Dear Mr. VP,
No country in the world has an embassy in Jerusalem.
To place an embassy in Jerusalem and recognize it as the capital of Israel would derail the peace process and negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, as both groups lay claim to the city, and therefore control of the city is a major sticking point in said negotiations. Other countries don’t want to be seen as prejudging what would need to be decided during peace talks.
As you know, your boss is expected to make an announcement this week recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moving the embassy from Tel Aviv at some point in the near future.
Why is this issue important to Trump, a man who has (despite his Jewish daughter and son-in-law) called Nazis and anti-Semites “good people”?
It certainly isn’t because he’s had some change of heart about Judaism, or even, more cynically, because he’s hoping to win Jewish votes in some future campaign. Jewish-Americans have essentially voted as a bloc in all recent presidential elections: 79% for Gore, 74% for Kerry, 78% and then 69% for Obama, and 71% for Clinton. This is not a place where the RNC or Trump are going to try and make inroads.
What did I think when I heard this news?
First, and less pertinent to you in particular: it is widely understood that this is going to lead to potentially violent protest at U.S. embassies around the world. Who is likely to be protesting a slight against Palestinians? Arabs and Muslims. How does this help Trump? “Look at these people protesting. They hate us. We’ll never get along. Travel ban travel ban wall.” Clash of civilizations mindset promulgation and Islamophobia – check.
Then, I thought of you, of your own evangelical beliefs, and of the necessity for Trump to shore up an evangelical Christian base and keep them voting Republican, even as his Access Hollywood tapes are re-examined. (Though, honestly, if a majority of Evangelicals are willing to vote for an accused pedophile….what would deter them? But I digress.)
American evangelicals express support for Israel at higher rates than American Jews. No, that is not a typo.
But why, someone might say, do evangelicals care about Israel so much? Why do they almost invariably fervently support the country?
First, let’s turn to Ezekiel.
For I will take you out of the nation; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back to your own land… I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you… to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.
I will call for the grain and make it plentiful… I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine…
This is what the Sovereign Jehovah says, ‘On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.’
Then the nations around you that remain will know that I, Jehovah, have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I, Jehovah, have spoken, and I will do it.
If you believe in the infallibility of the Bible, then this is clear: God supports the existence of Israel, and indeed made it exist. To undermine God’s will is unthinkable. As one of my professors in college noted, essentially a thousands-of-years-old text is being used as a land deed.
Let’s turn next to Pat Robertson, a phrase I hope never to utter again.
Ladies and gentlemen, make no mistake — the entire world is being convulsed by a religious struggle. The fight is not about money or territory; it is not about poverty versus wealth; it is not about ancient customs versus modernity. No. The struggle is whether Hubal, the Moon God of Mecca, known as Allah, is supreme, or whether the Judeo-Christian Jehovah God of the Bible is Supreme.
If God’s chosen people turn over to Allah control of their most sacred sites-if they surrender to Muslim vandals the tombs of Rachel, of Joseph, of the Patriarchs, of the ancient prophets-if they believe their claim to the Holy Land comes only from Lord Balfour of England and the ever fickle United Nations rather than the promises of Almighty God-then in that event, Islam will have won the battle. Throughout the Muslim world the message will go forth-“Allah is greater than Jehovah. The promises of Jehovah to the Jews are meaningless.
“We can now, in the name of Allah, move to crush the Jews and drive them out of the land that belongs to Allah.”
In short, those political initiatives that some have asserted will guarantee peace, will in truth guarantee unending struggle and ultimate failure. Those political leaders who only understand the secular dimension of Israel’s existence and who cavalierly dismiss the spiritual dimension will find that they receive the mess of pottage of Esau rather than the inheritance of Jacob.
Tl;dr: Robertson tells evangelicals that they need to support Israel’s existence because hey, at least Jews are fellow travelers, not like those moon-god worshipping barbarian Muslims. For Robertson and other evangelicals, this is about supporting Judeo-Christian values in what he sees (like Trump) as a clash of civilizations in which there will only be one victor.
But there’s also a third reason that evangelicals support Israel, and it is arguably the most interesting. Some (about a third, according to a slightly outdated survey) support Israel because they believe that a gathering of Jews in Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Christ. In order for everyone to be happily raptured, we need Israel.
I find this particularly interesting because eschatology is my jam. (Aside: one summer I was home in Vermont working at CVS when I saw a local church was having a traveling preacher come in for a series of speeches on Relevations. I hid the anti-GWB sticker on the car and went undercover. I won a book in a raffle. It was one of the most interesting anthropological excursions ever.)
Maybe you didn’t take some summer nights in college and attend lectures on the four horsemen. Maybe you don’t wake up at night thinking about the differences between pre-tribulation and post-tribulation theological thinking. Maybe you didn’t obsessively watch Doomsday Preppers for years. Maybe eschatology isn’t your favorite jam. That said, as an evangelical, I have to imagine it’s occasionally present on your sandwich. Perhaps you’re one of those third of evangelicals who believe Israel’s existence is necessary for Jesus to return.
And while I don’t know exactly where you stand on the idea of Israel and armageddon, wowza. Look at this speech you gave commemorating the UN vote that led to the establishment of Israel.
We gather today on the eve of a historic anniversary to celebrate what happened here, in this very hall, 70 years ago when the United Nations declared to the modern world an ancient truth, that the Jewish people have a natural, irrevocable right to an independent state in their ancestral and eternal homeland…
While Israel was built by human hands, it’s impossible not to see the hand of heaven leading its people, writing their history in the restoration of this ancient people to their land of their birth.
In fact, the God of Abraham told His people, “Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there I will gather you and bring you back to the land which your fathers possessed.
At least we know where you stand on the Bible-as-land-deed question. Your belief in the infallibility of this text has led you to unquestioning support of Israel.
So really, what I’m saying is this: you were in charge of the transition. You stacked the Cabinet with evangelicals. You are pushing your policy agenda. I don’t know that I actually think Trump has a policy agenda. It’s all you. And moves like this one in regards to Jerusalem make it even clearer. Natch: why I write to you instead of him.
At least we can agree on one thing: this Bible verse seems particularly apt:
Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around…It will come about in a day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured.
I think I prefer Mirah, though.