The end of the road is coming eventually in Iraq, and once we reach it we will immediately have to take out another road map, this one showing the way to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The road to Jerusalem runs through Baghdad.
Whatever domino effect a developing Iraqi democracy may have among other Arab or Muslim countries, the first entity to benefit from the defeat of Saddam Hussein is likely to be the Palestinian Authority. In fact, the two allied leaders, US President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, agreed even before the outbreak of hostilities on the link between the war on Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In an address to Parliament before the war began, Blair said, "It is precisely now, when we do have all this focus on the issue of weapons of mass destruction and Saddam Hussein and all the things that he has done, that we say to the Arab and Muslim world: 'We accept the obligation of even-handedness, we accept that it is right now that we have to say to people that the issue of peace between Palestinians and Israelis is as important as any other issue to us.' "
Bush echoed this sentiment after his meeting with Blair at Camp David: "History requires more of our coalition than a defeat of a terrible danger. I see an opportunity, as does Prime Minister Blair, to bring renewed hope and progress to the entire Middle East. Last June 24th, I outlined a vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security. ...Both America and Great Britain are strongly committed to implementing that road map."
But President Bush is going to have to make some difficult choices now that the war is over. I know from a personal interview with him that Bush is a man of faith who believes the Bible, whereas Secretary of State Colin Powell is not. Bush has confronted Saddam, the godfather of Islamic state-sponsored terrorism, declaring, "It's time to show your cards." Powell is more inclined to play along with, rather than confront, the rejectionism toward Israel that is rampant throughout the Arab world. There is just one small problem: the Bible, and 52 million American Bible-believers. (By the way, Bush will be running for reelection in 2004.)
Powell's road map plan is designed to keep in tow the UN, the EU, and Russia all of which did not support the war on Iraq. Now that Saddam has been walloped, Powell plans to rebuild the coalition with "occupied" land, buying into the Arab myth that Jewish housing construction in the disputed territories is the root of all the problems in the Middle East.
Now the problem: What does Bush do with Jesus? Is it real love if you kick Him out of His own house? Since He was born in Bethlehem, He would have to be evicted, and Powell would have to accuse Him and his family of being settlers and an obstacle to peace.
Arafat challenged me at the UN in Geneva in 1988, saying, "Bethlehem is the Muslim town where the first Palestinian, Jesus, was born," when I had the boldness to tell him at his press conference that Jesus was Jewish and from the Jewish town of Bethlehem. Islam had not even come into being in New Testament days, nor was the word "occupier" used to refer to Jews at that time, but rather to the Romans.
How will Bush reconcile his faith in the Bible, where Christianity was born in east Jerusalem, with a road map that calls it "occupied" land? When Jesus predicted that, after His death and resurrection, He would return, the time would be after an undivided Jerusalem was back in Jewish hands. It seems it's now coming down to Powell and politics, or the prophets and prophecy.
Israel accepts the road map in principle, but has a number of reservations. This is because, if there is one thing Israel has learned following its post-Oslo afflictions, it is that it cannot afford to make unilateral concessions. If there is going to be something really new in the post-Saddam "New New Middle East," it will be a return to traditional Middle Eastern bargaining: an Israeli quid for a Palestinian quo.
The New New Middle East will not evolve in response to a Security Council resolution or a public relations campaign by the European Community. It is not the proverbial diplomatic omelet that can be created only by breaking eggs. The eggs must indeed be broken but, as at the beginning of new life, from the inside.
Having a good map will be an asset on this journey to peace, but it's still a long and dangerously winding road.The writer is founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team (www.jpteam.org) and the Evangelical Israel Broadcasting Network.
©2003 - Jerusalem Post