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Mohler: Christians should support Israel, yet hold it accountable

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–Christians have a responsibility to support the Jewish people and the state of Israel while also holding its government accountable, R. Albert Mohler Jr. said on PBS’ “The Newshour with Jim Lehrer” April 23.

Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as Israel’s role in biblical prophecy. Christians, Mohler said, must recognize Israel as a crucial element in God’s sovereign plan — even though they may disagree on Israel’s specific role in biblical prophecy.

“Evangelicals may disagree about exactly how Israel plays out in biblical prophecy or how this particular government may be represented in terms of the prophetic material in the Scriptures,” he said. “But this much is sure — we believe that Christians have a responsibility to protect the Jews and to speak on behalf of the Jewish people.”

Conservative evangelicals, Mohler said, account for much of the support for Israel within the United States. But he warned against supporting Israel blindly.

“We are acting as Americans, and we believe our government and this administration should support the Jewish people and at the same time support the state of Israel,” he said, adding that the U.S. government must “hold Israel accountable for its actions” and also “protect its right to exist and its right to defend itself.” Christians, he explained, bear witness to an even higher accountability.

Ray Suarez, who interviewed Mohler, then asked if his beliefs are founded in Scripture.

“Absolutely,” Mohler responded. “We are a scriptural people. There are Old Testament roots where God made promises to the Jewish people about the land of Israel. One does not have to believe that the current government of Israel represents the Israel of Scripture to understand that it is nonetheless a vehicle for what we believe will be the fulfillment of biblical prophecy….”

The Bible, Mohler said, tells of a future “vast turning to Jesus Christ, to Christianity [and] to the gospel on the part of Jewish people.”

“There are specific New Testament prophecies related to Jerusalem and to the coming reign of the Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “… Evangelicals may have different understandings in the specifics. Nonetheless, there is a clear, consensus of support for Israel and the understanding that God is not finished with the Jewish people.”

Suarez also asked Mohler about the political realities of the Middle East situation, including his opinion about establishing a Palestinian nation.

“I think most American Christians are reconciled to the idea of two states side by side,” Mohler said. “The state of Israel with successive governments has indicated its willingness to accept a Palestinian state so long as that state acts in a mature and responsible way that befits a modern nation.”

But Mohler added that Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat has not shown the willingness to stop terrorism and lead a Palestinian state while at the same time recognizing Israel’s right to exist.

“[U]nder Chairman Arafat the Palestinians have been unwilling to control terrorism and to take on the mature responsibilities of statehood,” he said. “… I think the first place to start is with Israel’s right to exist and with the Palestinians’ right to justice. But that justice must be reconciled with the kind of terrorism and the extremism that we see demonstrated by many of their people and at least acknowledged and allowed by their leadership.”

Arab governments, Mohler said, must shoulder much of the blame for the Palestinians’ condition.

“The blame for the indignities of the Palestinians is most often alleged and attributed to the Israeli government, but the fact is that the Palestinians have suffered from the hands of Arab governments there in the region,” he said, adding that there has been a “historical pattern of indignity” from Arab governments.

“I sympathize with that indignity. I want to speak on behalf of the Christians in the Middle East and the Holy Land — the majority of whom are Palestinians. But we have to see the achievement of a genuine peace, and this means a peace that acknowledges on the Palestinian part the right of Israel to exist.”

Mohler was also asked if Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories precipitates violence in the region.

“The Israeli occupation did not take place in an historical vacuum,” he said. “As a matter of fact, you have to go back to … to the 1967 war and understand that it was a matter of self-protection and a matter of national security for Israel to occupy those territories. I do not believe that Israel wishes to continue that occupation.

“As a matter of fact, I think you would find the prime minister [Ariel Sharon] and Israel as a state and the Israelis as a people seeking to find some way to disengage from the West Bank and from those territories but not compromising their own national security.”
Audio and video of this broadcast are available at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/middle_east/jan-june02/perspectives_4-23.html.

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  • Michael Foust