Having traveled to Israel recently and many times over the past 35 years or so, I take profound exception to the accusations leveled at Israel by my old friend and syndicated columnist Robert Novak, particularly his most recent column titled "Walled Off Christians."
It's not fun taking on Bob Novak, as he's been a family friend since I first went to Congress in 1971. In fact, I was one of his guests at the celebration of his 75th birthday, delivering a toast to his years of high profile and often fearless journalism. He has supported me over the years not only on the supply-side, Kemp Roth tax rate cuts, but my free trade, sound money and other progressive conservative positions I've taken over the years. I started debating Bob in the early '70s when I was one of the few Republicans to co-sponsor Henry Scoop Jackson's, D-Wash., bill to prevent the old Soviet Union from favorable trade treaties until they allowed Soviet Jews to emigrate.
Bob's claim that Israel seeks to deprive Palestinian Christians of their water sources is a canard. In the specific case he mentioned, the reservoir serving the village of Aboud, was in fact built by Israel and will remain outside the boundary of the security barrier, thereby ensuring free access of the villagers to the area's water source.
Indeed, I personally took up these issues with both Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Shimon Peres on my most recent trip in February on behalf of the American Israeli Friendship League. I understand that Israel has done and is doing everything possible to minimize the impact of the fence on the residents of Aboud and their ability to travel and to cultivate the olive groves, vineyards and fields in the area.
Contrary to the thrust of the Novak column, Israel's Christian population has in fact prospered and quadrupled in size over the last half century, in sharp contrast to the dwindling Christian communities in other countries in the Middle East. The continued dwindling of Christian communities in the Palestinian areas can be directly traced to the constant harassment to which they have been subjected by Islamic extremists. As a Christian, I am extremely troubled, as every American should be, by the implications of the Hamas victory in the recent Palestinian elections for the continued thriving of the Christian heritage in the Holy Land.