Attention is beginning to be paid to the comment Sarah Palin made about settlements during her Barbara Walters interview: “I believe that the Jewish settlements should be allowed to be expanded upon, because that population of Israel is, is going to grow. More and more Jewish people will be flocking to Israel in the days and weeks and months ahead. And I don’t think that the Obama administration has any right to tell Israel that the Jewish settlements cannot expand.”
Obama’s is not the first administration to oppose the settlements in the West Bank, as the Christian Science Monitor notes:
The administrations of Presidents Nixon, Johnson, Ford, Carter, and Clinton all considered the annexation of land seized in 1967 illegal. President Ronald Reagan took a position that some might be legal, but opposed their expansion. Prior to becoming president, as the US ambassador to the UN, George H.W. Bush called the settlements illegal. His son, President George W. Bush, thought natural growth for existing settlements was fine, but was opposed to new ones.
In the absence of any demographic data indicating a rising trend in Jewish immigration, some suspect that Palin is referring to a Pre-millennial Dispensationalist Endtime scenario, in which the Jews are ingathered in Israel to convert to Christianity or die in the Battle of Armageddon. Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic spoke to Dr. Thomas Ice of the Pre-Trib Research Center of Liberty University about this:
An alarm bell went off in my head when I heard Palin talk about “days and weeks.” It’s quite one thing to say that Israel needs settlements to contain its growing population (a belief unsupported by the facts, but I’ll deal with that another time), but it’s something else entirely to predict that Jews in the Diaspora will imminently be flooding the Holy Land. I asked Dr. Ice if he thought that this statement by Palin, who has been exposed to this brand of evangelical thinking in her Alaska churches, was informed by these beliefs.
“I’ve read that Palin has been part of an apparently unique movement I’ve heard of — that her pastor, when she was in the Assembly of God, believed based on some personal revelation he claims to have gotten from God, that the Jews would move to Alaska during the Tribulation. But nevertheless, my understanding from what I’ve seen is that she holds fairly typical Protestant Zionist beliefs, and one of those beliefs is the regathering of the Jews in Israel.”
Ice told me he believes this sort of thinking is supported by the facts. “Over forty percent of the world’s Jews now live in Israel. What Sarah Palin probably believes is that this is the first regathering,” when the Jews all migrate to Israel. “This is a condition for the second regathering, the regathering in belief, when the Jewish nation is converted. Then there will be the battle of Armageddon, because remember, Satan wants to wipe out the Jews to prevent the Second Coming, but Jesus comes to rescue the beleaguered Jews. We believe that the Jews are going to be converted so that they can call on Jesus to rescue them from Satan.”
Years ago, during the second Intifada, I attended a Bar Mitzvah of one of my cousins’ sons. The rabbi sermonized at great length about his confusion. As a life-long Democrat, liberal, and intellectual, he couldn’t understand how Nobel Prize laureates like Desmond Tutu and Jose Saramago could be so wrong about Israel while Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who he considered to be wrong about everything else, were right. The ADL’s Abe Foxman–who I would guess is much more liberal than Sarah Palin on a host of issues–may also be troubled by cognitive dissonance, but not so much that he’s willing to reject Palin’s and her ilk’s friendship. On Sunday he called the JTA to vent his outrage at Jeremy Ben-Ami of the liberal J-Street lobby, who’d said that Palin’s “pandering to her right-wing base comes at the expense of the security of the State of Israel” and reveals “a glaring ignorance of damaging facts and a callous disregard of past and present U.S. policy.”
Foxman….specifically called JTA to slam J Street’s statement, asserting that it was “over the line.” Foxman said it was “the height of chutzpah” for J Street to claim that it knows what is best for the security of Israel.
“They’re attacking a celebrity for supporting Israel, but not in the way they want her to support Israel,” Foxman said.
Foxman acknowledged that he thought Palin’s remarks were a “simplistic effort to be supportive of the Israeli government,” but also insisted that they were “clear and well-intentioned” and “didn’t put any lives at stake.”