In recent years, conservative evangelicals who claimed a biblical mandate to protect Israel have built a bulwark of support for the Jewish state – sending donations, denouncing its critics and urging it not to evacuate settlements or forfeit territory.

Now more than 30 evangelical leaders have stepped forward to say these efforts have given the wrong impression about the stance of many, if not most, U.S. Christians.

On Friday, these leaders sent a letter to President George W. Bush saying that both Israelis and Palestinians had “legitimate rights stretching back for millennia to the lands of Israel/Palestine,” and that they supported the creation of a Palestinian state “that includes the vast majority of the West Bank.”

They said that being a friend to Jews and to Israel “does not mean withholding criticism when it is warranted.” The letter added, “Both Israelis and Palestinians have committed violence and injustice against each other.”

The letter was signed by 34 evangelical leaders, many of whom lead denominations, Christian charities, ministry organizations, seminaries and universities.

They include Gary Benedict, president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance, a denomination of 2,000 churches; Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary; Gordon MacDonald, chairman of World Relief; Richard Stearns, president of World Vision; David Neff, editor of Christianity Today; and Berten Waggoner, national director and president of The Vineyard USA, an association of 630 churches in the United States.


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