Fundamentally Freund: Time for faith-based diplomacy

As proud Jews who have returned to our land by divine right, we needn't be embarrassed to assert our claim by relying on the Book of Books.

January 7, 2011 15:36
Christian Zionist visitors to Israel

Christian Zionist tourists 521. (photo credit: marc israel sellem)

The dawn of a new calendar year may have begun, but there are few rays of sunshine on the diplomatic horizon, as pressure continues to mount on the Jewish state.

In recent weeks, various South American countries have conferred recognition on an independent “Palestine,” in effect prejudging the outcome of any future negotiations.

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And the Palestinians are once again threatening to take unilateral measures toward statehood, raising the possibility of going directly to the UN Security Council for backing.

Meanwhile, the drumbeat in the mainstream media to twist Israel’s arm grows louder by the day. In its cover story, The Economist called on Washington to utilize its “tough love” to help Israel “overcome its settler movement and make the deal,” as if Palestinian obstructionism had nothing to do with the lack of progress.

Apparently unaware that British Mandatory rule came to an end in 1948, the venerable weekly then declared that “it is time for the world to agree on a settlement and impose it on the feuding parties,” as though they are impetuous children who need to be sent to their rooms.

However infuriating such haughtiness may be, Israel and its supporters cannot ignore the trend that is gaining steam in various quarters. Voices calling for a solution to be forced upon us from the outside are growing brasher by the day. And it is only a matter of time before certain quarters of the international community seek to coerce us to make life-threatening concessions that would endanger our very existence.

IN CRITICAL times such as this, run-of-themill diplomacy just won’t do. Generating a few press releases, writing a couple of op-eds and mobilizing Jewish organizations won’t be enough to turn the tide that is heading straight for our shores.

Instead, we need to reach deep into our arsenal and harness one of the most powerful, and underutilized, weapons at our disposal: faithbased diplomacy. For far too long, we have relied solely on military, geopolitical and historical arguments when making our case abroad.

Hesitant or even ashamed to invoke our biblical right to this land, many of our spokesmen and diplomats have failed to deploy the moral and theological arguments which are the underpinning of our very presence here.

And just look where that has gotten us.

The fact is that our largest, best-organized and most powerful friends – namely US Evangelical Christians – stand by us not because of some UN resolution from 1947, but because of what God promised Abraham more than 3,700 years ago. And that is why we need to start quoting Genesis far more often than the League of Nations or the Balfour Declaration.

But faith-based diplomacy is not just a question of terminology or which points we should be making. It is also a matter of emphasis, of where we focus our efforts to develop friendships and deepen understanding.

And that is why it is all the more essential to be cultivating faith-based Christian support, both in the US and elsewhere. Because unlike fair-weather friends, whose backing depends on fluid and constantly-shifting political or economic interests, Bible-believing Christians stand with us out of solid belief. Their friendship is like steel – highly durable and resistant to breakage.

Thankfully, various Jewish and Christian groups are stepping in where the government has failed to act. The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, for example, is building an extensive network of international parliamentary caucuses which mobilize support and coordinate various pro-Israel activities. From the US to Japan to the European Union, it has forged sister caucuses around the world.

Christian organizations in America are also leading the charge. Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel has built a nationwide grassroots movement that reaches more people and decision-makers than any communiqué from the Foreign Ministry ever did.

Its annual Washington summit attracts thousands of pro-Israel Christians from across the country and sends a strong signal to the corridors of power on Capitol Hill.

Christian broadcasters are also on the frontlines in the battle for public opinion, explaining Israel’s case and countering the bias of much of the press.

Founded 50 years ago this week, the Christian Broadcasting Network has provided a steady and sturdy voice of support, standing with us through thick and thin. It and other veteran broadcasters, such as Hal Lindsey, literally reach millions of viewers, defending Israel with vim and vigor.

And then there is the Rev. Robert Stearns of Eagles’ Wings, whose regional conferences, internship programs and annual “Day of Prayer for the Peace of Jerusalem” are marshalling huge numbers of people to stand with us.

Locally, organizations with an international reach, such as the International Christian Embassy, Bridges for Peace and Christian Friends of Israel, bring thousands of Christian pilgrims from around the world, while also providing aid and support to the country’s needy and new immigrants. Another group, Christians for Israel International, publishes a regular newspaper called Israel and Christians Today that has more than 200,000 subscribers.

Now more than ever, we need to rally our “Christian base” in America and elsewhere. A few simple steps, such as organizing a Prime Minister’s Conference for Christian Leadership, developing the equivalent of a Birthright program for young churchgoers and establishing “Israel prayer battalions” would serve to reinforce this critical bond.

We should also appoint a roving ambassador whose responsibility would be to fortify and strengthen relations with Christians in America. This should not be an honorary title, but a position with real substance and meaning, manned by a person of faith and not just another political appointee.

With the world increasingly breathing down our neck, it is time that we embrace faith-based diplomacy, and not shy away from it in the heat of debate. As proud Jews who have returned to our land by divine right, we need not be embarrassed to assert our claim to our patrimony by relying on the Book of Books.

Nor should we fear that in doing so, we will stand alone. As recent years have shown, there will be millions of Christians ready to stand with us.

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