The Evangelical Factor in Middle East Peace
The Nov. 27 Annapolis meeting on Israel/Palestine has launched us into a momentous one-year process to seek a permanent peace agreement between Israel and its neighbors. What is at stake is whether after more than 50 years of ghastly conflict and widespread bloodshed, genuine peace can come to one of the most dangerous areas and most divisive problems in our world.
Important steps were taken at Annapolis. The leaders of Israel and Palestine publicly pledged to negotiate a permanent peace before President Bush leaves office. They have promised to meet personally every two weeks. And the U.S., especially Condoleezza Rice, is committed to working vigorously to use America's enormous influence to facilitate the process.
Not everyone is pleased. Christians United for Israel totally oppose any plan in which Israel gives up any land to a Palestinian State (an essential component of a final peace). CUFI has already publicly protested the Annapolis meeting and will certainly organize a segment of the evangelical world to oppose a two-state solution.
Fortunately, CUFI represents only a minority of American evangelicals. I am sure that a majority of evangelical leaders agree with the new "An Evangelical Statement on Israel/Palestine," released on Nov. 28, signed by more than 80 evangelical leaders who endorse a two-state solution and call on evangelical Christians to encourage, pray for, and support all the leaders working to reach this historic goal (go to ESA's website to read the statement and add your signature).
CUFI is already bombarding the White House with letters opposing this peace effort. We must mobilize those evangelicals (a majority of the evangelical world, I am sure) that do support a two-state solution to make its voice known now.
On Friday, Nov. 30, I was on Bill Moyers' Journal (Public Affairs Television) to talk about what evangelicals think about a two-state solution.
Clearly some initial important steps have been taken. But genuine programs will only happen if the U.S. vigorously pushes both Israelis and Palestinians. I believe Condoleezza Rice wants to do that.
Now is the time to tell the president you want him to redouble his efforts to promote a permanent peace between Israel and Palestine. Sign the new statement, write the White House, and tell your congressional representatives to push hard for peace in the Holy Land.
Ron Sider is president of Evangelicals for Social Action, a professor and director of the Sider Center on Ministry and Public Policy at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a member of the Red Letter Christians.