Christians should support Israel, Land & others say

ST. LOUIS (BP)--Supporting Israel is a "matter of being obedient to God," Richard Land said at an overflow briefing on the Jewish state June 10.

Oliver North and Jerry Falwell joined Land at the briefing, which was sponsored by the new Stand for Israel campaign. The effort, announced only in late May, has a goal of mobilizing 100,000 churches and 1 million American Christians to support Israel.

In giving a biblical defense for a Christian backing of Israel, Land pointed to God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis that included a promise to make of him a great nation through Isaac and to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him.

"God doesn't make conditional covenants, and he doesn't negotiate. It's God's way or the highway," said Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "For us, supporting Israel is a matter of being obedient to God and obeying God's command to bless his chosen people."

God also promised to bless and to multiply Ishmael and his descendants, the Arabs, Land said. "God has blessed them, and he will bless them, everywhere but Palestine, because God gave Palestine to the descendants of Isaac forever," he said.

Land, Falwell and North all said support for Israel is important to the future of the United States.

Though the United States has not been perfect, it has been "the least anti-Semitic country in the world" in the last century, Land said. "God has blessed us in large measure because we have blessed the Jews.

"As an American, I believe America needs to bless Israel more than Israel needs for America to bless her, because if we bless Israel, the lion of Judah is going to bless us and if we don't, he is not," Land said.

The "Bible belt is Israel's safety belt," he said.

Falwell said he believes God has blessed the United States for three primary reasons:

-- The country has provided freedom to the Bible.

-- Christians here have spread the gospel of Jesus more than in any other country.

-- America has been committed to the people of Israel.

It is in America's national security interests for the United States to support Israel, North said. "Even if it made sense to abandon our support for Israel, I want you to try to imagine what kind of credibility we as a country would have," North said. What "kind of credibility would we have anywhere in the world?"

"The reality is, there is one country in that part of the world that we can count on," North said. If the United States abandons its commitment to Israel, "we are going to abandon our future," he said.

North served on the National Security Council staff in the 1980s and is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. He spoke earlier in the evening at the SBC Pastors' Conference. Falwell is pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., with a long-running television ministry.

Israel is committed to a negotiated peace, Moshe Fox told the crowd. Fox is chief spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington.

The Israeli government offered widespread concessions nearly two years ago, but Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat responded by setting the "olive branch on fire."

Israel has learned from the United States it "cannot have peace without security," Fox said. "Peace can only come when Arafat stops the terrorism.

"We will never offer statehood for the last 20 months of terrorism.... [P]eace and terror, cannot, have not and will never coexist," he said.

Jeffrey Ballabon, founder of the Center for Jewish Values, told the audience that Jews "are not hearing" of the support of American Christians. "They need to hear it," he said.

Ralph Reed, chairman of the Georgia Republican Party and former executive director of the Christian Coalition, was scheduled to speak but was unable to attend because of a travel delay at a Washington airport, a spokesman for Stand for Israel said.

Reed and Yechiel Eckstein, president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, are cochairman of the Stand for Israel campaign. The campaign has scheduled a meeting of evangelical leaders June 18 in Washington. Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to speak.


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