By Susan M. Michael, ICEJ USA Director
I want to take this opportunity to thank the 1,300 plus Christian leaders who have participated in the various initiatives of the American Christian Leaders for Israel network. We were founded in 2015 during a very tense period in US-Israel relations when the Obama administration defied all logic and signed the JCPOA, commonly known as the Iran Agreement. Over 720 Christian leaders signed an ACLI letter to President Obama opposing that agreement.
In 2016, we focused our efforts on clarifying the Israel policies of both presidential candidates, resulting in Donald Trump’s commitment to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Throughout the next year, we reminded President Trump of his promise and urged him to move the US Embassy to Israel’s capital city, Jerusalem. Our collaborative Washington, DC event in May 2018 celebrated the fulfillment of his promise in conjunction with Israel’s 70th anniversary.
The American Christian Leaders for Israel network is thankful for this historic move of the US Embassy and all the other ways President Trump has demonstrated strong support for Israel and clarity on the issues surrounding Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians. He has cut funding to the Palestinian Authority, closed the PLO office in Washington, ended funding to UNRWA, withdrawn from UNESCO, increased sanctions on IRAN, and pulled out of the JCPOA Iran Agreement. His warm relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also been a welcomed relief.
However, it must be noted that Trump has made several troubling statements of late suggesting Israel must pay a price for the gift of moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem. There is growing concern that undue pressure will now be placed on the Jewish State to sign a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would not be in their best interest. In fact, Trump recently told French President Emmanuel Macron that he is ready to put pressure on the Israeli prime minister to accept his administration’s upcoming Middle East peace plan.
Some experts warn that the funding cuts to the Palestinians were not about defunding terrorism, but rather to pressure a return to the negotiating table when they would not only have the funding spicket turned back on, but also be offered East Jerusalem as their capital. This would explain why, when recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the Trump administration was careful not to specify what area it recognized geographically, leaving open the possibility of part of the city being a Palestinian capital.
Many Trump supporters, however, hope and pray that his role as mediator will be as a friend of Israel who is working closely with the prime minister and not in opposition. In fact, some rumors have suggested a deal whereby Palestinian statehood is in an expanded Gaza only, while Israel annexes the West Bank.
How plausible that or any other plan is will only be known if the intransigent Palestinian Authority decides to stop fomenting terrorism and anti-Semitism, recognize the existence of Israel, and come to the table—something not very likely. As the late Israeli statesman Abba Eban once said, “The Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
In the meantime, we are also watching closely as Iran builds a stronger and more dangerous presence on Israel’s northern and southern borders. Of particular concern are the thousands of missiles aimed at Israel from southern Lebanon that are now being upgraded to precision missiles guided by GPS devices.
Here on the home front, we are gravely troubled about growing anti-Semitism and the propagation of hate groups and their conspiracy theories on social media. The Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic incidents rose 57% in 2017 largely due to an increase of incidents in high schools and on college campuses. The recent tragedy of the mass murder of Jews in a Pittsburg synagogue should serve as a wake-up call to all Americans, but particularly to Christian leaders. We must do all we can to educate our community how to recognize anti-Semitism and stand against it.
We will keep you informed and provide resources to assist you in educating your constituencies on these important issues. We will also be in prayer for the safety and well-being of all Jewish communities around the world.