Cross on the Star of David: The Christian World in Israel's Foreign Policy 1948-1967

By Freedman, Robert O. | Shofar, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

Cross on the Star of David: The Christian World in Israel's Foreign Policy 1948-1967


Freedman, Robert O., Shofar


Cross on the Star of David: The Christian World in Israel's Foreign Policy 1948-1967, by Uri Bialer. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005. 240 pp. $39.95.

In recent years religion has played an increasingly important role in Middle Eastern foreign policy. On the one hand, since the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, a radical interpretation of Islam has been a motivating factor in Iran's foreign policy, leading the Islamist regime to take a bitterly anti-Israeli stance. On the other hand, Evangelical Christianity has been a significant factor behind the Bush Administration's pro-Israeli policy from 2001 to 2007. While both Iran's Islamises and America's Evangelical Christians became politically influential after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, religious issues were also important in Israeli foreign policy well before that conflict, as Uri Bialer demonstrates in this very well researched and very well written book. Indeed, Bialer highlights a neglected topic in Israeli foreign policy as he outlines the often troubled relations between Israel and the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Churches on such topics as the possible internationalization of Jerusalem, the future of Church property, and Christian missionary work in Israel. In considering these issues, Bialer shows the dilemmas facing Israeli decisionmakers as they weighed different options in dealing with the Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox Churches and their backers in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the United States.

In the early years of the State of Israel, the main problem was the Catholic Church and its Pope. Israeli policymakers were deeply suspicious of the Catholic Church, often seeing its refusal to recognize Israel's right to exist as reflecting nearly 2,000 years of, if not downright religious bigotry, then at least the fear that the rebirth of Israel would raise major questions about Catholic doctrine which, before 1965, saw the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE by the Romans as proof that God's grace had shifted from the Jews to the Christians. Indeed, as Bialer points out (p. 4), LOsservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, published a Vatican statement that asserted,"Modern Zionism is not the true heir of Biblical Israel... therefore, the Holy Land and its sacred sites belong to Christianity which is the true Israel."

At first, however, recognition was not the central issue between Israel and the Vatican but rather the internationalization of Jerusalem, which the Vatican was energetically advocating. Bialer describes in detail how Israeli policymakers, having been caught by surprise by the Vatican's success in pushing through the United Nations in December 1949 a declaration for the internationalization of Jerusalem, worked, in tacit cooperation with Jordan, which then occupied East Jerusalem, to thwart the Vatican-led declaration. In this Israel was ultimately successful, as the issue of the internationalization of Jerusalem became a dead letter-at least as far as the UN was concerned.

Israel also had problems with the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches. …

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