Some of George W. Bush’s most ardent supporters plan to gather in front of the White House next Friday to express their differences with the president over policy toward Israel.
The “Christian Solidarity with Israel” rally, organized by the Christian Coalition, says its primary aim is to demonstrate that evangelical Christians in America support the state of Israel. But policy issues clearly are in focus for this event, one of the first of its kind in the nation’s capital.
“I hope it will send a friendly, but firm message to the White House that in a number of areas conservative Christians feel that the administration is going down the wrong road,” said former Republican presidential candidate Gary Bauer in an interview with WorldNetDaily.
Bauer, a rally speaker, recalled that there were low expectations for Bush regarding Israel when he entered office because of the record of his father who “tilted toward the oil producing states” in the region.
“So everybody has been excited that the president has repeatedly said that Israel has the right to defend itself and has been so clear in his statements about Yasser Arafat,” said Bauer, president of the lobby group American Values, based near Washington, D.C.
“However,” he continued, “there is a repeated pattern of pressuring Israel to back off when it’s attempting to counter terrorist attacks. It’s inappropriate … and it’s disappointing, and I hope that we will be able to convince the president that Israel has the same right to do what we would do under the circumstances.”
Another speaker, the Rev. Jerry Falwell, told WND, however, that he disagrees with those who would see the rally as a means to influence the Bush administration.
“I think that George W. Bush is probably the best friend Israel ever had in the White House,” said Falwell, chancellor of Liberty University in Virginia and a WND columnist.
“I think that there is no question in the mind of the Israeli government that George Bush is their friend,” he said. “I don’t know what Mr. Bush can do for Israel that he isn’t doing.”
No Palestinian state
Bauer’s biggest difference with the White House is over its call for a Palestinian state.
He sees this as a dangerous policy when “all the polling data shows that at least half the Palestinians do not accept Israel’s right to exist.”
Christian Coalition President Roberta Combs issued a statement in June after a suicide bombing killed 19 on a Jerusalem bus, declaring that “Israel cannot negotiate with terrorism. Terrorism cannot be rewarded with statehood. Now or in the future, a Palestinian state would sound the death knell of Israel.”
The Coalition opposes the policy of “trading land for peace” and wants the U.S. to move ahead with a long-delayed plan to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Israel’s “undivided capital.”
Along with Bauer and Falwell, speakers will include Jerusalem mayor Ehud Olmert, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, former Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes and entertainer Pat Boone. The event is part of the Christian Coalition’s annual “Road to Victory” convention, held in the run-up to the election.
Jews, evangelicals together
American Jews held a rally in April, but this is perhaps the first major demonstration of support for Israel in the nation’s capital by evangelical Christians, according to organizers, who will convene the event on the ellipse near the White House at 2 p.m. Friday.
“I think it’s important that people in the administration, people in Congress, people in the media understand that far and away the most fervent base of support for Israel isn’t in the Jewish community, it’s in the Christian community,” said Don Feder in an interview with WND last month when he served as media consultant to the Coalition.
“And I say this as a Jew, by the way,” he added.
Feder noted that evangelical Christians now are the largest voting block in the country, comprising 27 percent of all voters in the 2000 election.
“Of those 27 percent, I believe over 80 percent voted for George Bush, but an even higher percentage supports Israel,” said Feder, a former syndicated columnist with the Boston Herald.
In an interview with Falwell broadcast on “60 Minutes” last night, the Baptist leader said that President Bush is well aware of the evangelical Christian constituency’s support for Israel.
“There are 70 million of us, [and] there’s nothing that would bring the wrath of the Christian public in this country down on this government like abandoning or opposing Israel on a critical matter,” Falwell told CBS interviewer Bill Simon.
A Time magazine poll last summer showed 36 percent of Americans support Israel “because they believe in biblical prophecies that Jews must control Israel before Christ will come again.”
Feder said he thinks the April rally organized by the Jewish community was one reason the Coalition decided to hold the event. That rally included senators Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Charles Schumer and representatives Dick Armey and Dick Gephardt.
“It was large,” Feder said, “but people looked at that and they sort of yawned and said, ‘Well, big deal, Jews support Israel, what else is new? You know, Catholics like the pope, so what?'”
“And of course,” added Feder, ” the Republican Party looks at it, and they say, ‘Hey, you know they don’t vote for us anyway, so what do we care?'”
But increasingly, conservative Jews are seeking to generate political clout as they join forces with like-minded evangelical Christians.
The American Alliance of Jews and Christians was launched this year by Bauer and Rabbi Daniel Lapin, president of Toward Tradition, which described the new Washington, D.C.-based group as “a unique synthesis of Jewish authenticity and Christian grass-roots muscle.”
Bauer calls the alliance between Jews and Christians on Israel, and also social issues, “one of the most exciting and potentially significant developments in American politics right now.”
” I think it’s, along with other things, causing Senator [Tom] Daschle sleepless nights,” said Bauer, who served as a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan.
“I’m getting e-mails virtually every day from self-identified Jewish Americans who are telling me that they are re-evaluating everything because of how much Christian conservatives have spoken up for Israel,” Bauer said. “And at a number of speeches to Jewish audiences I’ve been greeted with the kind of emotional response I’ve been used to at evangelical churches, not at gatherings of Jewish Americans.”
Organizers plan to display a canvas “Christian Solidarity with Israel Wall” that supporters can sign. It eventually will be presented to President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, according to Michael Brown, the group’s national church liaison.
The Christian Coalition hopes rally attendance will number in the tens of thousands, Brown said.
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