One of the leading American Christian politicians touted to run as the next Republican nominee for the 2024 presidential elections has declared that Israel has a biblical claim to land Palestinian Arabs hope will one day form part of their new state.
Former U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Israel could not therefore be said to be “occupying” it. He also referred to the West Bank by its biblical name of Judea and Samaria.
In an interview on the One Direction podcast about his time in office under President Donald Trump and serving as head of the CIA, Mr Pompeo said: "Israel is not an occupying nation.
“As an evangelical Christian, I am convinced by my reading of the Bible that 3,000 years on now, in spite of the denial of so many, [this land] is the rightful homeland of the Jewish people."
It is long-standing policy in Washington to support a two-state solution, to end decades of dispute between the two sides, with a new Arab state alongside Israel emerging inside the territories of the land of Palestine, which was run by Great Britain as a UN Mandate after World War One.
For many Republican voters who are Christian, support for the state of Israel is a key factor in how they vote in U.S elections.
Mr Pompeo made his remarks amid speculation he will join fellow Christian Nikki Haley in seeking the Republican nomination for the US presidency and ahead of publication of a book, Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love, in which he argues for ‘peace through strength’.
In the podcast, Mr Pompeo described his approach to the Middle East conflict, referring to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, by his nickname, ‘Abu Mazen’:
"Our theory of the case was this — what is in America's best interest? Is it to sit and wait for Abu Mazen, a known terrorist who's killed lots and lots of people, including Americans, and given those martyrs money, for having done so?"
He added that "we said that's just not in America's best interest".
The Israeli coalition government has no formal position on the idea of a two-state solution. Commenting to Premier, Eli Vered Hazan, Foreign Affairs Director of the Likud party of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said:
“We are happy to hear all Christian voices, especially important voices like Mike Pompeo’s.”
“Mike Pompeo is a good friend of ours. We will not forget his contribution in speaking about Judea and Samaria and the state of Israel. We truly believe voices like his will change reality very soon.”
However, head of the Bethlehem Bible College, Tanas Al Qassis, told Premier “They keep expanding the settlements in Palestinian territory; this is a land under occupation”.
“I’m an evangelical Christian and 54 years old and I can’t even go to Jerusalem without first having a permit issued by the Israeli authorities.“
“If God has given the land to the Jews, then didn’t God also ask them to take care of the land and the people living there too?”
“There are so many Jewish settlements in Palestinian land, it looks like a Swiss cheese. So the idea of a two-state solution is dead. We need a single state but with equal rights, with everyone treated equally and an identity that isn’t Jewish alone.”