Adherents to Faith-Based Diplomacy See Political Boost for Israel
New book claims biblical readings of political events lead to support for Jewish state
The Media Line: Josh Reinstein is the author of Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel, a new book just out on the power of faith-based diplomacy. Thank you for joining us at The Media Line.
Josh Reinstein: Thank you for having me.
TML: Pleasure! Almost identical quotes are attributed to both Albert Einstein and Mahatma Gandhi. Quoting the Einstein version, these great thinkers admonished that those who believe that politics and religion do not mix, understand neither. Is the modern State of Israel a political or religious concept?
JR: Well, I think as you read the book, we start off with a case study; so the case study is Titus, the emperor who declared victory over the God of Israel. He destroyed the Second Temple. He kicked the Jewish people out of the land of Israel. He actually built the Arch of Titus, which depicted the carrying of the menorah out of the destruction, because he thought he beat the God of Israel, but what we know was that was the beginning of biblical prophecy. So, just like with Titus – he didn’t really understand what’s going on because he didn’t look at Israel through a biblical view – we see that happening today as well. So, people who don’t look at Israel through a biblical lens – typically men – often miss the real story.
TML: This book that’s just been released looks at those who support or oppose the modern State of Israel as being a function of religion, but are you looking at religious affiliation or religious doctrine?
JR: Well, if you look at the books you start by making the legal case, the historic case, the archaeological case, but all of them pale in comparison to the biblical case for Israel. And the more you’re more likely to believe in the Bible – Jews and Christians – people who believe in the Bible, the more you are willing to support Israel, the more you are wanting to stand with the State of Israel. Now, people who don’t believe in the Bible, they don’t necessarily don’t like Israel, but there’s also a third category of people who hate the God of Israel and the Bible and they are those who almost always stand against Israel. So, the book goes through who’s standing with Israel, who’s standing against Israel and why.
TML: Well, how would you explain the “why” very quickly?
JR: Well, I think if you express through a factual point of view there are a lot of people who are standing against Israel which you wouldn’t understand why they would stand against Israel. For example, we see extreme atheists or extreme liberals on the university campuses. They have Apartheid Week against Israel. Yet, Israel is the only free democracy in the Middle East. It is the only place that has equality of men and women. It is the only place that has freedom of religion; freedom of election; freedom of the media. So, you would think people on university campuses would be for these freedoms, for these universal freedoms, for these universal rights, yet they stand against Israel. If you look at it from only a practical point of view, it doesn’t make much sense. But if you look through a biblical point of view, it makes perfect sense. It’s the same people who are saying that there is no God – that the Bible is just a made up storybook – that are staring at the State of Israel because Israel is proof that the God of Israel exists and that the Bible is true, and you can see it through the fulfillment of prophecy in Israel. That’s just one example from Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel, but we go through other people who are standing against Israel, people who have a real interest in trying to show that the God of Israel is not real. And that’s really where we are seeing this clash of civilizations between those who believe in Judeo-Christian values on the one [hand], and those who are actually fighting Judeo-Christian values on the other side.
TML: But isn’t it so that virtually all religions – including Judaism – have adherents that support the State of Israel and those who deny its right to exist?
JR: Well, we’re seeing that there’s a lot of people who are atheists, there’s a lot of people who believe in other religions who still stand with the State of Israel. They do it because of the issues that I mentioned before. It’s the only free democracy in the Middle East. It’s a great ally in a [difficult] world. But when you look at people who are very much against biblical values, very much against the God of Israel, then most likely they stand against Israel. At the same time, if you look at us who believe in the God of Israel, who believe in biblical values, they almost always stand with Israel, so we are seeing a diverting of who is standing with the State of Israel and who’s not.
TML: Is it always the difference of religion or religious tenet that is that differential?
JR: No, I’m just talking about one divide, this clash of civilization that we’re seeing between those who believe in the Bible and those who don’t, but as I mentioned before, we’re seeing other people who stand with Israel for a variety of different issues, some of them for social-political issues; some of them are religious freedoms; some of them because of geopolitical concerns; some of them because of political interests. For example, there are some people who stand against Israel because we only have one vote in the UN and there are 22 Arab votes. There are many more Muslim votes, so politically it’s not a smart move to stand with the State of Israel, so that’s a different interest. But this book examines the power of faith-based diplomacy, the power of those who are standing with Israel against those who are standing against the fulfillment of our prophecies.
TML: Half of Israel’s own population chooses religion. I recall vividly the days you refer to when Jewish supporters of Israel who embraced Christian Zionists were mocked and left outside the religious establishment, both in Israel and the United States. What was the turning point?
JR: I think people understood that the turning point happened during the Second Intifada. We were seeing that one-by-one the nations of the world were turning against Israel, but Christians were standing their ground, and they were standing up with Israel. And people started asking themselves, “Why?” Why are these Christians standing up with us when no one else will? They realized that if you put values and beliefs ahead of economic and political concerns, you’re almost always going to stand with Israel, and when we realized that in 2004 the Knesset, our parliament, established the Christian Allies Caucus which works to develop this new relationship between Jews and Christians in the 21st century. I think once that started, it started a pattern of cooperation that grew and grew year-in and year-out, and then it just exploded under the Trump Administration when they took this Christian support and they turned it into real political actions, which is what we call faith-based diplomacy.
TML: When the Christian Caucus was created in the Israeli parliament, I distinctly remember there was at least as much confusion and ignorance as there was animosity. Now, more than 20 years later, are there parties involved that were previously opposed?
JR: Well, the beauty of the establishment of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus is [that] we made it the first caucus in Israel. Before that, there were things called lobbies, but there was a lot of worry that Christians would use this to try to lobby the government to do things for them. So, we needed a caucus that you have to be a member of Knesset to be in and then they felt a lot more comfortable with starting this dialogue with Bible-believing Christians around the world. So, even when we established in 2004, when almost every party in the caucus from Shas all the way to Meretz… And we still do that today, we have seven political parties from left to right, religious to secular. We’re the largest and most influential caucus in the Knesset, but the secret to our success in Israel is that it’s always broad-based support.
TML: Do you see a change or a problem if there’s a change of [US] administration? Will you lose the clout that you have in the Israeli parliament?
JR: Well, I think in the Christian Allies Caucus, we can prove it. The caucus was around and grew under the Obama Administration. It’s a bipartisan thing. Our sister caucus, the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, is both made up of Republicans and Democrats. All of our work is multi-partisan if not bipartisan depending on the political system, so I think our caucus will be strong. The real question is, will some of these successes that we’ve seen go away? I think the biggest concern of everyone is what’s going to happen with Iran. Iran is our only existential threat. It’s a security threat. We can’t allow Iran to get nuclear weapons. We know that the Democrats are going to go back to the Iran deal which we are very much against, so I think that really becomes the big question. What happens to Iran? What happens to the Middle East? Do we continue with the Abraham Accords or do we go to war with Iran? I think that that’s where people are anxious, but there’s always going to be broad-based support, I think, between Republicans and Democrats for the State of Israel. So, even if you see that going down a little bit between different parties, I think the mainstream will always be fond of Israel.
TML: Israel is a nation that loves its politics, but we’ve heard Israelis express annoyance at political campaigns funded by nonresident Christian organizations and activists. What would you say to those offended Israelis who rile at partisan campaign posters and oversized, expensive banners adorning the highways?
JR: Well, I think that the people doing these campaigns have freedom of expression. I think that they have a right to do it. There are campaigns that will evolve on both sides of the political divide. I think what’s interesting about the Christian groups that are doing that is that they’re doing this from a biblically correct perspective, [and] not a politically correct perspective, so I think that the majority of Israelis will appreciate it. I also think this is a dividing thing. The campaigns that we’re seeing whether it be for Judea and Samaria, or the Golan Heights or recognizing Jerusalem as a capital, I don’t think these are distancing campaigns. I think these are uniting campaigns.
TML: Josh, sometimes an author writes a book because he or she wants to write a specific chapter and needs the whole book to do so. What chapter of Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel gave birth to the project?
JR: The project is really a combination of the last 16 years as director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus and president of the Israel Allies Foundation. What I did in the book is that I broke it down into four parts. I think that each part has something very unique about it. I can’t really put my finger on a factor, but I would say the first part is probably the most interesting to people who want to learn about the power of basic diplomacy, where it comes from, [and] what are our rights to the land. The last part is probably more important to people who want to see it in action and want to see what the future faith-based diplomacy is.
TML: How do you gauge the change in the Christian market and beyond in the last years that you’ve been involved in these projects?
JR: Well, I think that one of the most important changes is that they’ve put Israel as one of their main issues when voting in elections. If you look at the United States of America and the Republican party, you cannot get elected to the House of Representatives, the Senate or the presidency if you don’t stand with Israel, because the basis is Bible-loving Christians, and this is one of their main issues now. For the first time, we are seeing this from Latin America, from which the Guatemalan Embassy has moved to Jerusalem. It’s why the Honduran Embassy is going to be in Jerusalem. We’re seeing this in Africa. We have caucuses in 12 countries in Africa that is the Christian bloc for Israel. We’re seeing this in Egypt. We’re seeing this in Eastern Europe. So, I think that the global phenomenon is what’s so exciting about this, because this is just the beginning of faith-based diplomacy, and that’s why I think that the book Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel is an important read. It’s not only important to understand what was done and where we are today, but it gives you a road map of where faith-based diplomacy is [headed].
TML: What do the Abraham Accords tell us about the next book?
JR: Well, I think that the Abraham Accords are just a function of the faith-based diplomacy that I wrote about. In fact, I predicted in the book some of this happening in the near future, even though the book was written six months ago. The idea is, when Israel is strong, when you’re at peace through strength, then anything is possible, and that when Israel is weak, then very bad things happen. And it’s this idea that Christians are strengthening the State of Israel and making it strong that will lead to real peace. It’s also the fact that the president of the United States is following their political line from Christians who love Israel. So, we’re seeing who’s doing things that are biblically correct instead of politically correct. They see that the biblically correct solution often leads to peace, whereas the politically correct solution often leads to war.
TML: What do you think the Palestinian people are thinking? When they see the Christians uniting with Israel, what do you think has been the response?
JR: I think they think the same thing as what they think when they see the peace accords with the United Arab Emirates or with Bahrain, or most recently with Sudan. Israel is really a peace-loving, successful, vibrant country, and they want a part of that. They want to be a part of that story, and I hope that reaction will lead us to peace, because look, we can’t just hold onto this grudge forever. We have to come to the negotiation table and I think that that is where this all leads to. I think in the end we all believe there will be peace in Israel. The question is how? I think what President Trump and [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu are showing us is that peace through strength is the way forward.
TML: Josh, you provide a concise history for reference if you’re looking for milestones of the conflicts, or the central themes of historic hostilities. Is it your belief that those opposed to the State of Israel will learn from your book?
JR: Yes! Of course. One of my goals is not just to speak to those who already love Israel. I want to make a case for Israel, and I want to make a case for people who may be against Israel to take a look again at Israel. We examine your belief in Israel, because the truth is that Israel is an amazing place and that being against Israel is just another form of anti-Semitism. It’s a hatred that has no basis and it spreads like a virus and that’s why it’s so important that people understand that the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement] is anti-Semitism. [It] is that anti-Israel or Apartheid Week, or calling for Israel to be pushed into the sea – that’s all anti-Semitism. And when people realize that, then they would shun it and they would look at Israel from anew. I try to go into the historic basis for anti-Semitism; where it comes from [and] how it spreads and show how that is done today through these movements like BDS and modern, anti-Israel [movements].
TML: So, at the end of the day, Josh, how do you get those who might not agree with you to actually read Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel?
JR: Well, I think that’s the challenge. I think it’s up to people who read it and enjoy it to talk to their friends about it. Look, people’s beliefs on Israel around the world are not something that is a dividing factor. There are people who are friends and some like Israel and some don’t like Israel, so I think those who do like Israel and read the book will say, “Hey, this was another way of looking at it. Maybe you can take a look at it and take a lead.” Ultimately, you need to get the person to read the book, and I hope they do. We’ve seen tremendous success so far, and I hope that continues. And I think that if people actually read the book, they would understand the exciting story of this tiny, nation of Israel.
Titus, Trump and the Triumph of Israel by Josh Reinstein is available from Gefen Publishing House.