GOP, Evangelical Allies Thank Netanyahu, but Also Welcome Israel’s New Government

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington
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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaking in Jerusalem last month.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaking in Jerusalem last month. Credit: Sebastian Scheiner,AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington

WASHINGTON – Republican and evangelical leaders on Sunday lauded the legacy of opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, while expressing confidence in Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s ability to deepen ties between the United States and Israel. 

Republican officials and evangelical sources, as well as certain Jewish establishment organizations associated with Netanyahu, thanked the former premier for his efforts but also quickly welcomed Bennett. Evangelical leaders also said they would pray for the new prime minister.

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Senators Bill Hagerty and Ted Cruz, Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who both recently visited Israel, were among the first lawmakers to comment on the new government.

Hagerty statementCredit: Twitter

Hagerty applauded Netanyahu’s work to advance normalization pacts between Israel and Arab states, and to counter the Iran nuclear deal, but added that he looks forward to strengthening U.S.-Israel ties together with Bennett, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and the new Israeli cabinet. Cruz offered similar sentiments about working together with Bennett.

Nikki Haley, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN and currently on a visit to Israel, praised Netanyahu’s historic contributions but congratulated Bennett, adding that she is committed to the undeniable bond between the two countries.

Nikki Haley, left, with Benjamin Netanyahu, Sept. 2018Credit: אבי חיון / לעמ
Nikki Haley visiting Israel, June 2021Credit: Twitter

Among the prominent Republican officials who haven’t yet commented are former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Lindsey Graham, though Graham recently met with both Bennett and Lapid.

The show of support for the new premier comes amid concerns from some evangelical sources that Netanyahu’s ouster might weaken the ties between Israel and Christian Zionists, which had been fostered by the former prime minister.

Rev. Jon Hagee, the founder of Christians United For Israel, the largest Christian Zionist organization in America, similarly offered congratulations for Bennett while thanking Netanyahu. But his endorsement came after comments from Mike Evans, a prominent evangelical leader with close ties to the Trump administration, who compared members of the new coalition to “rabid dogs” who wish to “crucify” Netanyahu.

Mike Evans delivering a lecture, David Citadel Hotel, June 7Credit: Emil Salman

Also, the evangelical author and analyst Joel Rosenberg has compiled a list of statements from Christian leaders around the world offering similar messages for Netanyahu and Bennett, including from former Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rev. Johnnie Moore – the co-founder of Trump’s evangelical advisory council, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem President Dr. Jürgen Bühler, and Calvary Albuquerque founder Pastor Skip Heitzig.

Christians United for IsraelCredit: Twitter

Bennett and Lapid have both stressed the need to strengthen bipartisan support within the U.S. for Israel.

Netanyahu said in his parting remarks that only he could stand up to the Biden administration on reopening the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, settlement construction, and the Iran nuclear deal, citing Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision not to bomb the Auschwitz concentration camp in his logic.

Ron Dermer, the former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., made waves in May when he urged Israel to spend more energy reaching out to American evangelicals than to America’s Jews, whom, he said, are “disproportionately among our critics.”

Dermer also published a parting defense of Netanyahu, claiming in the Wall Street Journal ahead of the new coalition’s formation on Sunday that he had been demonized by his opponents for nearly 25 years.

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