Evangelical faith drives Palin’s pro-Israel view

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ST. PAUL, Minn. | Sarah Palin displays an Israeli flag in her governor’s office in Juneau, even though she has never been to the country, and attends Protestant evangelical churches that consider the preservation of the state of Israel a biblical imperative.

Her faith makes her a favorite with the staunchly pro-Israel neoconservative elements in the Republican Party.

But other Republicans may be concerned that a John McCain-Sarah Palin administration will disregard the caution of former President George H.W. Bush and some of his top advisers and continue the tilt toward Israel.

Most Republicans and conservatives outside Alaska know little about Mrs. Palin’s foreign policy views - on Israel or anything else.

But Tucker Eskew, who holds the title of counselor to Mrs. Palin in the McCain-Palin campaign, left no doubt where she stands.

“She would describe herself as a strong supporter of Israel’s, with an understanding of Israel’s fear of an Iran in possession of nuclear weapons,” Mr. Eskew told The Washington Times.

In June, Mrs. Palin told ministry students at her former church that in going to war with Iraq, the United States is “on a task that is from God,” the Associated Press reported.

Mrs. Palin’s brand of evangelical Protestantism is especially well-disposed to the preservation of Israel for biblical reasons, said Merrill Matthews, an evangelical Christian and a Dallas-based health-policy specialist.

Mrs. Palin was baptized as a teenager at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church. She frequently attends the Juneau Christian Center, which is also part of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God. Her home church is the Church of the Rock, an independent congregation.

“Historically, the Assemblies of God have been dispensationalists, which means they believe in ‘the rapture’ of Christians that takes them out of the world,” said Mr. Matthews. “Central to that position is a very strong support for Israel. It’s integral to their view of both prophecy and politics. Denying Israel is almost like denying the faith.”

Meanwhile, she is getting rave reviews from Jewish Republicans.

“I think it is very telling that she has a flag of the state of Israel in her office,” said Matthews Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition. “That was not inspired by domestic politics, since there is a very small Jewish population in Alaska.

“The fact that she keeps the flag of Israel in her office means she has Israel in her heart,” Mr. Brooks said. “I am confident the Jewish community will be impressed with the strong pro-Israel views of Governor Palin as she begins to travel the country and … discuss the critical issues in this campaign.”

On the Democratic side, presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., while not identifying with neoconservatism, have put themselves solidly in the friends of Israel camp.

“The essence of neoconservatism is the protection of Israel - a shared priority with evangelical Christians,” said Paul Erickson, the Republican strategist who managed Pat Buchanan’s presidential bid in 1992.

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About the Author
Ralph Z. Hallow

Ralph Z. Hallow

Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.

 

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