Christian, Jewish leaders call for Israeli sovereignty over Judea, Samaria

At the National Religious Broadcasters convention on Feb. 22 in Nashville, Ambassador Friedman unveiled his peace plan at a session introducing the group Keep God’s Land.

by Andrew Bernard

(JNS) — Christian and Jewish leaders gathered in Washington on April 15 to call for Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria and to oppose proposals for the creation of a Palestinian state in the wake of Oct. 7.

David Friedman, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel and one of the leaders of the Keep God’s Land movement that organized the event, told JNS that the group proposes to extend Israeli sovereignty over all of Judea and Samaria.

“Some of the most important parts of biblical Israel — whether it’s the Old City of Jerusalem, the city of Hebron, the city of Bethel, the city of Shiloh, the Tomb of Rachel, the city of Bethlehem — these are all places over which the world does not consider Israel to have sovereignty,” Friedman said. “Some of the most important biblical sites in the world are places whose status remains up in the air.”

Friedman presented his proposal for Israel to extend “sovereignty” over Judea and Samaria during the launch of Keep God’s Land in February.

JNS asked Friedman what that sort of extension would mean practically.

“Sovereignty means that Israel is dealing with this territory. Israel is taking the responsibility for this territory, not just as a military power,” he said. “You’re taking responsibility for the health and welfare and the dignity and the education of everybody who lives there, which is a huge responsibility for Israel to take. A lot of people don’t want to do it.”

Friedman told JNS that there are both biblical and practical cases for absorbing Judea and Samaria into Israel proper, rather than as part of a future Palestinian state.

“If the Palestinians are to have any opportunity to elevate beyond their current circumstances, it’s not going to be by living separate from Israel, in a state of hostility with Israel, which is what a Palestinian state would be,” he said.

“It doesn’t surprise anybody to hear that God happened to be right about the best outcome here,” he said. “God said, ‘This is land I’m giving to the Jewish people. They should keep it.’”

“From a macroeconomic perspective, that’s also the best outcome — having nothing to do with faith,” he added. “That’s also the best outcome for the people that live there.”

Keep God’s Land was founded in response to the Oct. 7 attacks as an effort to unite Christians and Jews in support of the Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria, and in opposition to calls from U.S. President Joe Biden for Israel to take steps towards a two-state solution.

Ohad Tal, a member of the Knesset from the Religious Zionist party, cited scripture in criticizing the Biden administration’s policy towards Judea and Samaria during the April 15 event.

“Is America blessing Israel or cursing Israel when we are fighting for our lives?” Tal said. “The president decides to impose personal sanctions against Israeli citizens, just like myself, who live in Judea and Samaria, as if we are that problem that threatens world peace?”

Some Christian leaders have opposed taking a theological position on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, saying that they make the situation more difficult to resolve. Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, said in October that a political solution for the Palestinians might be the only way to stop the bloodshed between the two peoples.

“It is a political conflict, first of all, that now is assuming more and more religious connotations, unfortunately,” the cardinal told the Rhode Island Catholic newspaper in October. “This makes things more difficult because religion is less open to any kind of compromise.”

Mario Bramnick, president of the Latino Coalition for Israel and another leader of Keep God’s Land, told JNS that Jewish control of Judea and Samaria is more fundamental than a religious or political question.

“Our basis is the Bible, which is the word of God,” Bramnick said. “This land was given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in perpetuity by God. So it’s not, to us, religious or political at that stage. We’re dealing with God Himself.”