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Land, Rogers, others urge strong stand by White House on ‘road map’

WASHINGTON (BP)–Southern Baptist entity head Richard Land and former SBC president Adrian Rogers have signed onto a letter asking President Bush to apply some strict guidelines to the “road map” for peace in the Middle East in order to avoid disaster.

Land and Rogers joined more than 20 other Christian and conservative leaders in telling the president they have “deep concerns” about the plan, which was first outlined by Bush last year and presented officially to Israel and the Palestinians in April.

Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Rogers, three-time SBC president, is pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in suburban Memphis, Tenn.

While Bush’s requirements of the Palestinians called for specific results, his administration now is being urged by the United Nations, European Union and Russia — the other members of the group proposing the “road map” — to pressure Israel to make concessions without such Palestinian actions, the letter said.

“[I]t would be morally reprehensible for the United States to be ‘evenhanded’ between democratic Israel, a reliable friend and ally that shares our values, and the terrorist infested Palestinian infrastructure that refuses to accept the right of Israel to exist at all,” the May 19 letter said. Surveys “show at least half of the Palestinian people support the current terrorist intifada against Israel,” the letter said. “In view of this reality, the ‘road map’ could lead to a disaster.”

The intifada is the uprising, often violent, by Palestinians against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The letter urges Bush to follow the following principles:

— Israel’s neighbors must acknowledge its right to exist.

— Palestinian leaders must halt the “propaganda that permeates schools, cultural institutions and government-owned media [and] teaches Nazi inspired hatred of Jews and incitements to violence.”

— Anti-Israel terrorism sponsored by Syria and Iran and implemented by Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations must end, and the “terrorist infrastructure” has to be destroyed.

— Israel should have the right to defend itself.

— No “moral equivalency” exists between Israel, a democratic government that believes in individual human rights, and the “terrorist thugs that celebrate the deaths of innocent Israelis and Americans.”

The letter was sent to the White House amid a series of Palestinian suicide bombings that killed a dozen Israelis.

Gary Bauer, president of American Values and a former Republican Party presidential candidate, organized the letter. Included among the signers were television preachers Jerry Falwell, John Hagee and D. James Kennedy, as well as William Murray, president of the Religious Freedom Coalition; Marlin Maddoux, chairman of USA Radio Network; Paul Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation, and Lou Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition. Falwell is chancellor of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., and pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, which has affiliated itself with the Southern Baptist Convention in recent years.

The “road map” calls for a Palestinian state with temporary borders this year and a permanent state in 2005. It requires of the Palestinians an immediate cessation of violence against Israel, the dismantling of terrorist organizations and the recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace.

Of Israel, it requires the destruction of Jewish settlements constructed in the West Bank since March 2001 and the freezing of all settlement activity, an end to attacks on Palestinians and the destruction of their homes, and withdrawal to the borders in place before Israel gained new territories in the 1967 war. Critics of the plan also say it would result in the division of Jerusalem between the Palestinians and Israelis.

In the last two and a half years, more than 2,000 Palestinians and 700 Israelis have been killed in violence marked by Palestinian suicide bombings and Israeli military attacks.

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