Speaking on MSNBC this morning, former President Bill Clinton said GOP presidential candidate Gov. Rick Perry (TX) may well believe that Israel in entitled to keep the occupied Palestinian West Bank because of a “biblical mandate.”
Clinton, citing his own background as a Southern Baptist, said that American evangelical Christians like Perry often believe that the West Bank belongs to the Jewish state of Israel.
Clinton, who referred to the West Bank several times by its bibilical name Judea and Samaria (the name also used by Israel’s settler movement), noted that Christian evangelicals are often more hardline on these issues than are most Israelis:
I also believe that Rick Perry — look, that’s my culture. I’m from next door. There is an enormous resevoir of support for Israel in the Christian evangelical community. And a lot of them believe, as some of the more militant settler groups do, that God meant for all of Judea and Samaria to be in the hands of Israel, and that Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, when he was prime minister, and all the — and Shimon Peres and everybody that’s signed all these peace agreements have violated the biblical mandate by wanting to give the West Bank to the Palestinian State. [...]
That’s what they believe: that Judea and Samaria is a what God intended to be Israel. So, those Congressmen that were over there working on Netanyahu during the break, they’re more militant than the Israelis are — or than a lot of them. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rick Perry really believes that. I’m sure there are hundreds of thousands of people that never miss church on Sunday in Texas who believe that.
Earlier in the interview, Clinton expanded on his view of the congressional delegations that traveled to Israel last month sponsored by a group with close links to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the flagship of the Israel lobby in Washington. A week after a Democratic delegation, a Republican delegation followed. The 55-member GOP trip was the largest ever to go to the Jewish state. Clinton said their message was that Israel could continue to occupy the West Bank indefinitely if a Republican was able to take the White House:
[Perry's statement] was good politics and it was sort of like the trip that 70 — I think there were 70 [sic] Republican House members that went to Israel during the break and basically said, “You guys do whatever you want. Keep the West Bank. We’re comin’ back. We’ll have the White House and the Congress and then we’ll let you do whatever you want.” I believe that’s essentially what was going on.
Watch the video of the Clinton interview: