I read through President Obama’s speech given on March 21, 2013, as carefully as I could in order to try to discern the heart of our president’s message. You can read the transcript in many places – including the New York Times.
Most people who heard the speech appreciated the president’s passion, friendliness and directness. Mr. Obama assured his Israeli audience of American support for Israel and affirmed the common Judeo-Christian and democratic values shared by both nations. The president clearly affirmed the right of the nation of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, though later in the speech he emphatically encouraged the creation of a separate Palestinian state as well.
If you are a believer in Jesus and take the Bible seriously as your guide for life and the filter through which you view all matters of earthly and heavenly importance, then you will probably be disappointed to find that the president’s speech does not refer to any biblical passages, outside of relating his trip to the Passover season!
He did not, for example, say that he recognizes that the Bible is true and the reason the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people is because of God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants, promised in Genesis chapter 12:1-3.
The president did look back into the history of the Jewish people and even to the Holocaust as part of the background for the formation of the state of Israel. Actually, he has done this in the past as well – but at least this time he made more of an effort to demonstrate that the Jewish people had arrived to the land of Israel, historically, prior to the post-Holocaust years.
Obama tried to point the young people listening to his speech towards the future, praising Israelis for being entrepreneurs in technology, biomedical sciences and much more. He commended the Palestinians for much of the same.
He emphasized three major agenda points: security, peace, and prosperity.
I’d like to focus on how we — and when I say we, in particular young people — can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times: security, peace, and prosperity.
When it came to his comments on security, the president assured the Israelis that the United States would do whatever is necessary to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. He also called attention to the United States’ position on Syria and the threat the Assad regime poses to Syria’s own citizens as well as to Israel. He specifically mentioned the possible use of chemical weapons in Syria against its own population as well as the potential threat these weapons represent if they get into the hands of terrorists.
The fact that Hezbollah’s ally, the Assad regime, has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency. We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger.
He specifically singled out Hamas as a terrorist organization, expressing his opposition to their practices as well as the need for Hamas to recognize Israel in order for peace talks to continue. He said,
And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.
He added, with resounding words that I can only hope and pray will guide our president’s thinking and U.S. policy in the years ahead,
That’s why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important; it cannot be taken for granted. But make no mistake: Those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist — they might as well reject the earth beneath them and the sky above, because Israel’s not going anywhere.
It is in his section discussing peace in the Middle East that Obama clearly reveals his agenda – not that it was particularly hidden! He calls for what he views as fair treatment of Palestinians.
It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own — living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements, not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day. It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished. It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank — or displace Palestinian families from their homes. Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.
The president unfortunately paints Israelis as aggressors who do not want Palestinian children to grow up, go to college, get married, receive a great education and have a prosperous and peaceful life.
The president ignores the history of terrorist attacks on Israelis who are trying to secure the safety of their children. Does the president really believe that the level of security in the territories is the result of Israeli cruelty? Or were these necessary security measures taken to prevent further terrorist bombings and missile attacks on Israeli citizens?
He failed to mention the many instances when Israeli officials apprehended and prosecuted Israelis who had attacked Palestinians. Nor did the president mention the displacement of Israeli settlers from Gaza, who were asked to leave their homes and farms and move to other parts of Israel, so that Palestinians could have control of the region. The idea of land for peace was already tried, but was unsuccessful as Hamas took over Gaza and did more harm to the peace process than good.
In the years since the Israelis left Gaza, thousands upon thousands of missiles have been showered upon innocent Israelis in southern Israel, and the security threat resulting from Hamas-controlled areas is the rational basis for the checkpoints and presence of the Israeli Defense Forces in “the territories.”
Unfortunately, innocents on both sides of the crisis are suffering due to the sins of the more militant and aggressive Palestinians and their supporters who have been committing terrorist acts against innocent Israelis for more than a decade. If they were to stop, then the security measures taken by the Israeli security forces would diminish or go away completely – as had been the case before the first intifada.
Obama affirms the fact that Hamas is an unworthy peace partner, but expresses perhaps too much confidence in the Palestinian Authority, especially in light of the veneration still shown by the PLA for Yasser Arafat, an unrepentant terrorist who is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from his own people and from the governments that had given generously to the Palestine cause.
Now, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who’s dedicated to its destruction. But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.
The PLA and Abbas have yet to show themselves to be the more willing and flexible peace partner our president believes them to be. I too hope that Abbas and the PLA will renounce terrorism and refrain from taking further unilateral action as they did in applying for observer status with the United Nations – as that was not an act of good faith.
Finally, the president shows his true agenda for peace when he says,
But it’s possible. Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead: two states for two peoples — two states for two peoples.
In effect, the president’s solution to the problem is to charge John Kerry, our Secretary of State, to negotiate a Two-State solution with Benjamin Netanyahu and Mahmoud Abbas. At this stage, this would be a negotiation without the participation of Hamas, which would leave Gaza completely out of the process.
The president said,
Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security.
Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace and that an independent Palestine must be viable, with real borders that have to be drawn. I’ve suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for these talks.
So what has changed? Not much. I am glad that the president affirmed his overall support of Israel, but I sincerely hope and pray that he does not somehow make the support of the U.S. contingent upon the success of a two-state solution. After all, some of the hardest issues were not even mentioned. There was no discussion of the division of Jerusalem within a Two State Solution, which would be one of them most difficult political challenges to face.
He also did not mention the ongoing U.S. financial and military support of Egypt, which is deeply troubling to Israel and to those who understand the level of animosity the Muslim Brotherhood has against Israel and the Jewish people. This has been well documented.
Still, it is good that the president visited Israel for the first time in five years! It is also good that he reiterated his concerns over Iran, Syria and both Hezbollah and Hamas. This was to be expected, of course. Israel is still the only true ally American has in the Middle East.
Where do we go from here? I would suggest three agenda items as well.
We need to pray for Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6)
The Middle East crisis is complex, and Prime Minister Netanyahu and the leaders of Israel will need God’s wisdom in the days ahead – perhaps as never before – in light of the nuclear threat and the continuing political and social changes in the Middle East.
We need to pray for President Barack Obama
Personally, I am praying that he comes to terms with the scriptural truths regarding God’s plan for Israel and the Jewish people. I pray that he will be driven by Scripture and understand that the land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people not simply because of the U.N. mandate, but because God made a promise and He will keep his promise to the Jewish people (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18-21). I am praying that the Lord would give our president wisdom and empower him to use his great gifts of rhetoric for holy purposes.
We need to pray for the Palestinians and their leaders
I am praying that that God will give Mr. Abbas and Khaled Msshal (the political leader of Hamas) wisdom and a spirit of cooperation so that any peace that can be humanly developed can be effective and lasting.
Most of all, I am praying for Israelis and Palestinians to know that the true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob loves them dearly and sent His only son Jesus the Messiah – an Israeli Jewish person – to live a perfect life and to die for their sins and rise from the dead.
I pray that Israelis and Palestinians will know the hope of the resurrection and recognize that the day is coming soon when Jesus the Messiah will return to reign on His rightful throne in Jerusalem as the Prince of Peace.
And in that glorious day, there will no longer be a Middle East crisis. Palestinians and Jewish Israelis will live in peace… the wolf will lie down with the lamb, and the weapons of war will turn into instruments of peace.
Our friends at the Jerusalem Institute for Justice recently sent out a video that I believe presents some very helpful information in an intriguing way. I hope that you will enjoy it and pass the video as well as this blog entry to your friends.