benjamin Netanyahu's stunning come-from-behind win to secure his fourth term as prime minister. Exit polls showed Netanyahu's center-right Likud party just one seat ahead of the main challenger, the Zionist Union, and pundits and pollsters were forecasting his imminent demise all the way to the end. At last count, however, he and the Likud gained a decisive victory with 29 parliamentary seats compared to Zionist Union's 24. The Joint Arab List, a slate of Arab-Israeli candidates, came in third.

But as Netanyahu begins the difficult task of building a governing coalition, he remains haunted, both now and for years to come, by remarks that he made during the final days of his campaign. In most nations, campaign chatter is chalked up to politicking and gamesmanship; but Israel is not like most nations. Seen by some as evidence of God's faithfulness and by others as the source of all that is wrong in the world, Israel lives in a media spotlight that is truly unique.

Thus, it was not surprising when Foggy Bottom, Brussels, and the glittering halls of Amnesty International erupted in a mighty uproar after Netanyahu declared that, under his leadership, there would be no Palestinian state. Many observers saw it as a reversal of his now-famous 2009 speech at Bar Ilan University in which he accepted the idea of a two-state solution.

To be fair, Netanyahu was not making an unequivocal declaration so much as he was answering a question posed by a journalist and using the answer to undermine his opponent and score points with his base. The exchange was posted on NRG, a Hebrew language website, and translated by the Times of Israel.

"If you are prime minister, there will be no Palestinian state?" Netanyahu answered, "Indeed." Expounding, he said, "I think anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian State and to evacuate the territory is giving radical Islam a staging ground against the State of Israel."

Netanyahu then reminded the audience of the last two prime ministers from the left who offered land-for-peace deals. "The left is doing this, burying its head in the sand time after time."

To anyone who follows the conflict closely and spends time with actual Palestinians and Israelis, this statement will come as no surprise. I rarely find anyone, either in Israel or the territories, who still supports a two-state solution to the conflict.

Last year, when Jerusalem Post editor Caroline Glick was promoting her book on why Israel should annex Judea and Samaria to reach a one-state solution, I asked several prominent Palestinian Christian activists for their take. To my great surprise, most of them agreed with her. It is a rare moment indeed when Jewish and Palestinian nationalists agree, and although both sides disagree on the details, their basic accord suggests that Netanyahu may be more in touch with sentiments in the street than pundits give him credit for.

There are still many Palestinians who would like to see Israel driven into the sea, but there are many who look longingly at the opportunities available to their Arab brothers and sisters inside Israel proper. Palestinians in the territories have not voted in nearly 10 years, and are forced to endure either the corrupt autocracy of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank or the Islamic thugocracy of Hamas in Gaza. Meanwhile, Arab-Israelis went to the polls Tuesday and pulled off an astounding victory.

Sadly, this disparity of democratic opportunity will be lost on foreign powers. The US and EU are committed to a two-state solution come hell or high water. The Obama administration, having worked hard to unseat Netanyahu, will now use his statements as an opportunity to further antagonize Israel and coddle the Palestinian leadership. Many more European states will be emboldened to recognize the legal fiction of a Palestinian state even as Jews in their midst suffer from rising and increasingly violent anti-Semitism.

International NGOs will be even worse. Organizations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch will double down on their historic condemnation of Israel's behavior. They will ignore incessant cries for Israel's destruction echoing from various quarters and instead use Netanyahu's statement to paint Israel as an unwilling partner for peace.

As the cries for the establishment of a Palestinian state grow louder, Christians and advocates for real justice and peace should be prudent and wise. We simply cannot advocate for the establishment of a Palestinian state that has committed itself to the rejection of basic human rights. Even now, religious minorities, such as Christians, who do not support the ruling regime are frequently subjected to harassment. Journalists who try to document abuse of Palestinians by the Palestinian Authority are attacked. It is a capital offense for an Arab to sell land to a Jew. The PA has pledged that a future Palestinian state will be free of all Jews.

It is outrageous on the basis of human rights to advocate for a state that has promised, and proven, it will trample on human rights without apology.

Christians must also reject the recognition of a state that is committed to the obliteration of the Jewish people. Hamas, a terrorist organization that regularly proclaims its desire to destroy Israel, is currently ruling the Gaza Strip and is in a power-sharing arrangement with the PA government of Mahmoud Abbas. Christians should see this as detestable. For too long Christians have participated in the killing of Jews either actively, as in the Crusades, or passively, as in the Holocaust. It is an abhorrent part of our history that must not become part of our future.

Christians should support the idea of a Palestinian state, but only if that state commits to promoting liberty and justice for everyone and living peacefully beside the Jewish state of Israel.
Netanyahu's victory will be difficult for those who believe that trading land for peace will work. But his reluctance to participate in the establishment of an unjust state next-door is wholly appropriate and in line with what many Israelis and Palestinians actually think.

The sooner the US and the EU recognize this, the sooner real peace will be achieved.

This column was origianlly published at the Philos Project website.

Luke Moon is Deputy Director of the Philos Project and regularly writes on Christian engagement in the Middle East. Follow him on twitter @lukemoon1

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