Those who heard US Vice President Al Gore's remarkable address on the occasion of Israel's 50th anniversary could have been forgiven for thinking the American president-in-waiting an ardent Christian Zionist. Indeed, his speech at the Jubilee Bells celebration had all the ingredients of a pro-Israel sermon.
The tall and handsome Gore quoted from the psalm that for millennia nourished the hope of Israel's second return to their land. He recalled the account of Jacob's struggle with the Angel of the Lord. He paralleled Israel's mistreatment at gentile hands with Joseph's cruel abuse by his brothers. He unabashedly propounded his belief that Israel's restoration in 1948 was the fulfilment of Ezekiel's vision about the valley of dry bones. And he closed with a traditional blessing to the God of Israel: "Blessed be Thou our God, ruler of the Universe, Who has kept us alive and has sustained us and brought us to this time."
Apart from the scriptures, Gore unhesitatingly recalled the suffering of the Jewish people through "the bitter centuries of your wandering and dispersion, your persecution and despair". Nor did he make any bones about the fact that, from the day of its birth to the present, Israel has had to struggle to survive in an extremely hostile world. He had Israelis eating out of his hand.
Like Gore, President Bill Clinton often refers to the Bible in his speeches to, and about, Israel. Of course, it is hardly surprising that in relating to Israel people will frequently invoke scripture or references to God to support their actions or words. It was Israel, after all, who gave the Bible to mankind. And it is with Israel, more than with any other nation, that the Bible is ultimately concerned. But, as often as not, these spiritual elements have been used to deceive and disarm those who would otherwise have been on their guard. "Oh it's all right," they say, "President so-and-so goes to church/is a Christian/has prayed with Billy Graham/believes in God so, clearly, we can trust him".
On a number of occasions, including in his address to the Israeli Knesset in 1994, and most recently to The Jerusalem Report (May 25, 1998), Clinton has recounted his old pastor's warning: "If you abandon Israel, God will never forgive you". In the Report article Clinton makes a play on the words of the biblical Ruth when he tells Israelis: "Your struggle has become our struggle", and according to a close Jewish friend (also quoted in the Report), the Southern Baptist from Arkansas "knows the Jewish Bible and the New Testament practically by heart".
If this is true, Bill Clinton's memory has lapsed on a few important occasions:
On October 6, 1994, as he presided over the signing of peace between Israel and Jordan, the president exhorted the parties with what he claimed were the words of a world-renowned Jewish Rabbi: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will inherit the earth."
In choosing to misquote Jesus, (who said the peacemakers "shall be called sons of God") Clinton either slipped up, or else purposefully twisted the scripture to substantiate what he was doing: assisting in the division of Israel's land. A piece, the size of the Gaza Strip, had been carved out of Israel and given to Jordan.
On April 27, in a speech congratulating Israel on its 50th anniversary, President Clinton said: "As a Christian, I do not know how God, if He were to come to Earth, would divide the land over which there is dispute now. … But I know that if we all pray for the wisdom to do God's will, chances are we will find a way to close the gap in the next couple of years between what might be and what is."
Actually, any Christian with a knowledge of what the Bible says knows exactly how God would divide up the land--He wouldn't.
It is the Bible that states--without apology--that God gave the land of Israel, encompassing all of ancient Canaan, as an eternal possession to the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. (See Numbers 34:2 and Psalm 105:8-11)
And it is the God of Israel who warns that He will judge the gentile nations for scattering His people and dividing up their land. (see Joel 3:2)
No matter how fervently they proclaim their faith, the bottom line is that unless the US administration changes its land-for-peace policy towards Israel, the very Bible Clinton and Gore use so liberally in speeches to win the trust of the Jews ultimately will show them up to be enemies when it really counts.