Editorial

Israel’s Unholy and Transient Alliance With U.S. Evangelicals

A responsible Israeli government would wean itself of exclusive dependence on messianic Christians

Evangelical Christians march in Jerusalem to mark the 70th anniversary of Israel's independence on May 15, 2018.
Olivier Fitoussi

U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to relocate the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was intended first and foremost to reward evangelical Christians for their enthusiastic support for him during and after his election campaign. The participation in Monday’s dedication ceremony of two extremist, controversial evangelical leaders, both of whom have made disparaging comments about Jews in the past, highlights this unholy alliance.

Christian evangelical movements in the United States claim tens of millions of followers. Most of them believe that Israel’s establishment hastens the second coming of their Messiah and that the reestablishment of the Kingdom of Israel and the Temple are preconditions for the fulfillment of their vision: Armageddon, followed by destruction and the mass conversion of Jews to Christianity. Their beliefs lead them to adhere to the most delusional elements in Israeli politics and to encourage Israel to adopt extremist policies that will bring them closer to their goals.

Evangelicals have always supported Zionism, but in recent years this support has become a central pillar of their faith. Israeli governments began fostering ties with these groups after the Six-Day War but in recent years, as Israel moved to the right, their influence on U.S.-Israeli relations has grown. Trump’s election brought this influence to its peak, as was evident in the unusual celebration at the embassy. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman recently joined his Israeli counterpart, Ron Dermer, in endeavoring to make evangelicals — who support Israel’s hawkish rejectionism regarding the Palestinians — the sole foundation of American support for Israel. This partnership further erodes Israel’s standing in its traditional power centers — above all U.S. Jews, who view evangelicals as a concrete threat to their values.

This dangerous wager poses a double hazard: On one hand, Israel is distancing itself from supporters it may need as soon as November, in the event the Democrats win control of the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives. On the other hand, nothing lasts forever: Polls show that younger evangelicals oppose blind support for Israel. A responsible Israeli government would change its policy, extend a hand to forces it has neglected and weaning itself of exclusive dependence on messianic Christians.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.