TEL AVIV – With just days to go before Christmas, and Israel fighting for its existence against Iranian terror proxies on multiple fronts, former Gov. Mike Huckabee and I had the opportunity to spend some time on Thursday afternoon with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu.
The meeting took place in the highly secure IDF headquarters known as “The Kirya” – Israel’s Pentagon – in the heart of Tel Aviv.
For the past three days, the governor and I have been co-leading a “Solidarity Mission” of influential Evangelical Christian leaders throughout the country.
We’ve visited Israeli hostage families, visited Israeli communities devastated by the Hamas invasion of Oct. 7th, visited with local Jewish and Christians leaders, compared notes on what we’ve been seeing and hearing, and spent time praying together.
For several hours, our entire group met with the Prime Minister’s senior communications, public diplomacy, and foreign policy advisors to discuss how Israel can more effectively combat the avalanche of lies crashing down on them in the midst of this raging and bitter war.
We also discussed how Israeli leaders can do more to “call up the reserves” of millions of Evangelical Christians to tell the truth about Israel and the Jewish people from pulpits, on podcasts, on social media, in print media, and on radio and TV programs in the United States and all over the world.
AN INVITATION TO MEET THE PRIME MINISTER
At one point, as those critical conversations continued with the rest of the delegation, Governor Huckabee and I were asked to step out of the National Public Diplomacy’s media “war room” and to cross the Kirya campus to the offices and wartime residence of the prime minister.
While we had, of course, been hoping for the opportunity to see him this week, we knew that with such an intense schedule – and constant emergencies interrupting even a normally hard day – it might not happen.
But consistent with his decades of building personal friendships with Evangelical Christian leaders, the prime minister somehow found a way to carve out time.
Netanyahu has long called the Christian community the “greatest friends the Jewish state has.”
As important as the global Jewish community is, it is still fairly small, with perhaps 15 to 17 million Jewish people worldwide.
Yet, there are some 60 million Evangelical Christians in the United States alone.
And some 600 million Evangelicals worldwide.
NETANYAHU UNDERSTANDS WHY EVANGELICALS LOVE ISRAEL SO MUCH
Most love the Bible and read it from Genesis to Revelation.
Thus, most understand the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
They understand the history of the 12 tribes of Israel.
So, they understand and embrace God’s unique love and plan for Israel and the Jewish people.
As the Lord once told the Israeli nation through Moses, “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them [your enemies], for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
As the Lord once told the Israeli people through the Hebrew Prophet Jeremiah: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I have drawn you with lovingkindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).
And as David – Israel’s greatest king – once wrote to his people, encouraging them to embrace these very truths: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I shall walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for You are with me” (Psalm 23:1-4).
Evangelicals know God is not in the business of abandoning His chosen people.
So we shouldn’t abandon them either.
This isn’t at its core a political commitment to Israel.
It’s a theological commitment, and a deeply held one at that.
Few Israelis understand this better than Netanyahu.
DEEPENING A STRATEGIC ALLIANCE
That’s why, for the past three decades, he has consistently cultivated this strategic alliance. And yesterday, it turned out, was no different.
After clearing another round of security checks, the governor and I were taken up several flights of stairs and ushered into Netanyahu’s office.
We were accompanied by Ophir Falk, the prime minister's foreign policy advisor.
And Tal Heinrich, a spokeswoman who was hired by the prime minister on Oct. 7th after working for several years for me as a senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS and senior producer for THE ROSENBERG REPORT on TBN.
To our surprise, Netanyahu wasn’t inviting us into a quick pop-in to say hi.
The meeting ended up lasting almost 45 minutes.
WHAT WE WANTED TO SAY TO THE PRIME MINISTER
Wearing a dark suit, Netanyahu wasn’t harried or stressed or rushed, even though yet another salvo of rockets had just been fired by Hamas at Tel Aviv not too much earlier (quickly intercepted by the ever-faithful Iron Dome).
To the contrary, the Prime Minister struck me as calm and laser-focused on winning this war once and for all.
He was particularly happy to see Huckabee, one of the most well-known and influential Evangelicals in the United States.
After all, the two have been good and faithful friends for decades.
From the outset of the meeting, we reaffirmed to the prime minister that the overwhelming majority of Evangelical Christians in the United States love and support the Jewish state and the Jewish people, despite such fierce and unrelenting attacks from so much of the rest of the world.
We also affirmed the fact that millions of Evangelicals are “praying without ceasing” for him, for all the people and leaders of Israel, and for a quick victory over the forces of radical Islamism who are seeking Israel’s total annihilation.
GOVERNOR HUCKABEE’S STATEMENT FOLLOWING THE MEETING
While we covered a range of issues related to the war, the road ahead, and ways to strengthen the Israeli-Evangelical alliance, I’m not at liberty to share specifics.
Rather, let me share our reactions coming out of the meeting.
Governor Huckabee, for example, wanted to issue the following statement.
I’ve known the Prime Minister for many years and always find him to be in command of whatever situation he faces.
I can’t imagine anyone being as rock solid to lead Israel during such an existential crisis.
We conveyed to him our support for Israel and the Jewish people and our confidence in his leadership.
The Prime Minister has shown a steely resolve to carry out the mission of eliminating the terrorist threat of Hamas.
He is a steady head and hand in an unsteady time.
A FEW PERSONAL THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
I must say, it was an honor to spend time with the prime minister.
While I first met him in the fall of 2000 – some 23 years ago – this was the first time I’d ever met with him in the middle of a war.
It was particularly interesting to hear his heart and his perspective on the immense challenges that Israelis are facing.
To ask him questions.
And to have the opportunity to share with him in person that we believe in the power of prayer.
That we and our colleagues really are praying for him personally, for his family, for his advisors, as well as for the nation, for victory, and for the immediate and safe release of all the remaining hostages.
This isn’t talk.
It’s not posturing.
It’s a deep commitment that we as Evangelicals have because we know we serve a prayer-hearing and a prayer-answering God – a God who responds to the cries of His children, and loves to move mountains and work wonders.
With the United Nations increasingly united against Israel – and so many in the international media viciously attacking Israel – the governor and I organized this Evangelical delegation because we wanted to send a crystal clear message to the prime minister, the Israeli people and the Jewish people worldwide.
Evangelical Christians love Israel and the Jewish people with an unconditional and unwavering love because the God of the Bible loves Israel and the Jewish people with an unconditional and unwavering love.
We came to see him because that’s what friends do when times are hard.
We know Bibi has many critics.
But while right now he is a wartime leader, he’s also a husband and a father who is going through one of the most terrible crises in modern Israeli history.
He needs prayer.
He needs encouragement.
He is the one the Lord has chosen for such a time as this.
And we as Christians are commanded in the New Testament to pray for kings and governors and all those in authority.
Let’s be faithful to that charge.
A WINSTON CHURCHILL IN ISRAEL’S DARKEST HOUR
At one point, I told the prime minister that I honestly have no idea how he summons the physical and emotional energy to keep going without developing ulcers over so many years, so many attacks, and so much criticism.
He laughed and attributed it to “good genes.”
“I’m sure,” I said, but added, “I believe it’s also God’s grace, that the Lord is responding to the prayers of millions of Christians and thus giving you the capacity to keep going beyond what most normal people can handle.”
Regardless of your views of Netanyahu, there is no doubt that he is an historic figure. In many ways, he is Israel’s Winston Churchill who, while having his flaws, has been enormously consequential.
We need him to succeed.
And he can’t do it without the intercessory prayers of Christians all over the world.
One thing is certain.
No Israeli leader has ever done more to build both a friendship and a strategic alliance with the Christian community.
And his welcoming us so warmly yesterday was yet further proof of that deep bond of friendship.
That said, meeting senior political leaders was not our primary objective as a delegation.
Over the past three days, we have:
toured Kfar Aza, one of 22 Israeli communities along the Gaza border that were savaged during the Hamas invasion and slaughter of Oct. 7th
met with and was briefed by officials in Sderot, the largest Israeli city on the Gaza border and one of the communities invaded by Hamas on Oct. 7th
met with and heard the personal stories of three Israeli hostage families in Tel Aviv
met with and listened to a group of American lone soldiers in Jerusalem
met with and was briefed by Jewish and Christian NGO leaders providing humanitarian aid to Israelis and Palestinians, including those from The Joshua Fund, Samaritan’s Purse, and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews
been interviewed by Israeli and American reporters about what we have seen and heard during their time in the Land
met with, prayed with, and been briefed by local Evangelicals in the Land
prayed for the liberation of Gaza from Hamas and a decisive victory over Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian regime
prayed for the immediate release of all the remaining hostages held by Hamas in Gaza
prayed for the protection of all Israeli soldiers
prayed for the protection of all Palestinian Christians in Gaza
prayed for physical, emotional, and spiritual healing for all Israelis and Palestinians traumatized by this war
prayed for the peace of Jerusalem, according to Psalm 122
My team and I will be sharing more insights from these meetings and visits in the days ahead.
But for now, I wanted to share with you some of what I saw when the Lord opened the door to meet a unique and compelling leader.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.