The New US Administration and Israel

The past few months have brought about a great number of changes to the governments of both Israel and the US. In the US, President Obama was sworn in for a second term and the two most powerful appointments, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State, were filled by new faces. In Israel, half the Knesset is new and negotiations are continuing for who will make up the government. These changes illustrate how fleeting earthly power and earthly kingdoms really are! Yet we should not just ignore the rulers of the day, as their decisions can make a huge impact on world outcomes and, in this case, on Israel.

Many Israelis and Israel supporters were already concerned about Obama winning a second term in office before he nominated Republican Senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense and Democrat Senator John Kerry as Secretary of State. Now it appears that these fears have been confirmed, as these two nominations do not seem to bode well for US-Israel relations.

Obama was mixed in his support of Israel during his first term, though he had similar stances as many of the previous presidents and administrations. However, there is some concern that he could be much less moderate in this term, as he has no worries about being reelected and needing to reach a broad spectrum of people. Additionally, Obama will want to leave office in a memorable way in four years, and likely hopes to be the president that brings peace to the Middle East. While peace in the Middle East is a desirable goal, dividing up the land to achieve that goal is not an end that will be successful (Joel 3:2). The means that would be employed towards that goal may end up being very harmful to both Jews and Arabs, regardless of the intentions.

Secondly, Secretary of State Kerry has a mixed record towards Israel. As a senator, he had a fairly good voting record on issues related to Israel and he has also visited several times. However, he is one of the chief critics of Netanyahu’s settlement policies, pressuring Netanyahu to give up these policies. Moreover, Kerry was pushing for stronger ties between the US and Syria prior to the civil war in Syria.

Likely the most concerning of Obama’s new appointments is that of the new Secretary of Defense, Republican Chuck Hagel. Hagel’s appointment was surrounded by controversy and debate and for a while it appeared Obama would find someone else for the post. In the end, however, Obama chose Hagel to lead the most powerful department with the largest budget in the US government. The reason for much of the dismay is related both to Hagel’s voting record towards Israel and his stance towards Iran.

During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hagel called for a joint cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, totally disregarding Hezbollah’s targeting of civilians. Also, during the start of the Second Intifada in 2000, Hagel was one of only four senators who refused to sign a letter standing with Israel during the crisis. He was also one of only twelve senators who refused to sign a letter pressuring the European Union to list Hezbollah as a terror organization in 2006. Furthermore, in 2009, Hagel signed a letter urging Obama to negotiate with Hamas.

Regarding Iran, Hagel is especially concerning. He is against any military action on Iran and even against isolating Iran diplomatically, saying “Such a course can only result in diplomatic blind spots that will lead to misunderstandings, miscalculation and ultimately conflict.”(America: Our Next Chapter, 2008). Basically, he hopes to appease Iran and negotiate with them while they bide time and build a nuclear weapon. In the same book, he even suggests that this would not be a problem, as Iran would likely act rationally if armed with a nuclear weapon. His voting clearly reflects these views: In 2001, he voted against the renewing of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act; In 2007, he voted against placing Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on the US’s list of terror organizations; and in 2008, he voted against Iran sanctions.

While negotiating with enemies to pressure them to change their actions may sound good, history has shown it to be disastrous. The most extreme example was before World War II, when much of Europe and the US had a policy of appeasing Hitler, even while he was spouting anti-Semitic propaganda. Furthermore, Islam is not a religion of compromise and Islamists like Ahmadinejad will say what the West wants to hear while continuing their own agenda without compromise, in the name of Islam.

Despite all of this, we know that God is in control and will protect Israel. He has also not given us a “spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Furthermore, we know that these leaders are often unknowingly being used by the powers and principalities of this world for the enemy’s plans. However, God’s plan will prevail in the end. In the meanwhile, we should pray for the government, whether righteous or not (1 Timothy 2:1-4), and realize that God has allowed these leaders to be in a place of authority for this time (Romans 13:1).  We can pray that some of their eyes would be opened, similarly to how Nebuchadnezzer’s eyes were opened by God, leading to his repentance (Daniel 4:34-37), and pray that they would begin to pursue God’s plan for peace in the Middle East, rather than the world’s.

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