A leading Israeli evangelical, Botrus Mansour, head of the 77-year-old Nazareth Baptist School, is attempting the impossible: to be realistic and hopeful at the same time about peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
In late July 2013, Palestinian and Israeli peace negotiators restarted talks on key political issues, including a permanent Palestinian state, its borders, the status of Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements. Official negotiations had been on hold since 2009. By mid-2014, negotiators will report on the talks' progress.
Mansour, author of When Your Neighbor is The Savior, grew up in Nazareth, where his father (Atallah Mansour) was an influential Christian journalist at Haaretz, Israel's oldest daily newspaper. After practicing law for many years, Mansour joined Nazareth Baptist staff. The school gained national prominence when Israel's Ministry of Education ranked its K-12 academic program as one of the top five nationwide.
Timothy C. Morgan, senior editor, global journalism, interviewed Mansour during the Mansour's recent visit to the United States.
Do Israeli-Arab Christians influence the peace process?
Unfortunately, our influence is minimal. Arab Christian citizens of Israel are two percent of the country. There are just two Christian members of the 120-member Israeli parliament (Knesset). Christians in America have more influence [in Israel].
Some Christians in America have been hardliners and pushing the Obama administration to stand with Israel. They see Palestinians as the enemies of the Israelis. [But] if Christians are pushing for no compromise, you are not going to reach an agreement. Other Christians, mainly mainline Protestant groups and Catholics, are pushing for some kind of settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. Their influence has been positive and good.
The prospects for peace seem bleak at the moment.
There are four million-plus Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. What does Israel do with them? There are few options.
A two-state solution is one option. Another option is annexing these territories and these people to Israel. Then, Israel will cease to be a Jewish state. It will be 50-50 Arabs and Jews, and Jews don't want that. The third option is just dragging these four million Palestinians out of the Holy Land to Jordan. But can you do that in the 21st century with the international law and with international court?
The only option possible that can lead to living side by side peacefully is the two-state solution. Everybody's talking about it. America's pushing for it. Benjamin Netanyahu in his speech at Bar Ilan University said he was for a two-state solution. I don't think that's too much for Christian evangelicals to endorse. The Palestinians are willing to accept that.
This should be made a reality. The two-state solution is the only option that will keep Israel secure.
What kind of state is even possible for the Palestinian Authority? There is chronic corruption, insufficient religious freedom, no economy, and weapons on the border.
There's always a risk. I'm not saying tomorrow this Palestinian state is going to be this beautiful, liberal democratic state. Remember this is a people under occupation for 46 years. It won't be easy. Palestinians are educated people. Palestinians are more than half the population of Jordan, and Jordan is a viable country. Palestine could be also.