Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Praying for Peace for Abraham's Children

The Bible calls upon Christians to pray for those in authority in the government so that Christians may "lead a peaceful and quiet life" (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Given how corrupt the political process is, I
sometimes struggle with whether this passage can be extended to mean that we should pray for the outcome of elections (to me it's just about like praying for someone to win a mud wrestling match).   But since the Bible teaches that God's providence is still active, and that He listens to our prayers, today I am praying for the defeat of Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel's election, and that he is not able to cobble together a coalition government with his extremist allies. And the reason is very simple: peace.

Right now over four million Palestinians live under the military occupation of Israel. For decades the international community, including the United States, has promised the Palestinians that their grievances would be dealt with. From the unanimous UN Resolution 242 (which called for withdrawal of the Israeli armed forced from the occupied territories and the resolution of peaceful and secure borders for all parties involved), to the Camp David Accords in 1978, to the Oslo Accords in 1993, the United States has repeatedly placed its national honor at stake in finding a just and peaceful solution for Israel and the Palestinians.

Furthermore, President George W. Bush became the first American president to explicitly call for a separate and independent Palestinian state, a proposal that President Obama supports, as well as Republican Speaker John Boehner. And the reason is obvious. As it stands right now, Israel is trying to have three things at once: it is trying to be a majority Jewish state; it is trying to be a democracy; and it is trying to keep all of the land it took in the 1967 war. But the birth rate of the Palestinians in the occupied territories has far exceeded the Israelis, and so logically, Israel is faced with the option of giving up at least one of its three ambitions. It cannot be a majority Jewish state, and a democracy, and continue to occupy the land on which the burgeoning Palestinian population lives. Something has to give.

And yesterday, Netanyahu made it clear that the something is democracy. After calling for a two-state solution himself in 2009, Netanyahu has announced that he now opposes a two-state solution. Many observers had always questioned his sincerity, given the way his administration has eagerly pursued the building of illegal settlements in the occupied territories. But now that he is apparently behind in the polls in Israel, he has decided upon a desperate gambit to appeal to the far right wing in his country by staking out a position at odds with the United States, Europe, and the world.

My concern in this post is peace and not politics, but I do think it is fair to point out that this only reinforces why so many of us were profoundly upset with the decision of the Republicans to invite Netanyahu to speak before Congress two weeks ago. It was an obvious political ploy, and for anyone paying attention, it has clearly backfired. It did not help Netanyahu, and it revealed that Netanyahu intends to defy the stated objectives of both major parties in our country regarding the Palestinian question. In 2011 John Boehner said that Netanyahu understands that a peaceful, two-state solution will require compromise. What does the Speaker think now? And how much longer will the Republican Party allow financier Sheldon Adelson to try to dictate foreign policy based on the best interests of the Likud Party rather than Israel or America?

And what is in the best interests of Israel and America is peace - a peace that will never exist until the Palestinians are given a just and equitable resolution to their desire for a state. The world is a scary place, especially the neighborhood in which Israel lives. But here is the key point. Netanyahu is not Israel. The Likud Party is not Israel. And his government's policies are not making Israel safer in the long run, as even his former Mossad chief acknowledges. He is only fanning the flames of radicalism.

And that affects not only Israel, but also the United States. The treatment of the Palestinians has been used as fodder for one radical Islamic terrorist group after another to generate anger against America. In Osama bin Laden's 1996 declaration of war against America he mentioned Palestine and the Palestinians eight times. Now, I don't believe for a second that the evil leaders of such groups care a bit for the Palestinians. They are simply using whatever means they have at their disposal to inflame hatred against America. BUT - many Muslims around the world do see the injustices taking place against the Palestinians, and those legitimate grievances can be easily leveraged into radicalism. By doing what is right for Israel and the Palestinians in securing a peaceful two-state solution, this propaganda tool would no longer available for exploitation.

Netanyahu has staked out his position very clearly. His opposition to a two-state solution spells doom for Israel as a peaceful, democratic nation. That may be fine with Sheldon Adelson - "Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state — so what?” But to those who love Israel and want to see it remain a peaceful, democratic nation, which can only happen if it stands side by side with a peaceful, democratic Palestinian nation, it matters a lot. 

From a Christian point of view, ultimate peace is never going to exist in this life. And it may be that the decades of hatred are so deeply entrenched between Israelis and Palestinians that nothing will ever change for the better in that part of the world. But one thing is certain: there will never be a just peace if the leadership does not want it. 


  1. Thanks for this thoughtful reflection, Shane. - J. Taylor

  2. Just out of curiosity (as someone who knows next to nothing about Mid East politics), how do you think it would have affected the Iran nuke talks had the other side gotten elected? That concerns me much more than the Israel-Palestine issue, although I understand that the local stuff is fuel for the wider unrest in the region.

  3. Shane, you are completely, thoroughly and utterly wrong on this issue. I spent 30 years of my life defending freedom and democracy, and know what works and what doesn't. I love you anyway, and hope you are both doing well, but maybe, just maybe, I'm right on this. Regardless, I'm not going to argue with you. I just wanted you to know there are thoughtful, God fearing people (at least one) who disagree. Thanks - Ed Watson

  4. Ed, I love you too! And appreciate your service. And I may be wrong as well. But the way I look at it, my post consisted of three basic points:
    1. We should pray for peace.
    2. The two-state solution is the best hope for peace.
    3. Since Netanyahu is opposed to the two-state solution, the best hope for peace, I am praying for his defeat.

    I KNOW we don't disagree on #1! And if #2 is correct, then #3 logically follows. So the only point on which there can be debate is #2. But of the two-state solution is not the best hope for peace, what is? We know for sure that this status quo is not - for reason I explained. What other solutions are there? The bi-national plan? I don't think that is feasible.

    Sadly, Netanyahu displayed his true colors in his desperate gamble to win election. His racist demagoguery ("the Arabs are voting in droves") will haunt him and sadly all of Israel for a long time. He is an obstacle to peace, and his re-election was a tragedy.