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Bill Berkowitz: Defending Israel To The 'End Times

Defending Israel To The 'End Times'

By Bill Berkowitz

Christian Zionists organize to stymie any Israeli/Palestinian peace agreement that would divide Jerusalem while Netanyahu waits for Olmert's government to collapse

These are busy days for Christian Zionists. While President Bush recently returned from his trip to the Middle East "optimistic" that a peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians could be reached by the end of the year, Pastor John Hagee's Christian United for Israel (CUFI) is setting forth plans to put the kibosh -- if not on the entire peace process -- on any agreement that would sanction the division of Jerusalem. And Dr. Mike Evans has launched a "Save Jerusalem Campaign" while Joel C. Rosenberg's Joshua Fund is planning a major celebration in Jerusalem in honor of Israel's 60th anniversary.

CUFI, the pro-Israel lobbying group launched in February 2006 to provide support for Israel, believes that "'Jerusalem must remain undivided as the eternal capital of the Jewish people' (meaning no portion of it should be turned over to the Palestinians)," Sarah Posner, writes in her new book "God's Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters" (PoliPointPress, 2008).

Hagee, who heads up an 18,000-member Pentecostal congregation in San Antonio, Texas, "inject[s] ... the charged rhetoric of biblical prophesy into contemporary foreign policy," Posner writes, "[which] has catapulted him to the forefront of an American Christian Zionist movement that has become the darling of conservative Israel hawks in Washington and neoconservatives yearning for regional war in the Middle East."

Last week, while Bush was still in the Middle East, Pastor Hagee sent the following e-mail to his supporters, a message that Posner characterized in an e-mail as a "pretty clear biblical directive to his followers, but ... not very political:

"As world leaders attempt to decide the future of Israel and Jerusalem during diplomatic visits in an endeavor to create peace in the Middle East let remain focused on the Word of God and what is says about the future glory on Zion."

Say to them that are of a fearful heart,
Be strong, fear not: behold,
your God will come with vengeance,
even God with a recompense;
he will come and save you. Isaiah 35:4

"The Word clearly speaks of the future house of God,"

In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it.

Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Isaiah 2:2-3

In the last days the mountain of the Lord's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and peoples will stream to it. Many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. Micah 4:1-2

Over at the CUFI blog, David Brog, the organization's Jewish executive director, issued a message of his own. In announcing its third annual Washington, DC Summit -- scheduled for July 21 to July 24 -- Brog asked supporters to "think about" three things:

  1. President Bush is committed to completing a Middle East peace agreement by the time he leaves office. Our Summit will likely provide a final opportunity to influence this process in what may well be its final, fateful days.
  2. We'll be meeting in Washington less than four months before the 2008 Presidential election. Our Summit will be a last opportunity to impact the debate before this campaign hits the home stretch.
  3. When we go up to Capitol Hill to visit with our representatives, there will be only a few working months left in this session of Congress. Once Congress adjourns, every bill before Congress that has not received a final up-or-down vote will die and we will need to start from scratch in the new Congress that is sworn in during January, 2009. Our Summit will be a final opportunity to secure passage of important pro-Israel legislation currently before Congress.

Another item that will likely be on CUFI's agenda is Iran. On the organization's homepage Hagee doesn't mince words: Ignoring the recent National Intelligence Estimate which found that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and is unlikely to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a bomb until at least 2010, Hagee insists on calling President Ahmadinejad of Iran "a new Hitler in the Middle East ... who has threatened to wipe out Israel and America and is rapidly acquiring the nuclear technology to make good on his threat. If we learned anything from the Holocaust, it is that when a madman threatens genocide we must take him seriously."

Mike Evans' 'Save Jerusalem Campaign'

Meanwhile, in a media-savvy move on the first day of Bush's trip, Dr. Mike Evans used the front page of the heavily trafficked online website, the Drudge Report, to advertise for his Save Jerusalem Campaign.

Evans, the head of the Jerusalem Prayer Team, the author of the New York Times bestseller "The Final Move Beyond Iraq," and the publisher of the online Jerusalem World News, is angry with president Bush for "moving full-speed ahead with his Annapolis Road Map plan to have a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital before he leaves office."

In a recent report titled "Betrayed: The Bush Conspiracy to Divide Jerusalem," Evans argued that the Road Map, proposed by the international Quartet -- the U.S., the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations -- "has become corrupted by Saudi Arabia and other fundamentalist Islamic forces into a plan to divide Jerusalem and make east Jerusalem -- the home of Christianity -- the capital of a Palestinian state and force Israel to return all lands reclaimed in 1967."

In an e-mail to supporters dated January 22, Evans wrote that he was "completely outraged when [he] heard that [Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Olmert, whom I have known for 26 years, stood next to President Bush and declared that he would work to fulfill the final status solution to the Road Map to Peace. In essence, this means the division of Jerusalem (with all Christian Holy Sites being under Islamic rule of law) and Judea and Samaria turned over to the Palestinians."

Rosenberg's crusade

Another longtime Christian Zionist, Joel C. Rosenberg, has a rather nuanced view of the peace process. Rosenberg, the founder of The Joshua Fund -- whose operating motto is "Pray for peace, but prepare for war" -- maintained on his blog that despite the previous failures at reaching an accord, "we should not write off this possibility [of peace] too quickly."

Rosenberg, a Jew who converted to Christianity more than 30 years ago, was a mostly behind-the-scenes figure in the conservative movement until his first novel "The Last Jihad" became a New York Times bestseller. Over the years, he has worked for former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli politician Natan Sharansky, U.S. business magazine magnate Steve Forbes, and right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. He is also a former Heritage Foundation staffer.

Rosenberg appears to believe that if peace deal is concluded, it will not contradict Biblical prophesy: "While...Matthew 24 and Luke 21 indicate that there will be wars, rumors of wars and revolutions in the Middle East in the last days, Ezekiel 38 also indicates that for a season at least the Jews will be living 'securely' in the land prior to the apocalyptic War of Gog & Magog (the Russian-Iranian alliance to destroy Israel)."

In early January on his blog, Rosenberg characterized Olmert as "a man who seems almost desperate for a peace deal with the Palestinians, even if that means dividing Jerusalem (a terrible idea we should strongly oppose)." And in an entry dated January 23, Rosenberg seems buoyed by the possibility that Olmert's government "is increasingly in danger of collapse."

Netanyahu's resurgence

"Meanwhile," writes Rosenberg, the Likud Party's Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally/friend of U.S. Christian Zionists, "is waiting in the wings, talking tough on Gaza and Iran, saying Olmert should strike hard and fast with 'disproportionate force' against Palestinian terrorists." Netanyahu said that "In a war of attrition the enemy strikes and you react, the enemy strikes harder and you retaliate harder. This gradual increase in violence is the antithesis of deterrence....Deterrence always means using disproportionate force. We need to move from a concept of attrition to one of tough deterrence that will eventually lead to the removal of the Hamas regime, because as long as it exists it will continue arming itself and continue its attacks."

Most importantly for Rosenberg, Evans, and CUFI is that "Netanyahu is also warning against dividing Jerusalem or giving away the West Bank and thus creating potential bases for Iran," according to Rosenberg. "We must not repeat this mistake [of the South Lebanon and Gaza withdrawals,'" Netanyahu said on January 21, "This time we're going to have an Iranian base facing Jerusalem and the Dan Bloc, which includes Tel Aviv. We have to prevent Iran's armament and not let it establish new bases on our territory."

While possibly going against the desires of Christian Zionists regarding Jerusalem, on his trip Bush continued to throw them a bone, hammering away at Iran. At a stop in Abu Dhabi, the president called Iran "the world's leading state-sponsor of terror." Bush said that Iran threatens all nations and the U.S. was "rallying friends around the world to confront this danger before it is too late."

Rosenberg's Joshua Fund is organizing a conference slated for April 10 in Jerusalem to celebrate Israel's 60th anniversary. According to Rosenberg, the purpose of the conference is "to educate people as to the serious threats facing the Jewish State and their neighbors, mobilize Christians around the world to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and provide humanitarian relief to the poor and needy and those suffering from war and terrorism."

ENDS

**************

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column "Conservative Watch" documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the U.S. Right.

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