JERUSALEM—The apparent, though not yet final, emergence of a new government here in Israel is drawing growing support from pro-Israel Christians around the world who say they will stand unconditionally with the Jewish state, regardless of who serves as prime minister.
It has also triggered a painful and public firestorm of controversy due to the incendiary statements of Mike Evans, a prominent Christian Zionist leader, who vows to fight the new government with everything he has.
ALL ISRAEL NEWS was founded, in part, to report on and analyze events and trends in Israel and throughout the Middle East and North Africa for the world’s 600 million Evangelical Christians.
We are, therefore, committed to covering this story from multiple angles.
Let’s begin with the latest statements of openness to – even support for – the possible new “change government” in which Naftali Bennett, the right-wing leader of the Yamina party, would become Israel’s next prime minister, and Yair Lapid, the centrist leader of the Yesh Atid party, would become the foreign minister.
After two years, Bennett and Lapid would rotate their roles.
The new government is expected to be sworn in this week – or next Monday at the latest – though Netanyahu and his allies have vowed to do everything in their power to derail the effort.
GROWING EVANGELICAL SUPPORT FOR NASCENT NEW GOVERNMENT
With its global headquarters located in Jerusalem since 1980, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem is widely considered the world’s largest pro-Israel Christian organization.
While based in the Israeli capital, it has branch offices in over 90 nations and draws supporters from more than 170 countries.
In a statement provided to ALL ISRAEL NEWS, the ICEJ leadership noted that “at this sensitive moment in Israel’s political life, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem wishes to reassure the Israeli people that our support for their nation is steadfast and anchored in timeless biblical principles, and thus is not contingent on who is leading Israel at any particular time. Our global movement always seeks to be responsible partners with Israel by making practical and constructive contributions to the safety and well-being of the entire nation, while respecting Israel as a democracy to make its own internal decisions.”
“After going through four divisive elections, the year-long corona crisis, the recent conflict with Hamas, the rising global anti-Semitism, the latest denigration of Israel in UN forums, and the ever-looming threat of a nuclear Iran, the Israeli public right now needs to be hearing that Evangelical Christians stand in solidarity with them regardless of who is leading their nation,” said ICEJ President Jürgen Bühler.
“No one should doubt that pro-Israel Christians around the world have great respect for Benjamin Netanyahu and his many accomplishments as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister,” Bühler added. “But we do not detect any widespread move among Evangelicals, whether in America or worldwide, to stop supporting Israel if he is replaced. In fact, Israel has been gaining millions of new Christian friends around the globe over the past decade and we fully expect that trend to continue.”
The Rev. Johnnie Moore, co-founder of former President Donald Trump’s Evangelical advisory council, told ALL ISRAEL NEWS, “Evangelicals will stand with Israel whomever is the prime minister, always. We look forward to a close relationship with all future Israeli governments. As soon as this all settles, I’ll – for instance – be on a plane to Israel. Until then, I am watching and praying.”
In an op-ed for the Jerusalem Post, Yael Eckstein, the Jewish president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, expressed her gratitude to Christians for their unconditional love of Israel and the Jewish people.
“We still do not know who the next government of Israel will be, and the truth is, it does not matter,” she wrote. “What I have learned is that Christian love for Israel is unconditional.”
FIRESTORM ERUPTS OVER MIKE EVANS’ STATEMENTS
Last Friday, ALL ISRAEL NEWS broke the story that Mike Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team and the Friends of Zion Museum, sent a scathing letter, laced with profanity and vitriol, to Naftali Bennett.
“You betrayed the very principles that a generation gave their blood for and died for,” Evans, a close friend of Netanyahu for four decades, wrote. “You want to be in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood and Leftists. God have mercy on your soul. Such a bitter little man that your obsession to damage Benjamin Netanyahu has convinced you that damaging the State of Israel is a worthy cause.”
“I assure you, I will fight you every step of the way,” he added. “You have lost the support of evangelicals 100 percent.”
“We evangelicals delivered [so many recent victories for Israel]. You delivered nothing. What appreciation do you show us? You sh** right on our face. How dare you!”
“To say I'm disgusted with you is an understatement. You should hang your head in shame. You care more about your own damn ego and your bitterness than you do the State of Israel.”
But Evans was not finished.
In a blog for the Times of Israel on Friday, Evans wrote: “I told my wife when I married her that there was another woman in my life. I had to be with her a lot. Her name was Israel….I’ve always been thrilled and proud of this beautiful, attractive, seductive Princess Israel. But right now, I’m not. I’m horrified. I’m seeing a display that is nauseous. It’s sickening for me as a person who has devoted 50 years of my life to build support for the State of Israel.”
In a bitter broadside against Bennett, Lapid, their would-be government, and the millions of Israelis who voted for them, Evans first likened the political movement to replace Netanyahu to a “political striptease.” Then he likened the movement to the horrors of the Holocaust and the crucifixion of Jesus.
“How shameful this seduction is!” Evans wrote. “I can smell the ashes of Auschwitz and see the blood of a multitude of souls who gave their lives to birth the Jewish state. These fools who think they’re legends in their own minds are willing to carve up the bird to vent their spleen only on one man they despise.”
“It’s not an election to improve the lives of Israelis or the nation,” he added. “It’s an election to crucify a man they hate and they’re willing to destroy the nation to do it. Rome burns and they fiddle while leaders are laughing at these amateur nobodies. They’ll never be a member of a club that rules and runs the world. They can only be the clowns that entertain Israel’s enemies.”
“Yes, the Jews were busy during the Holocaust insulting each other, drunk on the wine of pride as good German citizens,” Evans continued. “They couldn’t see the smoke of Auschwitz rising. Yes, I admit it. Bibi is a flawed man. But that flawed man delivered more peace treaties than any Prime Minister in Israel’s history, more economic prosperity, and transformed Israel into a superpower that’s the envy of the world.”
BLOWBACK AGAINST EVANS FROM BOTH JEWS AND CHRISTIANS
It is one thing to defend a politician, especially a lifelong friend, from what one perceives as unfair attacks.
But many Jews and Christians, myself included, were horrified – sickened, actually – by Evans’ attacks on the people of Israel, and the Jewish people more broadly.
We are, after all, commanded by Jesus in the New Testament, to “love your neighbor” and to “love your enemy.”
That does not mean we need to agree with everybody. Evangelicals certainly have every right to hold strong personal political views. But we are commanded to speak with kindness, respect, especially about those in authority.
It was particularly painful to see Israelis erupt in anger and resentment towards Evans, who has done many good things to bless Israel and the Jewish people over the years, and is himself from a Jewish background.
“God this is disgusting,” tweeted Anna Ahronheim, military correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. “I had to force myself to continue reading past, ‘I can smell the ashes of Auschwitz!’”
“As an Israeli Jew who is appreciative of Evangelical Christian friends of Israel, I must express my utter disgust with Mike Evans’ pathetic rant and threats against Israel and the Jews,” tweeted David Ha’ivri, the deputy mayor of the Shomron Regional Council.
“I have a deep respect for the Evangelical Christian community and their support for Israel – but [this] piece by Mike Evans is obscene and vile,” tweeted Arsen Ostrovsky, an international human rights lawyer and Israeli political analyst.
Lahav Harkov, a political correspondent for the Jerusalem Post went further.
“This is so perverse,” she tweeted of Evans’ column. “I appreciate Evangelical support for Israel, but someone who thinks that Israelis = Pharisees and that foreign Evangelicals should determine who will lead Israel is not a supporter of Israel, and is actually an anti-Semite.”
Haaretz, a left-wing Israeli newspaper, quoted Colette Avital, chairwoman of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, as calling Evans’ comments “despicable” and “anti-Semitic.”
But Haaretz also quoted Efraim Zuroff of the Simon Wiesenthal Center as saying, “As tempting as it is to call Mike Evans’ incoherent, inappropriate, and totally inaccurate rant as ‘anti-Semitic,’ that is not the case.”
“His comments about German Jews in relation to the Shoah are offensive, incorrect and have no basis in fact, but that does not make them anti-Semitic. Evans is simply a poor loser, who cannot accept the results of the last election, and wants everyone to know that he intends to fight against them, and those responsible for unseating his favorite political, Prime Minister Netanyahu.”
“As an Orthodox rabbi who works every day for the support of Israel with Evangelical Christians, I never thought in my entire life that I would hear something so shocking,” wrote Rabbi Tuly Weisz in his Times of Israel blog. “Evangelical leader Dr. Mike Evans publicly attacked Israel’s Prime Minister-elect Naftali Bennett with harsh, vulgar language and threatened to withdraw the support of 77 million Evangelical Christians from Israel because he didn’t like Bennett’s politics.”
“Mike Evans started the Friends of Zion museum here in Israel and then published an article, “How Dare You!?” ….threatening to destroy Naftali Bennett, saying that he’s not a defender of Zion,” Weisz continued. “So I wanted to talk to you today about who is a defender of Zion. A defender of Zion is someone who puts his life on the line for the Jewish people, like Naftali Bennett has done repeatedly as the leader of an elite IDF army unit. And a defender of Zion is someone who thinks day and night about Israel’s security, as Naftali Bennett has done as Defense Minister of the State of Israel. And I will tell you who is not a friend of Zion. Someone who literally takes out ads and billboards calling himself the “largest Evangelical leader in the world” and then publicly attacks, threatens, and delegitimizes Israel’s democratically elected prime minister is no friend of Zion.”
“Around the world, Israel is under attack by radical Islamists and the mainstream media,” Weisz added. “The last thing we need is to come under attack by our Christian friends.”
EVANGELICAL CRITICISM OF EVANS
Robert Nicholson, a prominent American Christian thought leader and president of The Philos Project, was sharply critical of Evans, in comments to ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
“Honestly, I was appalled when I read” Evans’ statements, Nicholson said.
“Mike may have done some good things over the years, but none of them justify this lewd, outrageous and anti-Semitic attack on citizens of Israel for daring to challenge his idea of what’s best for them. This absolutely crosses the line and I condemn it.”
“Thankfully, I don’t know a single Christian – Evangelical or otherwise – who would agree with Mike, let alone lead some crusade against Israel’s government,” Nicholson added.
“Christian friends of Israel are motivated by a sense of shared values, rooted in the Hebrew Bible, not by a single personality or a private prophecy known only to Mike Evans. And I have no doubt that hundreds of millions of Christians all over the world are just as committed to those values as they were before.”
Arlene Bridges Samuels is an Evangelical who used to work on Israel-Christian relations for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). She told ALL ISRAEL NEWS:
“Since ancient times Israeli politics has been a drama of no kings, bad kings, and good kings. Its political tapestry is filled with both failures and successes, anger, bad decisions, good decisions, wars, betrayals, and death. Our primary role in modern times is to pray for Israel, advocate for Israel in our own U.S. Congress, oppose antisemitism, and send tangible help. Above all, we must trust God’s promises and provisions already proven especially in reviving their ancestral homeland into a modern Jewish state. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob has ‘got this.’ History will play out under the authority of Jesus, the true King of Kings.
Rev. Johnnie Moore, cited earlier in this article, also expressed disappointment in Evans’ statements.
“It is unwise for American Evangelicals to meddle in internal, Israeli politics beyond praising the power of Israel’s democracy and if Evangelicals do it anyhow then they should be circumspect and respectful,” he told ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
“Even though most Evangelical leaders have enjoyed a tremendous friendship with Netanyahu which will continue, their friendship with Israel transcends the machinations of Israel’s politics and its political parties.”
Moore serves on the ALL ARAB NEWS Advisory Board.
He also recently completed his term as a commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
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.