Sunday, May 18, 2003

A Washington conference of Christian and Jewish Zionists yesterday heard attacks on the U.S. “road map” for peace in the Middle East as a breach of a 4,000-year-old covenant between God and Israel.

“The land of Israel was originally owned by God,” said Gary Bauer, president of American Values and a Republican presidential contender in 2000. “Since He was the owner, only He could give it away. And He gave it to the Jewish people.”

Terrorists, he said, “don’t understand why Israel and the United States are joined at the heart.”

Called the “Interfaith Zionist Leadership Summit,” the conference attracted to the Omni Shoreham Hotel about 1,000 participants, who debated how evangelical Christians could best unite with Jews to support Israel.

A three-page statement was adopted, to be delivered to President Bush this week, demanding Palestinian concessions before Israel is asked to return to its pre-1967 borders, which would turn over the West Bank and Gaza Strip to the Palestinian Authority.

Calling the peace proposal “a Satanic road map,” Earl Cox, executive producer and host of Front Page Jerusalem, a radio program, asked, “Do any of you believe [Palestinian leader] Yasser Arafat will embrace traditional family values? There will be a mosque on all the holy sites. How can anyone who’s a Jew or a Christian support such a proposal?”

Evangelical Christians, estimated to number about 45 million in America, are a source of support for Israel, though to varying degrees.

Evangelical organizations represented at the conference included the Christian Coalition, the Christian Broadcasting Network and the Religious Roundtable. One organization distributed bumper stickers saying: “Pray that President Bush will honor God’s covenant with Israel.”

Frank Gaffney Jr., president of the Center for Security Policy, said the months before the November 2004 election are ideal for lobbying Mr. Bush on an issue important to his conservative base.

“This statement will be a shot across the bow for this president,” he said. Although he is subject to considerable pro-Palestinian pressure, he said, “George W. Bush, I think, is with us in his heart and in his soul.”

The conference, underwritten by a $100,000 grant from Zionist House, a Boston-based Jewish group, appeared to be closely balanced between Christians and Jews, with a slight Jewish majority. Theological differences were put aside by the speakers, such as Jan Willem van de Hoeven, the Dutch-born founder of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.

“We may have disagreements about who [the Messiah] is,” Mr. van de Hoeven said, “but He is not coming back to a mosque but to a third temple.”

The remark alluded to prophecies of the Jews rebuilding their temple on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, replacing the Muslim Dome of the Rock. His words drew one of several standing ovations.

Several speakers talked of how to persuade Mr. Bush to stay firm on his nomination of Daniel Pipes, a scholar on Islam, as one of 15 directors of the U.S. Institute of Peace. The nomination, which has drawn ardent opposition from Islamic groups, must be confirmed by the Senate.

Mr. Pipes, a speaker at the conference, criticized Americans for political naivete.

“Why do we destroy our enemies and ask Israel to prop up its enemies?” he asked. “The assumption behind the road map is the Arabs have accepted Israel.”

A “change of heart” is needed among Palestinians, he said, “which is achieved by an Israeli victory and a Palestinian defeat.”

Moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem would prompt that process, he said.

“It’s a marker saying Israel won the war in 1948 and Jerusalem has been its capital for 55 years and we might as well come to terms with its existence,” Mr. Pipes said.

About three dozen people protested outside the hotel.

“It involves fundamentalist Christians, who tend to be ethnocentric and racist, siding with Jews who practice the same policies in Israel,” said David Kirshbaum, representing SUSTAIN (Stop U.S. Tax-funded Aid to Israel Now). A group of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who oppose Israel’s existence on theological grounds, stood beside him.

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