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Netanyahu Embraces Evangelicals

On Sunday, Likud opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu described Christian Zionists as Israel’s best friends:

This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilization.

The comments came at an Evangelical event in Jerusalem organized by the San Antonio, Texas-based Christians United for Israel and led by evangelical Pastor John Hagee.

There’s always a lot of grumbling about the Jewish-Evangelical alliance in support of Israel. Many Jews have misgivings about the relationship for a number of reasons. Abe Foxman, for example, considers Evangelical support for Jews “openly arrogant,” in that it reflects a degree of condescension. This is a ridiculous posture that reveals a lack of confidence in identity: a people should be secure enough to acccept partnerships with others. Not doing so suggests that there’s a great deal still to prove.

Other American Jews fear that joining forces with Evangelicals means, in turn, lending support to the Evangelical “Christianizing” of the U.S. This is an overblown media phenomenon, often exploited to turn Jews against the Republican Party. American Evangelicals, in their millions, have never been able to establish a national Christian agenda to which top leaders are held accountable.

But the objection to Evangelical Zionists that gets the most attention has to do with the Evangelical conception of Armageddon. According to this, once Jews are safe and sound in Israel they will be converted to Christianity or killed upon Christ’s return. Scary stuff, indeed. But there is nothing in Evangelical eschatology that calls for the hastening of Armageddon. That is, aside from a handful of unhinged radicals, Evangelicals expect God to put an end to things in his own time. (As opposed to, for example, the sect of Shia Islam to which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad belongs.) Now, I don’t believe personally in Evangelical eschatology. But, to amend Pascal’s wager, if Christ is coming back, and Jews must convert or die, then repudiating John Hagee’s support can’t do a thing about it. If not, then things proceed as normal for Jews—with the helpful addition of Evangelical friendship. Netanyahu is wise to avoid hysteria that can alienate important strategic friends.



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