A poll commissioned by a new Evangelical pro-Israeli news website, and conducted by a pollster with close ties to President Trump, shows that Evangelical Christians in the U.S. overwhelmingly support the recent diplomatic agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, despite the agreement having led to a suspension of Israel’s plan to annex settlements in the West Bank.
The poll was published by Evangelical author and activist Joel Rosenberg, who lives in Jerusalem and has launched a new website, All Israel News, devoted to the Middle East. The poll is based on interviews with 1,000 likely U.S. voters, including a sample of more than 270 Evangelical Christians. It was conducted by John McLaughlin, a Republican pollster who has advised both Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the past year.
Among the Evangelical respondents, 68% said they supported the agreement with the UAE, while 11% disapproved. Only seven percent of Evangelical respondentx said that they would have preferred for Trump to approve Israeli annexation of the settlements, instead of the deal with the Gulf country. As part of the agreement, Israel agreed to indefinitely suspend its annexation plans. Leaders of the settlements movement in Israel tried to rile up Evangelical pressure to push Trump to approve annexation, but that effort failed.
Evangelical Christians make up approximately 25% of the U.S. voting population. In the 2016 election, close to 80% of white Evangelicals voted for Trump. Their support was critical in securing his upset victory against Hillary Clinton, and most election analysts believe Trump will need a similar level of support from this population group to secure re-election. Trump’s policies regarding Israel, such as moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal, are among the main reasons for his popularity among Evangelicals.
Rosenberg told Haaretz that he wasn’t surprised by the poll’s findings, which showed a very low level of disapproval for the agreement with the UAE, despite prominent Evangelical organizations having supported settlements over the years. “The poll vindicated my view that I’ve been arguing for months - that Evangelicals would vastly prefer a big peace deal to annexation,” he said. Rosenberg added that he was surprised, though, by the fact that the poll showed a large partisan divide, with 84% of Republicans but only 39% of Democrats approving the agreement.
When the deal was announced last month, Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest pro-Israeli organization in the evangelical community, released a lengthy statement applauding it. The organization’s founder, Pastor John Hagee, said that “CUFI backs the decisions of the democratically elected government of Israel, including the decision to suspend sovereignty extension plans in this context.” Hagee added that the agreement “proves yet again that when Israel’s Arab neighbors are prepared to make peace with the Jewish state, Israel will always be there to meet them.”
Rev. Johnnie Moore, a member of Trump’s advisory committee of evangelical leaders, told Haaretz at the time: “Evangelicals are elated. For years, our community has worked and prayed for peace between the United Arab Emirates, its neighbors and Israel.”
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Moore added that “peace is a process that has to have a beginning. But, this is far beyond just a beginning. Baked into a deal like this one are the mechanisms to make peace really possible. It isn’t a deal fixated on the problems to solve, but on the opportunities to be shared.” He called the agreement a “once-in-a-generation diplomatic achievement”, and predicted that “it will be the first, not the last” such agreement between Israel and other countries in the Middle East.
National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien said on Thursday the U.S. administration is “committed to a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine,” in a rare remark by a top official under Trump, whose Middle East proposal and the latest Israel-UAE deal he helped broker came under harsh criticism by the Palestinians for effectively doing away with a future Palestinian state.
In an interview with Hugh Hewitt, O’Brien added that “We want to see the Palestinians in their own state with their own government, hopefully a democratic government, and one that thrives economically alongside Israel.” His remarks were also tweeted out by the National Security Council’s official account.