Robert Novak

 An experienced diplomat, Peres then took a more conciliatory tone. He "acknowledged" that "Christians are in an uneasy situation." They are being "compensated," said Peres, for damage done by Israeli security. That provides faint comfort, however, after the Israeli bulldozers have moved in.

 It is certainly no compensation for Mother Agapia Stephanopolous, administrator of the Orthodox School of Bethany in Jerusalem, who recently visited Washington. A Russian Orthodox nun (and sister of ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos), she is a passionate advocate for the Christian cause. "Israel is destroying the local Christian community," she told me.

 In a letter to members of Congress, Mother Agapia took essentially the same position as Hyde but in much tougher language, describing how East Jerusalem has been cut off from the rest of the West Bank. "It is only a matter of time before Christians and Muslims will be unable to survive culturally and economically," she predicted.

 The nun reported that Israeli slabs of concrete, 9 yards high, have "shattered" Christian communities. As a school administrator, she said, "I witness the strangulation of East Jerusalem, and the deprivation of her non-Jewish residents' religious rights every day." Unlike Hyde, she would tear down the settlements and the wall "that favor one people's fundamental rights to the exclusion of others."

 "Even the United States seems to have been taken in by Israeli spin," Mother Agapia said. Last Thursday, as Sharon visited Bush in Texas, the Jerusalem Post described the two leaders dancing a little dance that promises no change on the settlements. If the born-again Christian president does not act to save the Christians in the Holy Land, the efforts of Henry Hyde and Agapia Stephanopoulos cannot be expected to change anything.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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