Was God really the peace broker on the White House lawn?
The idea of using Abraham – as opposed to any other biblical character – is that he is mutually respected by all faiths.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates (UAE) Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed and Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al Zayani standby prior to signing the Abraham Accords with US President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, US, September 15, 2020.
(photo credit: REUTERS/TOM BRENNER)
The word “God” was uttered a collective six times in the speeches given by US President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Bahraini Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani on the White House lawn on Tuesday.
That’s because the seeds for these agreements were planted and watered and ultimately flowered through faith-based diplomacy by Evangelical Christians – the same people who have been a driving force behind the White House’s pro-Israel policy for generations.
The signing of the peace treaties will certainly bolster support for Trump in the November election – and that may have been the president’s intention. But the driving force behind the accords is a belief that the children of Abraham can and should live side by side.
The Abraham Accords peace treaty signed by Israel and the UAE says that it was written “recognizing that the Arab and Jewish peoples are descendants of a common ancestor, Abraham, and inspired in that spirit, to foster in the Middle East a reality in which Muslims, Jews, Christians and people of all faiths, denominations, beliefs [and] nationalities live in, and are committed to, a spirit of coexistence, mutual understanding and mutual respect.”
The idea of using Abraham – as opposed to any other biblical character – is that he is mutually respected by all faiths. In Hebrew, he is Avraham; in Islam, Ibrahim; and in Christianity, Abraham. Beyond his being the forefather of the Jewish people, Muslims consider him a prophet, and Christians revere him as representing God, as described in one of Jesus’s parables.
In Luke 16:19-24, Jesus reveals that Abraham represents God the Father. And, in Galatians 3:7, it is written that Abraham’s children represent God’s children.
“The real children of Abraham, then, are those who put their faith in God,” it says in Galatians.
THE THEOLOGY of it all does not bother the president, who has made no secret of his courting the Evangelical and Christian Zionist vote. He has blatantly expressed that he would not be president of the United States if the Evangelical Christian community had not supported him.
In speaking about the peace agreements in a recent interview with Fox, Trump said, “It’s an incredible thing for Israel…. It’s incredible for the Evangelicals, by the way.”
At a recent rally in Wisconsin, at which he mentioned his decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he even said that “the Evangelicals are more excited about that than the Jewish people. It is incredible.”
He has surrounded himself with Evangelical advisers, including Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, both of whom were instrumental in orchestrating the Abraham Accords.
But why would the Christians care so much about peace for Israel?
Evangelical leaders told The Jerusalem Post that this is because nearly all Evangelicals hold dear the biblical maxim: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus told the Christians. The Apostle Paul said that, “if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
So every day, Evangelical Christians around the world pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
EVANGELICAL LEADER Joel Rosenberg said that while most Evangelicals believe biblical prophecy indicates that one day Israel will have all the land that was promised to Abraham in the Bible, what they want is what is best for Israel – and their faith dictates that peace is what Israel needs most.
“We want to engage in advancing religious freedom, advancing peace between Israel and her neighbors, and making sure to strengthen our brothers and sisters who are followers of Jesus all throughout the Arab and Muslim world,” Rosenberg said, adding that, “Above all, Evangelicals want Israel to be safer, stronger and more peaceful.”
He said in a separate interview that while Israel should not be carved up like a turkey or full of holes like Swiss cheese, “Abraham, who was given the original grant to the land, divided it with Lot to separate and achieve peace,” which shows that “making compromises for peace is a biblical approach.”
Only five paragraphs into Trump’s speech, he reminded the Muslims of the religious benefit that they will garner from peace with Israel: “The Abraham Accords also opens the door for Muslims around the world to visit the historic sites in Israel and peacefully pray at al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, the third-holiest site in Islam.”
The Evangelicals, too, are ensuring that their Christian brethren, who have been fiercely persecuted in various parts of the Muslim world, can have greater freedom of religion.
“We, the undersigned, recognize the importance of maintaining peace in the Middle East… based on… respect for human dignity and freedom, including religious freedom,” it states in the first paragraph of the Abraham Accords declaration.
Days before the accord was signed, the UAE foreign minister wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal where he said that his country is “committed to the true tenets of Islam: moderation, inclusion and peace,” and that “We are building an interfaith Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi with a mosque, church and synagogue in the same complex.”
REV. JOHNNY Moore, who helped organize the Trump campaign’s Evangelical advisory board in 2016, was, with Rosenberg, part of the first delegation of Evangelical leaders to the United Arab Emirates in October 2018, during which talk about normalization of ties first took place. They took part in many subsequent meetings throughout the region.
Moore has spent years cultivating a multi-tiered relationship between the US and Bahrain, with the goal of not only increasing economic, political and security cooperation, but also combating extremism and terrorism in all its forms, as well as spreading coexistence and tolerance.
As Evangelicals, Moore and Rosenberg said, those meetings always included an additional subtext, sometimes overt and sometimes inferred, because Evangelicals – nearly 800 million of them – are known to be devoted and loyal friends of the State of Israel.
“Our vibrant, global and influential Christian movement not only represents one of the most important constituencies to the presidents of many countries, including the United States, but we are also a type of global firewall against antisemitism and its latest iteration in anti-Zionism,” Moore said.
But they are not only a firewall against antisemitism. The reverend added that the commitment of Evangelicals to peacemaking has successfully made them allies with Arab governments combating extremism as well, and has served as an effective bridge builder between Arab communities and their Jewish neighbors.
Rosenberg said that Evangelicals want to see Israel treated well, because “we love Israel, because that is where the prophets are from and where Jesus was born and raised, and where the Bible was written.”
The president has sided with these Christians, believing that if he put his faith in them, he would ultimately triumph. He moved the US Embassy to Jerusalem. He stopped US funding to Palestinian aid programs. He recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Now, he has managed to broker deals between Israel and two of its Arab neighbors, without requiring it to make any real or immediately apparent concessions. Although the documents signed mention a “just, comprehensive, realistic and enduring solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” they do not mention annexation or a two-state solution.
Moore said that under Trump, politics has been reoriented.
“Rather than allowing religion to be a barrier to peace, for Trump, religion and politics are intertwined,” Moore continued. “This is a religious peace – that was the plan from the very beginning.”