Perhaps the thorniest political-social-religious problem that President George W. Bush will face in his entire presidency is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.‑ Of the three layers of the problem just mentioned, the later one, the religious dimension produces the stickiest of the thorns.‑ How President Bush addresses this question will likely determine the possibility of peace at home and abroad for at least the next several decades.
Of the recent presidents, back to Ronald Reagan, Israel has had no better friend than George W. Bush.‑ Of the Middle Eastern countries Israel’s national security has most benefited from the stabilizing of Afghanistan and Iraq.‑ Protecting Israel was not the reason for going to war in the Middle East, but it is one of the inevitable outcomes of reducing the threat of Islamic terrorism.
The other night my family and I watched the film Abraham (Turner Home Videos) and realized again the millennia-old roots of this current conflict.‑ According to the biblical accounts, God promised Abraham (first known as Abram) descendents more numerous than the stars in the sky.‑ But Abram and his wife Sarai (later called Sarah) just got older and older with no children.‑ In desperation Sarai offered her Egyptian servant girl Hagar to Abram to bear him a son by proxy.‑ She succeeded, giving birth to Ishmael.‑ God reminded Abram again that he could do the impossible.‑ Sarah became pregnant in her old age and birthed Isaac, the son of the promise.‑ The film does a good job dramatizing the enmity that eventually sprang up between the two boys forcing Abraham to finally send Hagar and Ishmael away.‑ They left Abraham and Sarah, but not without God blessing Ishmael too so he would become the father of a great nation.
Israel to the west, Ishmael to the east, the enmity between the two has stubbornly resisted easy solutions.‑ The danger for anyone, regardless of their religious perspective, is to assume that this means no attempt should be made at reconciliation.‑ Pursing peace, even while punishing the lawless, will always characterize a just leader.‑ The thorns of this conflict may not all be removable, but some earnest attempts to face the problem may produce a rose or two.
We can hope…and pray…that President Bush will proceed with his proven supportiveness of Israel and a sincere concern for the well being of the countless Muslim and Christian Arabs who have suffered under leaders of tyranny.
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