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Cross on the Star of David

The Christian World in Israel's Foreign Policy, 1948-1967

Uri Bialer

Publication Year: 2005

The official establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948 constituted the realization of the Zionist vision, but military victory left in its wake internal and external survival issues that would threaten this historic achievement for decades to come. The refusal of the international community to recognize the political, geographic, and demographic results of the War of Independence presented Israel with a permanent regional security threat, while isolating and alienating it in the international arena. One of the most formidable problems Israeli foreign policy faced was the stance of the Christian world toward the new state. Attitudes ranged from hostility and categorical non-recognition by the Catholic Church, through Protestant ambivalence, to Evangelical support. Cross on the Star of David presents the first scholarly analysis, based on newly declassified documents, of Israeli policymaking on this issue. Uri Bialer focuses on the impact that modes of thinking rooted in the historical tradition of Jewish-Christian interactions had on Israeli policymakers and concludes that they were not innocent of the perceptions and biases that influenced the Christian world's behavior toward Israel. The result is a fine-grained, original interpretation of an important dimension of Israeli foreign policy from the founding of the State to the 1967 War.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Indiana Series in Middle East Studies


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pp. v

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pp. vii

For sowing in me the seeds of academic interest in the encounter between Jews and Christians I am indebted to my former teachers, then colleagues, Professor David Vital and Professor Amnon Linder. I am grateful to the Israeli Academy of Science for its generous research grant and moral support, which made the study possible. The Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations,...

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pp. ix-xiv

Personal motives for tackling a particular subject are not always fully elucidated in the introduction to an academic book, although understanding of motives can give the reader an insight into the mind of the author. The seeds of curiosity about the subject of this book were planted in my adolescence. One of my high school history classes was devoted to the Crusades. The story fascinated...

Part One. Jerusalem vs. the Vatican: Israel’s Church Diplomacy

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pp. 1

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1. The Sense of Threat Emerges

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pp. 3-23

The question of relations with the Christian world, and in particular the Catholic Church, posed an immediate challenge to the newly born State of Israel in 1948. The complexity of the problem had first been recognized during the initial stages of discussion of the Palestine problem at the United Nations a year previously. The pre-state (Yishuv) Jewish authorities were mindful then...

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2. The Struggle for Jerusalem: The Papal Connection

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pp. 24-51

The shock and deep forebodings evoked in Israel by the UN resolution on internationalization inevitably led to reappraisal of policy and to a search for political tactics centered on the Catholic Church. Some post factum reports tended to understate the impact and to attribute the Israeli defeat to a unique set of circumstances. It was in this spirit that Sharett described to the cabinet...

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3. At the Gates of the Vatican

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pp. 52-71

It is indisputable that, from 1948 on, the Catholic Church refused to contemplate the establishment of formal political ties with the new state of Israel. This attitude was to change radically only decades later. Until the mid-1950s, Israel, which had strong reservations of its own on this issue for various reasons, was influenced by this uncompromising rejection and by the fierce political...

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4. Theology and Diplomacy

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pp. 72-90

From the last months of 1960 until the 1967 Six Days’ War, Israel abstained deliberately from attempts to win de jure recognition from the Vatican. This policy was not affected by the departure of Tardini, the man regarded by Foreign Ministry officials as “a sworn enemy of Israel and the main champion of internationalization,”1 or by Israel’s assessment (which turned out to be accurate...

Part Two. Christians, Christianity, and the Land in Israeli Policy

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pp. 91

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5. Missionary Activity

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pp. 93-120

One of the most important points of contact between Israel and the Christian world, which was inextricably connected to the question of Israel’s foreign relations, was missionary activity. Knowledge of the basic facts on this activity in the first years of statehood is vital to understanding the perspectives of both sides and the...

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6. Goat and Chicken Diplomacy: Israel and Its Christian Communities

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pp. 121-143

The Christian communities in Israel and their world centers based their attitude toward the new state on two basic criteria: freedom of religious worship and lack of discrimination. Israel’s policymakers knew only too well how important it was to mitigate Christian hostility, particularly where Jerusalem was concerned. Freedom of religion for all and safeguarding of the Holy Places...

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7. Israel and the Question of the Russian Ecclesiastical Assets

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pp. 144-165

One of the most complex issues between Israel and the Christian world in the early years of statehood was that of church property. The complexity stemmed from the conflict between Israel’s desire to command and nationalize the bulk of the territory within its borders and the claims of the various church organizations to legal and historic rights over plots of land and a considerable number...

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8. Land in the Shadow of the Cross: German Lutheran, Catholic, and Greek Orthodox Property in Israel

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pp. 166-186

In Israel’s efforts to ensure control of all the land within its borders, one of its main targets was “enemy property.” The property of the Lutheran Church was included in this category. The Israeli apparatus dealing with this subject was based, both legally and administratively, on British experience in Mandatory Palestine from November 1939 onward. At the time an ordinance was enacted...

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Epilogue: On Viewing the Enemy and Bridge Building

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pp. 187-192

In 2002, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a weighty two-volume survey that summarized and analyzed various aspects of the first fifty years of Israeli foreign policy.1 Two chapters were devoted to relations with the Christian world. The first, written by Nathan Ben-Horin, dealt with a specific period and a single church.The second offered a retrospective view of the entire period...


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pp. 193-224


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pp. 225-233


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pp. 235-240

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111487
E-ISBN-10: 025311148X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253346476

Page Count: 256
Illustrations: 14 b&w photos, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Indiana Series in Middle East Studies