A statement by the Network of Evangelicals for the Middle East (NEME)
This July, 2020, the new Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu and Benny Gantz may begin to annex to Israel large portions of the West Bank. How should Christians respond to the proposed annexation? The Network of Evangelicals for the Middle East (NEME) is a coalition of evangelical Christian pastors, scholars, and leaders. We oppose Israel’s proposed annexation of the West Bank: it is not good for Israelis nor for Palestinians.
Evangelicals share a deep love for the Jewish people. Some identify as “pro-Israel” because of how they read the Bible and what they believe about the end times. Others might endorse annexation because they believe God promised the Land to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. Many Christians in the West regard Palestinian Muslims with deep suspicion, while giving little or no thought to the plight of the Palestinian Christian community and their historic connection to the Holy Land.
Whatever our differences, all Christ-followers are called to be peacemakers who extend the love of Jesus towards all persons and care as he did for the vulnerable and the marginalized. Christ is not honored when his disciples support injustice. Munther Isaac and Jamal Khader, leaders in the Palestinian Christian community, warn that if Israel annexes the West Bank, “many Palestinian Christians and members of the Church will lose the land they lived in and farmed for generations.” They see it as “a mortal blow to a dynamic Christian presence in the birthplace of Jesus.” There must be a better way. As followers of the Good Shepherd, we raise our voices in opposition to annexation and in support of a just and durable peace for both Jews and Palestinians in the Land.
We at NEME are not alone. Many in Israel, in Europe, in the U.S., and around the world see annexation as bad for Palestinians, for Israelis, for the U.S., and for the witness of the Christian church.
For Palestinians, unilateral, legalized annexation would end their quest for a future, viable, autonomous state, a quest for which there is broad international support and to which Israel has previously agreed. Annexation would confine Palestinians in non-contiguous enclaves beyond which they would need permission to travel. Palestinian farmers whose land lies in the newly annexed territory would likely see it declared Israeli state property or ceded to Jewish settlements.
For Israel, annexation, although in the works for years, would neither lead to peace nor enhance Israel’s image as a democracy. On the contrary, it would deepen inequalities between Jews and Palestinians, likely incur European retaliation, and undermine Israel’s security coordination with the Palestinian Authority and withJordan. Stepping into the security vacuum would be either Hamas or Israel itself, in which case some 3 million Palestinians across the West Bank would come under their direct and costly control, a scenario Israel would dearly like to avoid.
As for the U.S., Israel’s move to enlarge its borders would follow the trajectory set by the Trump administration who released its Peace to Prosperity plan in January and has signaled its support. But annexation would increase anti-American sentiment in the Arab and Muslim worlds, destabilize relations with allies in the region, and put at risk U.S. military forces, diplomats and contractors. To endorse annexation would highlight U.S. partisanship in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and undermine U.S. opposition to illegal land seizures elsewhere in the world.