My Take: Israel is the new Iowa for GOP presidential hopefuls
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January.
March 18th, 2011
06:00 AM ET

My Take: Israel is the new Iowa for GOP presidential hopefuls

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

American politicians used to travel to Iowa and New Hampshire, home to the first presidential caucuses and primary, to test the waters for a White House bid. In this election cycle, however, Israel is the place to tip your toe in those waters, at least for Republican hopefuls.

In recent months, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Haley Barbour and Rudy Giuliani have all visited the Holy Land. Yesterday, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin announced that she will be traveling to Israel over the weekend to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palin, who was attacked during her 2008 vice-presidential bid for lacking foreign policy experience, has beefed up her travel resume over the last couple years. In 2009 she visited U.S. troops in Kosovo and Germany and addressed a conference of investors in Hong Kong.

Last year she traveled with the Rev. Franklin Graham to Haiti.

She is slated to speak in New Delhi this weekend, stopping in Israel on Sunday and Monday on her way home. In addition to meeting with Netanyahu, she is scheduled to make a pilgrimage to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and to Nazareth, the home of Jesus. (No word yet on whether she will be able to see the Temple Mount from her hotel room.)

The trip may be penance of sorts for Palin’s use of the term “blood libel” to describe commentators, like myself, who placed some  blame for the Arizona shootings on the hateful rhetoric of right-wing pundits. The phrase is freighted with painful meaning for Jews, who'd been accused for centuries of murdering non-Jews and drinking their blood for ritual purposes.

But Palin's trip is also an effort to demonstrate her bona fides as a yet another conservative Christian lover of Israel.

Israel is of course a longstanding U.S. ally. But it also plays a special place in the end times theological visions of American fundamentalists. Many conservative Christians in the United States read the founding of the state of Israel in 1948 as paving the way for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. And today many are convinced on the basis of various passages in the biblical book of Genesis  that all nations will be judged in accordance with how they treat Israel.

These theological visions come from many sources, including: apocalyptic books of the Bible from Daniel to Revelation; a nineteenth-century viewpoint on the end of times known as dispensational premillennialism; and images of the so-called “rapture” popularized in novels such as Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth (1970) and the more recent Left Behind series.

Christian Zionism has been denounced as unbiblical and even unchristian by some Christian groups, including the National Council of Churches, but it has become an orthodoxy of sorts among Republican social conservatives. “To stand against Israel is to stand against God,” the Rev. Jerry Falwell wrote in 1981, and today Republicans angling for the Oval Office are racking up frequent flyer miles to Israel to prove that they stand with God.

Supporting Israel no longer seems to be enough, however. After all, Democrats do that, too. It is now essential for Republican politicians to stand for Israeli settlements, even if those settlements stand in the way of peace.

Precisely where God comes out for the building of Israeli settlements on land formerly controlled by Palestinians is not clear to me, but the Republican parade to the Holy Land seems united in its view that Obama’s efforts to curtail those settlements are wrongheaded at best and sinful at worst.

During one of his many visits to Israel, Huckabee actually referred to bans on settlements as “apartheid.” “To tell Jewish people, ‘You cannot live here, you cannot raise your children here,’ this is the true racism, this is apartheid,” Huckabee said. In her own show of support for settlements, Palin is scheduled to meet with Danny Danon, a pro-settlements Knesset member.

It should be noted that Palin and Huckabee are taking up positions here far to the right of Ronald Reagan, who saw settlements as a roadblock to peace, and George W. Bush, whose compromise position was to build existing settlements up but not out.

American political junkies have been frustrated with Republican presidential hopefuls playing hard to get. Why don't Romney and Palin and everyone else just announce they're running for president and be done with it?

For now, if you want to know which Republicans have their eyes on the White House prize, don't look to Iowa or New Hampshire. Look to Israel. And listen to what they say about settlements.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Church and state • Israel • Mike Huckabee • Mitt Romney • Opinion • Politics • Sarah Palin

soundoff (193 Responses)
  1. Iqbal khan

    A must read an eye opener........


    April 11, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  2. Iqbal khan

    Hello folks check out on youtube or google search....
    Alan Sabrosky....(who was behind...9.....11)
    Dov zakheim.......(missing trillions in pentagon...man ..behind)

    April 11, 2011 at 1:01 pm |
  3. Teth

    "I will make those who are of the Synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. [...] He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches." Revelations 3:9, 3:13 (To the church in Philadelphia, "Birthplace of America")

    April 11, 2011 at 12:25 pm |
  4. Iqbal Khan

    Check this ....beautfully demonstrated..


    April 9, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  5. Marie

    Duh, it's called the State of Israel. It's also a state that has socialized medicine. I'm sure the GOP is fully behind that.

    April 3, 2011 at 6:08 pm |
  6. goldenangel

    I never ceased to be amazed at the ignoramous, uneducated anti-Semetic comments people write. They had best keep their mouths shut and their writing out of the people eye. As the second nation to recognize the Statehood of Israel, and as the nation who has over the years supported them. With our help they have become the only true democracy (in spite of having 17 political parties ) in the Middle East. As such they are the only true friends we have in the Middle East.

    April 3, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
    • 51st state

      An apartheid, racist "democracy"...

      April 3, 2011 at 7:11 pm |
    • Marie

      Hey, how 'bout taking away our help & seeing how friendly Israel is? True friendship doesn't rely on money.

      April 3, 2011 at 9:34 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      the best friends money can buy!

      November 9, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  7. Elaine

    I hope he's right.

    April 3, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  8. DeltaVet '68

    "Israel is of course a longstanding U.S. ally". Please!!! Ask the remaining crew of the USS Liberty if they think Israel is a longstanding U.S ally. Ask the FBI agents who arrested Jonathan Pollard if they think Israel is a longstanding U.S Ally. These are nothing but AIPAC required talking points and lend support to the notion, as Pat Buchanan so accurately noted, that Washington DC is indeed Israeli Occupied Territory.

    April 3, 2011 at 7:19 am |
  9. mark

    again these liberal secular Americans hate the fact that we religious Christians support israel

    April 3, 2011 at 1:31 am |
  10. mark

    Yes we republican conservative Americans overwhelmingly support Israel , against all the 300 million blood thirsty Muslims that want to destroy israel, so yes we support out politicians that support israel.
    God bless Israel

    April 3, 2011 at 1:28 am |
    • Tyron

      Not just republicans support Israel, I'm a old Democratic not one of those liberals who Hijacked the old fashion Democrats and I support ANYONE who supports Israel. LONG LIVE AMERICA AND ISRAEL!

      April 5, 2011 at 6:15 am |
  11. bazzoola

    It is more obvious than ever now! Previously they used to sneak these trips and hide their worships and butt kissing to the jew lords! No more.

    The USA is ruled by Israel. The author said israel is a long standing ally! In fact Israel is more worth more than Washing DC.

    April 3, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • shunner

      wow, i can only imagine where you anti-Semites get your education. If you would know the facts and not be looking meticulously for reasons to hate Israel your opinion may change. We all know that friendly fire occurs during war time, USS Liberty was just that. Pollard shared information that was already cleared by the us government to share with Israel. You got your mind so warped with hate you cant see truth. israel will continue to survive for the very fact that it stands for what is right.

      April 11, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  12. Just can't get it!!!!

    I understand, clearly, how the US is a strong ally of Israel, what I can't understand is how is Israel a strong ally of US! Is it measured by the number of israeli spies working in the US or the wars by proxy that the US was dragged into in the middle east!

    April 2, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
  13. Alex Baj

    Stephen Prothero Sir,
    Get ready to be booed, booted and verbally, emotionally and perhapes financially bombed. You have no idea what you have done to our national security by writing this article. Why did you stop short of declaring United States as Jew Knited States? Did not you know better who controls our financial health, our psyche as a nation and who helps flexing our war muscle against those terrorists? You know better Mr. Prothero and you still cut the branch you are sitting on. Good luck Sir. Get ready for the wrath. It soon will come.

    April 2, 2011 at 11:07 pm |
  14. raceofvipers

    "I've never seen a President — I don't care who he is — stand up to them. It just boggles the mind. They always get what they want. The Israelis know what is going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn't writing anything down. If the American people understood what a grip these people have got on our government, they would RISE UP IN ARMS. Our citizens certainly don't have any idea what goes on."

    Thomas H. Moorer
    (1912 – 2004)
    US Navy & Chairman,
    Joint Chiefs of Staff during interview on
    24 August 1983.

    April 2, 2011 at 9:55 pm |
  15. danel

    Any politicians who go to Israel to get their marching orders are not worthy of the office. Why vote for them anyway? You can be sure that your interest will not be on their agenda but to the country they're pandering, always will. We are doomed.

    April 2, 2011 at 9:53 pm |
    • Tyron

      I do believe our prez made a special trip there and left a note on the wailing wall. Also take note he was the first to hold a Seder at the WH. I hav no problem with this at all. Glad to see our prez there when he did go and also the Seder. Remember, GOD is watching you and we must all answer for EVERYTHING we do here.

      April 5, 2011 at 6:07 am |
  16. Rami

    The headline should be "Israel the new white house"

    April 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Mike


      May 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm |
  17. IHS Bokharee

    Your turn to get Helenized. How dare you speak of Israel in this manner. Haven't you realised that the Pandering to Isreali's by the Neo-CONS comes first and screw Iowa and NH, they are not our allies, they are just STATES, who cares about them. CFR Rules and when CFR tells the Neo Cons that your votes are in Israel then by god they go to Israel.....BTW, Are you a member of the CFR ?

    April 2, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
    • Scott

      Well said.

      April 3, 2011 at 7:33 am |
  18. brown

    Americans, take note of the politicians going to Israel, then you will know who to deny your vote!

    April 2, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • hamza

      what a company-gop,zionists,pastor graham.one can tell that this is really free country when all these mediocrees are not doing forced labor in alasca goulag.people who got america in trouble and will finish the job if they win in 2012.americans are their own biggest enemy.

      April 2, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  19. ms

    I admire the Editor, Stephen Prothero for writing this article. He is brave and I think he will be under alot of heat.

    April 2, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Sean

      AIPAC controls America

      April 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.