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Presidential preoccupation with Israeli withdrawal from Jerusalem: A religious duty?

Reader comment on item: Explaining Obama's Fixation with Israel: Linkage

Submitted by Martin Katchen (United States), Mar 20, 2013 at 03:32

I do not think that President Obama's Mideast preoccupation with Israel and Jerusalem in the Middle East should be seen as particular to him. Ever since 1967, when Israel occupied the Temple Mount, American presidents and US foreign policy has been preoccupied with prying Israel loose from it. In fact if the refusal of the US to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital from 1948 on is an indicator, the United States has been trying to pry Israel loose from the NEW CITY of Jerusalem since Israel's inception.

Just about every President from Lyndon Johnson (who passed US intelligence to Egypt during the 1967 War on, has tried to pry Israel loose from Jerusalem. Nixon held up Israel's TOW missiles during the Yom Kippur War until the Syrians were in the Galilee. Jimmy Carter of course coerced Israel into the Camp David accords. Ronald Reagan had Caspar Wineberger and supplied Saudi Arabia with advanced weaponry. George HW Bush stopped Israel's loan guarantees over settlement in East Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria. Bill Clinton continued to coerce Israel with the Wye Agreement. Even George W Bush finally came up with the Road Map To Peace with Condaleeza Rice. So President Obama's preoccupation with Israel from day one (and leave us not forget that Israel had ended it's invasion of Gaza the day before Obama was inaugurated ) is certainly nothing new. Indeed, so in keeping with this tradition has been Obama's policy that when Newt Gingrich offered to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem (undoubtedly West Jerusalem) in one of the Republican debates, none other than Mitt Romney criticized Gingrich for breaking with US foreign policy--as if US policy is somehow carved in stone.

If this apparently irrational preoccupation with Israel is this longstanding, what are it's roots and why is it so durable?

It is not solely about oil. Not when Israel has been found to have large offshore gas deposits of it's own, large oil shale deposits that it is now technically feasible to produce, Canada is the US's largest foreign source of oil, oil is being found all over the world and China and India are now the largest consumers of Persian Gulf oil and gas. Nor is it about land. The Palestinian Arabs have had no rawer a deal than say the Kurds or the Druse and much less of a raw deal than the Armenians or the Lakota in the US itself. Yet the US continues to pay for UNRWA camps to keep the Palestinian cause alive years after that cause turned to terrorism that turned on US citizens with nary a serious attempt by Congress to defund UNRWA. What warranted US participation in keeping Palestinian refugees in a state of squalor where they could not get away from the stigma of being the Muslims who lost their land to Jews when there was a window in which they could have been resettled, yes, safely in the United States between 1965 when the US liberalized it's immigration laws and 1973 when unemployment and terrorism began to rise, and allowed to get on with their lives like the surviving Armenian refugees in the early 1920s?

I think that the reason for the fixation on Israel in general and it's possession of Jerusalem in particular is probably the continually discombobulating effect that Israel has on Islam and on the Christianity that most Christians continue to believe.

For Muslims, the existence of the State of Israel amounts to a satanic reversal of fortune. Because of Muhammad's strife with and ultimate military victory over Jewish tribes in the Mecca region as depicted in the Koran, Islam's vindication depends on Jewish subordination or dhimmitude--much more so than the subordination of Christianity. For that reason, a sovereign Jewish state, especially coming on the heels of a half century of Christian domination of much of Islam is something that Muslims find profoundly threatening.

What truly gives this threat valence, as Daniel Price Jones has pointed out in "The Closed Circle" is the shame dynamic of Arab society. Arabs who fail to prosper (and because of the self destructive behavior in Arab and Muslim society, economic stagnation has meant that few do prosper) are in a state of shame--especially when it translates for Arab men into difficulty in finding a wife in a polygamous marriage economy. This sense of shame and humiliation resonates with the collective sense of humiliation and religiously existential insecurity felt as a result of the existence of the State of Israel. When we understand the depth of the insecurity that so many Arabs feel that gets identified with Israel's existence, then we begin to understand why Israel's nonexistence is non-negotiable for Muslims. Unfortunately, this is not something that many Americans understand.

But it is not only Muslims who are troubled, though less profoundly by Israel's existence and more so by Israel's possession of Jerusalem. The idea that Christianity supersedes Judaism is essential to Christianity. And most Christians still hold to the idea that the Jews are permanently in Exile due to their refusal to embrace and worship Jesus Christ. With one very important exception.

In the 1830s, a Scots Presbyterian minister named Thomas Nelson Darby began to preach the idea that the Covenant with the Jews remained intact despite the coming of Jesus. This Dispensationalism caught on in Great Britain after the Napoleonic Wars and soon spread to the United States. The Plymouth Brethren became quite influential in the UK and they preached the idea that in the end times the Jews would return to the Land of Israel and that it was the duty of Christians to help them do so. Quite a few influential Christians apparently were Christian Zionists. Lord Balfour apparently believed this way, as did Lloyd George, who codified the Jewish State into the Treaty of San Remo and apparently, General Allenby. In the United States, Woodrow Wilson seems to have been favorable to the idea of Christian Zionism and later, Harry Truman, who was a Baptist.

In the United States, Dispensationalism began to spread, particularly in the South and Midwest beginning in the 1910s with the publication of the Schofield Reference Bible. Denominations like the Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Assemblies of God and others adopted the idea and it has since spread to places like Korea, Latin America and Africa. But a majority of Christians are still Catholic, Lutheran, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic, ect. And these denominations still hold by Exile theology. It was not until the 1960s that the Catholic Church stopped blaming the Jews for Jesus's death. I am not sure (someone help me out here) if the Eastern Orthodox, the Armenian or the Coptic Church ever stopped considering Jews deicides. And it was not until the 80s that the Church recognized the State of Israel. And for them, Israel is still troubling and Jewish possession of Jerusalem more so.

And so it has been within the proverbial Eastern foreign policy Establishment, long centered around institutions such as the Catholic Georgetown University. President Obama does not have to be a Muslim to be against Jewish possession of Jerusalem. The varieties of Christianity he follows do not favor Jewish possession of Jerusalem either. Nor have the Christianities of any US President since Truman with the possible exception of George W Bush.

So it isn't surprising that American Presidents continue the tradition of attempting to pry Israel loose from Jerusalem. It's expected of them by just about everyone. The surprise will come when a US President finally moves the US embassy to Jerusalem.


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