Evangelical Support High for Bush, Christian Leader Says

Julie Stahl | Jerusalem Bureau Chief | Monday, October 4, 2004

Evangelical Support High for Bush, Christian Leader Says

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Evangelical Christian support remains high for President Bush despite the fact that Bush has supported the establishment of a Palestinian state, conservative Christian leader Pat Robertson said in Jerusalem on Monday.

But if President Bush ever tries to divide Jerusalem, giving part to the Palestinians, millions of evangelical Christians, who helped swing the vote in Bush's favor during the 2000 election, would not only withdraw their support but would form their own party, Robertson said.

The Rev. Robertson is in Jerusalem for the International Christian Embassy's Feast of Tabernacles Celebration, which draws thousands of Christian supporters to Israel to celebrate the weeklong Jewish festival of Succoth, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.

Robertson and millions of U.S. evangelical Christians believe that God gave all the Biblical Land of Israel, including the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and the Gaza Strip to the Jewish people as an eternal inheritance.

Two years ago, President Bush became the first U.S. president to formally support the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He promoted the idea in a major policy address, which was revised and became known as the road map - supported by the European Union, United Nations and Russia.

The road map, among other things, called for an immediate halt to terrorism, but also promised the establishment of a Palestinian state by the end of 2005.

"I think the road map is dead," Robertson told journalists at a press conference on Monday.

"Israel does not have a negotiating partner now. [Palestinian Authority Chairman] Yasser Arafat is not a negotiating partner. He wants the destruction of Israel so they have no one to negotiate with. The Palestinian Authority is corrupt and it needs to be reformed," Robertson said.

Robertson said it is "clear" that the road map "doesn't work." He said he believes that Arafat sabotaged the peace process and that Bush has now "backed off" from it.

"So will the evangelicals not support Bush because of it? I don't think so," Robertson said. "I don't think there is any problem with their supporting Bush."

Nevertheless, he added, should Bush become serious about dividing Jerusalem and giving part to the Palestinians - who want the eastern part of the city to become the capital of a future Palestinian state - he would lose nearly all his Christian support.

"If he touches Jerusalem and really gets serious about taking east Jerusalem and making it the capital of a Palestinian state, he'll lose virtually all evangelical support," Robertson said.

"They'll form a third party before they support that. I think this is a key issue," he said.

But, he added, that he didn't think Christians would withdraw support from Bush over his backing Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan, which calls for the removal of some 7,800 Israelis from settlements in the Gaza Strip by the end of next year.