America’s soon-to-be second-in-command took a trip to Israel two years ago that was paid for by Christians United for Israel – an organization founded and run by the controversial televangelist John Hagee.
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In late 2014, two years after he was elected governor of Indiana, Vice-President-elect Mike Pence headed a high-level business delegation from his state on a visit to Israel. He was accompanied his wife and children.
A document issued by his office outlining the itinerary reveals that the trip expenses, both for himself and his spouse, were paid for by Hagee.
“The governor’s family will travel with him to Israel to celebrate Christmas in Jerusalem and also tour a number of Christian holy sites,” it said. “The trip expenses of Governor Pence and First Lady Karen Pence are being covered by Christians United for Israel; no tax dollars will be used. The Governor and First Lady will personally pay for the travel expenses of their three children.”
Hagee, whose sermons are televised to millions of Americans weekly, has preached against homosexuals, Muslims and Catholics. In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain distanced himself from Hagee, after it emerged that the Texas mega-church pastor had once argued in a sermon that the Nazis were acting in accordance with God’s will by forces Jews out of Europe and into Palestine.
During his gubernatorial trip to Israel, Pence – who has often referred to himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order” – met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
A religious Christian who was raised Catholic but later became an evangelical, Pence has been known to refer to Israel as “America’s most cherished ally.” During the recent presidential campaign, Pence actively tried to engage American voters in Israel – at one point posing for a photo while holding a “Make America Great Again” poster written in Hebrew.
The vice-president-elect has in the past suggested that the United States allow Israel a completely free hand in dealing with the Palestinians and that it support the Jewish state unconditionally.
In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network in 2010, Pence, then a member of the House of Representatives, attacked the Obama administration for aspiring to serve as an “honest broker” in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
“We certainly want to be honest, but we don’t want to be a broker,” he said. “A broker doesn’t take sides. A broker negotiates between parties of equals. The United States must always make it clear that we are interested in justice in the region, that we are interested in compassion, that the American people pray for the peace of Jerusalem for all the people of Jerusalem.
"But America is on the side of Israel, and to send any other message than our unwavering support and that we will stand with what the sovereign government of the people of Israel decide is in their interest – I think represents a departure from where the hearts of the American people are at.”
While serving in Congress, Pence also called Obama out for “bullying” Israel into freezing settlement activity. “I never thought I’d live to see the day that an American administration would denounce the Jewish State of Israel for rebuilding Jerusalem,” he told reporters in 2010 during a particularly tense period in U.S.-Israel relations.