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Will the real Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak please stand up?

Only seven months ago, Barak assured Israelis that there could be no
concession on any part of Jerusalem.

“Only one who does not understand the depth of the total
soul-connection between the Jewish nation and Jerusalem, and only one
who is totally estranged from the legacy of Jewish history, and from the
Jewish vision and life-song, and to the faith and the hope of
generations, could even begin to consider an Israeli concession on any
part of Jerusalem,” he said at a memorial ceremony last May. “Only one
who does not understand that Jerusalem is intertwined in the souls of
our ancestors for 3,000 years, the focus of our national yearning, the
secret of its strength and existence, could demand that we turn our
backs on it. It will never come about! For it is a matter of our
national existence, and we only have one Jerusalem.”

Well, that was then. Today, Barak is said to be considering a
proposal from outgoing U.S. President Bill Clinton to turn over
sovereignty of the holiest site in Jerusalem to Yasser Arafat.

Back in 1997, before he was prime minister, Barak was just as adamant
and unequivocal about the future of Jerusalem as he was last May.

“We have red lines: A united Jerusalem, under our sovereignty,
capital of Israel forever, period,” he said.

Today, Barak is negotiating the possibility of giving Arafat
sovereignty over the Temple Mount.

Just which Barak are we supposed to believe? Which Barak is Arafat
supposed to believe? Which Israeli line in the sand will fade away next?

These conflicting signals are dangerous to Israel’s future. This
latest concession has made even Shimon Peres blanch. Some leaders
suggest it is the equivalent of committing Israel to a policy of
national suicide. I do not go quite so far. It’s more a symptom of a
problem than the problem itself.

As an outsider, as a disinterested foreign observer, as an
Arab-American and as a Christian, I believe the current political crisis
in Israel is indicative of a desperate effort to buy peace at any price.
It is illustrative of the way secular Israeli leaders have lost all
sense of national purpose — any notion of the sacred, the role of
Providence in the history of the Jewish state and, ultimately, reverence
for the One who authored the land-deed that justifies occupation of the
Promised Land.

It’s not so much another land concession that threatens Israel’s
ability to defend itself. It is more importantly the spiritual
concessions the Jewish state’s leaders are considering.

Why is Jerusalem important to the Jews? It is not simply the
historical presence of Jews in the city. It is the Temple. Yes, Barak
was right that, only a few short months ago, it was unthinkable that the
Jews would consider turning over the Temple Mount to a group of people
who do not even acknowledge that a Jewish Temple once stood on the site.
Only a few short months ago, it was unthinkable that sovereignty over
the holy site would be officially given away to people actively involved
in desecrating the archaeological evidence of the Temple remains. I
don’t think anyone — least of all Yasser Arafat — was prepared for
compromise on such fundamental principles.

Why is it all thinkable now? Just what does Israel believe about
itself? Is it just another nation? Does it owe its existence to the
United Nations? Have its victories over its enemies been due solely to
better military equipment and training? Or is Israel truly a part of
God’s plan and promise to the Jewish people? Just where is that line in
the sand?

Who am I to question Jewish leaders in Israel about such matters?
Perhaps I — a Christian-Arab-American — don’t have a right to
criticize. But my faith, too, is intertwined with Israel and Jerusalem.
My scriptures, too, make clear that God — not Yasser Arafat — is
sovereign over Jerusalem.

And that’s the real trouble Israel has today. It’s not just poor,
inept, incompetent, misguided political leadership. The trouble with
Israel — like so much of the rest of the world — is that it has
forgotten about God.

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