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.

Chief among the McCain campaign’s foreign policy advisers known for their neoconservative worldview is Randy Scheunemann, a former aide to Trent Lott and Bob Dole in the Senate.

Other neoconservative foreign policy analysts who have Mr. McCain’s ear are former Clinton White House CIA Director R. James Woolsey Jr., who predicted that Iraq’s Shi’ite Muslims would flock to support the U.S. in the event of war, and Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the neoconservative Project for the New American Century.

The Republican presidential hopefuls who competed with Mr. McCain earlier this year tended to share the same interventionist approach in foreign policy that is integral to the neoconservative worldview.

“There is an overwhelming presence of neoconservatives and absence of traditional conservatives that I don’t know what to make of,” said Richard V. Allen, former Reagan White House national security adviser.

In June, Mr. Obama pledged his support before a powerful pro-Israel lobby, though not couched in biblical or religious terms.

“I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Washington. “Let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel.”

Not to be outdone, Mr. Biden appealed in person to elderly Jewish Floridians on Wednesday.

“I am chairman of the [Senate] Foreign Relations Committee,” he said. “I give you my word as a Biden I would not have given up that job to be Barack Obama’s vice president if I didn’t in my gut and in my heart and in my head know that Barack Obama is exactly where I am on Israel. And he is.”

On Monday, Mr. McCain told an AIPAC audience that a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would lead to “anti-Semitic rants and a worldwide audience for a man who denies the Holocaust.”

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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