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. Sean

    Wow... Mythology is so silly! It makes no sense that people actually believe all these fairytales!!!

    March 29, 2011 at 7:26 am |
  2. Xavier

    *Random cherry-picked line from a religious text*
    *Rambling nonsense that is only slightly related to above line*
    *Claim moral and personal superiority*


    March 29, 2011 at 6:02 am |


    March 29, 2011 at 12:48 am |
    • toronto fan

      I really hope that is a joke. Poor, but still, enough is enough. Believe ir or not, we are NOT the cause of your troubles

      March 31, 2011 at 1:05 am |
  4. nm

    Very sad. Israel is a terrorist country that supports illegal settlements, prevents right of return, and promotes occupation and slavery of palestinians. The power of AIPAC can't be overstated. Our presidents should be for the AMERICAN people, not one religious group. All americans need to unite and say STOP supporting israel. Not one more dime.

    March 28, 2011 at 11:52 pm |
  5. dtukldtyuldyu

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    March 28, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
  6. Thinker


    if god exist he is usless and he is not willing to help humans

    March 28, 2011 at 9:05 pm |
  7. blessedgeek

    Thank you, thank you, thank you GOP.

    There are only two things that separate me (a registered Republican) from voting for a Republican presidential candidate. If a Republican candidate would say,
    – yes even if a messiah is coming, people had been saying that for 2000 years, therefore, we are all obliged to preserve the planet for future generations and human activities do excessively cause global warming. And excessive global warming is killing millions of born and unborn babies worldwide more than abortion had. Global warming denialists pro-lifers are hypocrites.
    – the Iraq war was a mistake. We supported an idiot. We do not need to put our troops into every part of the world. Israel is now in a worse position than before Saddam was removed. The Iraq war was a STUPID idea.

    March 28, 2011 at 7:28 pm |
  8. Iqbal khan

    Check this if U have Guts!
    Enforcing American Hegemony – A TimelineA compiled timeline and comment on US foreign interventions, covert ops, and maintenance of Western economic and military dominance.
    http://www.flagrancy.net/timeline.html – Cached – Similar

    March 28, 2011 at 11:34 am |
  9. eye can see

    We are in the year 2011. Computers and artificial intelligence running our lives. We live in the U.S. The wealthiest and one of the most advanced countries in the World. We believe in human values and freedom. Yet, we allow ourselves to be guided by myth and believes that faded thousands of years ago. We support a country that terrorizes its natives. Because we sympathize with them for being terrorized in the past. Not by Palestinians or Arabs but by Westerners like us. Then we export our victims to the Arab World and we pay for it. We allow for air head politicians to shoe polish a country that we have created with our own money. In essence, we pay to destroy our image as freedom fighters and we still ask ourselves why the world hates America!!!

    March 27, 2011 at 11:00 am |
  10. iqbal khan


    March 23, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
  11. Iqbal Khan

    Check this folks....


    March 22, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  12. Damian

    After waking up and hearing our congress wanting to impeach the president It made me sick.American people are very tyred of our congress and government. All we see them do is say we need a no fly zone. then after its implemented they say its too late he didnt ask congress to go. What the hell is wrong with our elected officials.I mean its crazy to hear one senator say we have to have a no fly zone in lybia than the same senator a week lator says "We wernt asked to go in lybia" Are you joking our coutry is going no where. You would think we would be united with the president as he went to extreme measures to get UN approval and push for dimplomecy as far as it could go. As a ruthless tirant kills incent people.So I must say if someone here in the USA started to kill people and the government said nothing.Do you think the UK prime minister would say well we have to get a vote first .

    Of course the president has the atthority to go with the UN without congress approval dnt you remember Clinton.

    I hope we can one day get all of our congress out of office make it law to only get 1 term of 4 yrs thats it. No more of this lifetime crap that new ideas to make our country run better our always thrown out because of senators wanted to please there finacial campaign partners. And bring our government to "ONE NATION UNDER GOD" that it once was.In stead of turning the TV on and seeing congress ack like a bunch of babies that if its not there way its not right or they agree one minute and slam the president the nxt day. AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE SICK OF HEARING CONGRESS COMPLAIGNING EVERYDAY AND NEVER GETTING NOTHING DONE. Its Time For Real Change A government that stands with the people exspressing there voice on behalf of the people.

    please comment and tell me how you think our government is doing. And what we could to improve this

    March 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm |
    • Rik

      As long as they're not these HIP-O-KRIT RepugniCant's

      March 28, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
  13. Nobody N. Particular

    In the last book of the Hebrew bible, Malachi, it details the loss of faith of the Levites, who offered blind and lame offering unto the Lord. It also warned of the Lord’s judgement against the Levites, who were the priest of Judea, and since they no longer honored the covenant with the Lord, the Lord no longer offer his protection over Israel, which allowed the Romans to destroy it and scatter it's people. In short, God allowed Israel's destruction as a judgement against their faithlessness; then almost 2000 years later, Man decides to recreate it in some misguided sense of justice due to the suffering the Jews felt at the hands of Nazis. For those of you "born-again" Christian who support Israel, understand that you stand against God and his judgement, and you do so at your own soul’s peril. What I find so funny is that people, who claim to be devout followers of God, act contrary to the will of God, got to wonder how they justify that in their little world?

    March 21, 2011 at 1:26 pm |
  14. Tonino

    Ever since the call for prophethood first came to Muhammad, the son of “Abdallah”
    approaching the age of fortieth on the month of Ramadan, it is related the Angel Gabriel came to Muhammad and he slept in solitude on Mount Hira and said, “Recite” what Muslims known as the first four verses of the ninety-sixth chapters of the Muslim scripture, known as the Qur'an. This is the Arabic world which combines the meaning of “Reading” and “Recitation” which flourished in the empty desert, broken by a few scattered oases crossed by a few caravans routes, mostly nomads who supported their livelihood by raising sheep, goats, and camels. Under Islam Moses, was not permitted to enter the promise land, and died while people went forward. Jesus was crucified, and Christianity remained a persecuted minority religion for centuries, until a Roman Emperor. Constantine, embraced the faith and empowered those who upheld it. Two religions, very different genocides.

    Today the Islam religion is questionable, due in part the acts of terrorism against humanity carried on by its members supported by their leaders, the moral question is larger then religion and life and its asinine leaders .


    March 20, 2011 at 12:39 pm |
    • nm

      Jesus peace be upon him was never crucified in Islam. He will return. The land of Israel was promised to Abraham's Children. Prophet Muhammed was a descendent of his other son Ishmael peace be upon him. Muslims, Jews, and Christians are all cousins and all instructed to believe in one God. I ask every Christian what did Prophet Abraham, Loot, Noah, Adam peace be upon them all believe in. One God, no son, no father, no daughter, not an idol, but merciful and compassionate.

      March 29, 2011 at 12:00 am |
  15. Tonino

    Exodus, Sin, and the revelation of faith, amid our troubled times.

    Our earth has experienced cataclysmic events since the fist material coalesced in space, thence the earth developed its own behavior. The earth first creatures and humans had to lean the earth's behavior in order to survive and look for shelter. Thus anticipating when it will rain, snow, be hot, cold, windy and so on, in some human cultures even talking, praying, and perform rituals to ask the earth for food, water, protection, shelter and so on. I will explain the following in a philosophic discussion without undermining any aspect of the reader to reiterate. We have stopped respecting our earth basic laws, learned from the beginning of times, by all creatures and humans on this earth. We have instead through our evolution learned how to question, investigate, explore, explain, develop, predict, forecast, make alterations, create, defend, destroy and so on. This confidence in leadership individuals to sin and violate the laws of our earth, and do anything they want without regard to expose themselves and whole societies to extreme danger against the upheaval that can be unleashed. These individuals we call leaders, have contributed and led us into the temptations, of wars, genocides, massacres, exposed people and whole society to live at the foot of a volcano, in proximity of the oceans, rivers, mountains, concur land and territories and die for the cause and belief. We have been counting on science, physics, leadership for greed and power.

    { The sin is the action of one man}-{the reaction is the sin of other man}


    March 20, 2011 at 10:49 am |
  16. Iqbal Khan

    We all know why?

    Selective Nature of UN Intervention

    By Sasha Simic

    March 19, 2011 at 9:16 pm |
    • Reality

      Saving 1.5 billion lost Muslim souls:
      There never was and never will be any angels i.e. no Gabriel, no Islam

      Saving 2 billion lost Christian souls:
      There was and never will be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity

      Saving 15.5 million Orthodox followers of Judaism:
      Abraham and Moses never existed.

      Added details upon request.

      March 20, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Frederica

      @Reality: one atheist's trashy imagination changes not even a dog, much less 4 billion human believers in God.

      March 20, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      Reality gave up his heritage, just as Cain did before him. Oh, that sin of PRIDE does blind.


      March 20, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  17. Reality

    What these presidential "wannabees" should tell the leaders and people of Israel:

    Israel should honor the original UN 1948 agreement and live within the described borders. Considering the hate generated by passages in the koran and torah, erecting dividing walls between Muslims and Jews should continue and UN forces should "man" these walls.

    And Jerusalem should be made into an international city under the control and protection of the UN.


    March 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      What of the dozens of other world wide sites that have been in contention since the beginning of time?

      March 19, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
    • Iqbal Khan

      For The first time I agree with U in this except for........ "Considering the hate generated by passages in the koran and torah"........

      March 20, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
    • ustabee

      Wow, you are SO right. All the Jews should file out of Israel the minute, and I mean the MINUTE all the non-native Americans hightail it out of the USA and back to England, Spain, Portugal, etc. After you?????!!!

      March 22, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Pathos with Ethos

      @Reality- The reality is that is not going to happen. Israel beat the crap out of those that would destroy it. Sorry but Israel is not going to go back to what you said, unless you think they should become a smaller and easier target for those who would kill them?

      March 24, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
  18. Antichrist

    You fools are all going to burn in hell; Jews and Christians alike

    March 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Damian

      This world has no room for under educated people that our careless no hearted people. Please no reproting from prison.Wait until you learn what you are talking about first.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:06 pm |
    • Pathos with Ethos

      Yeah..like we are going to believe someone called Antichrist....think about that for a minute.

      March 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm |
    • Sean

      more silly mythology.

      March 29, 2011 at 7:46 am |
  19. USA

    Death to Israel!!!! I'm going back to my trailer so I can bang on my sister for a while. Death to Jews, blacks, whites, greens and blues

    March 19, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Damian

      you have issues please keep your weird head to your self. we dnt want the world to see the bad people in america

      March 22, 2011 at 12:03 pm |
    • Rik

      Gotta be from SC, AZ, TX, OK, and , or UT. Which one?

      March 28, 2011 at 6:43 pm |
    • Sean

      I'm American, but I refuse to wish death of anybody. Otherwise I'd be like a an israeli or a palestinian, or republican. Wishing death of people never made anyone happy, so why do it? Neither does anger, hatred, and violence. I mean maybe it makes some serial killers happy, but that's a result of being psychotic.

      March 29, 2011 at 7:44 am |
  20. Israel

    We need t pack our bags and leave! We don't deserve our land; we've done nothing to earn it. Let the land go to it's rightful inhabitants; the Palestinians.

    March 19, 2011 at 6:01 pm |
    • Reality

      If you want to go back to the original owners, you will have to find some Hitt-ites.

      March 19, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      God's chosen people are Israel, ten tribes of the twelve that descended from the Patriarch Abraham as is written in the Bible.


      March 20, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Pathos with Ethos

      You got to feel bad for those who think they are being clever as "Israel" here does.

      March 24, 2011 at 4:06 pm |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      If you believe in the Bible then you know that Abraham was told through his lineage the Messiah would come. But Jesus fulfilled the mosaic law and set up a new convenant with God. The Kingdom of God was then to be open to all nations and earthly Israel was no longer a favored national. Spiritual Israel was to be made up of people from all nations. So the deference to current day Israel is misplaced. But then again, that is if you choose to believe such things...

      March 28, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
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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.