In the last several weeks, Israel’s Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has made several online appearances in interviews with Evangelical Christian pastors and leaders across America to promote his new memoir, “Bibi: My Story.”
In addition to discussing what it was like being raised in a Zionist family committed to the establishment and security of Israel, he repeatedly acknowledged and extended gratefulness to the Christian community for its support of the Jewish state.
Studiously avoiding the press in Israel – where he is working feverishly to form a coalition – Netanyahu gave interviews to Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston, Robert Morris of Gateway Church in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and U.S. Southern Baptist Pastor Robert Jeffress in Dallas, to name a few. Bibi – his nickname – also met virtually with Chris Mitchell of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in Jerusalem, who credited the longest-serving prime minister for transforming the nation's economy, setting “the stage for Israel becoming known as the start-up nation.”
Common topics throughout the interviews included his childhood, military service, Israel’s national security in light of the Iranian threat, the importance of the Abraham Accords and the need for Israel to continue forging new peace treaties with its Arab neighbors.
In speaking about the Jewish nation's early years, Netanyahu said during his interview with Osteen, “We had to keep on producing our own miracles to ensure that this fledgling state, that was threatened by hundreds of millions of people around it, would survive and thrive and that's basically what my family did.”
Bibi's family’s legacy includes his father’s fame as a world-renowned historian and political figure, his Zionist mother who “was no pushover” and his brother Yoni’s death during a hostage rescue operation.
“My brother was a war hero of Israel,” Netanyahu said, referring to the 1976 Entebbe raid, Operation Thunderbolt. “We both served… in this tiny special forces unit in which my brother [Yoni] gave his life to rescue 103 Jewish hostages, in perhaps the most daring military raid in modern times in Uganda. Yoni was the only military casualty in this extraordinary rescue.”
On his brother’s death, Netanyahu said, “I had to overcome inconsolable grief and to actually enter public life with a view of mobilizing the free world against international terrorism…with one goal: To protect the Jewish people…because I think it is the embodiment of the biblical prophecy.”
Netanyahu recalled his own military experience and “brushes with death” while serving with a special forces unit. He shared an incident that happened during the 1972 Sabena Airline hijacking operation after suffering a gunshot wound.
“We killed the two terrorists, neutralized the other two women terrorists. Planes didn’t blow up, but I’m lying there on the tarmac with a morphine shot that a medic gave me to ease the pain. I’d been shot in the arm and I see my brother Yoni running, running, running towards me and he stands above me, he looks down – he has a terrible look of distress on his face. And then he stands above me, he sees the splatter of red blood on my white overall uniform that we wore as the 'fake' mechanics. And this broad grin spreads on his face and he said, ‘See Bibi. I told you not to go.’”
Netanyahu said during his time as a commander in the army, he would often think to himself that it was “not just an exercise... but that we were following the footsteps of our ancestors – the kings and prophets were there.”
Netanyahu talked about his patriotic love for Israel, the people and the land.
“I walked as a soldier. I crisscrossed the country – the mountains of Judea, the Galilee, the Negev – and all those places that I knew from the Bible came to light because they were real.”
“When I meet my Christian Evangelical friends I tell them, ‘You’re following the footsteps of Jesus – and I know Christian history intimately. It’s an amazing story when you also learn about the origins of Judeo-Christian civilization. It all happened here, right outside my window.”
Inevitably turning to politics in each interview, Netanyahu took the opportunity to speak about Israel’s impressive achievements in the area of technological innovation.
“Today Israel is in many ways a ‘light unto the nations’ in a different but continuous fashion because we are the fountain of innovation…technology, medicine, water, energy, environment – all the things that make life better for people and a lot of it is coming from Zion,” he told Osteen.
Expanding on that concept in his interview with Morris, Netanyahu stated that Israel – the start-up nation with economic power – has combined that with its military power and diplomatic power, which he referred to as “the iron triangle” of peace against the Iranian nuclear threat.
“Because what happened was that Arab states around us – when they saw that Israel was here to stay; was so strong that there's no point in fighting it – there was every point for joining it in a common effort against Iran.”
“That's really what I spent my adult life doing,” Netanyahu said, “…empowering Israel with military, economic and diplomatic strength and creating peace through strength.”
“And when you work in tandem for peace through strength, you actually get both. You get peace and you get strength,” he said, referring to the historic signing of the Abraham Accords in 2020 between Israel and four Muslim nations.
“I think that that’s the future Israel – from being a tiny state on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean – now ranked as the world's eighth power with 110th of 1% of the population. That's not something you can explain away,” Netanyahu said in the CBN interview.
Netanyahu explained that the signing of the peace treaties was the result of persistence and strategy because many of the Arab states had required an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a condition for normalization with Israel.
“The problem with the Palestinians is the Palestinians, because they refuse to accept Israel and any boundary, they refuse to accept the Jewish state and any border. And as long as they persist in that, you can't really solve their problems,” he told Mitchell.
“I didn't go to the 1% of the Arab world who are with the Palestinians, I went to the 99%. I didn’t let the tail wag the dog…and once we did that – once we approached, directly, the Arab states – they came along. And that gives a lot of hope for broader peace.”
In all of his interviews, Netanyahu emphatically thanked the Evangelical Christian community in the U.S. and worldwide, for their commitment and support.
“The return of the Jewish people and the re-establishment of a Jewish nation in the land of Israel was helped enormously by Christian believers, by Christian Zionists,” he told Morris adding that, “Israel's greatest allies in the world are Evangelical Christians.”
Another common theme was Israel’s security.
“To have the radical Islamic regime of Iran committed to the destruction of Israel, the destruction of the United States, the destruction of our common Judeo-Christian civilization – to have them with ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons – I think it’s a palpable threat to our common future, Netanyahu told Mitchell.
He said he would not hesitate to use whatever means “necessary to remove the Iranian regime” from power in an effort to save “the brave Iranian people” who are being oppressed.
During the interviews, Netanyahu also touched on Israel’s historic connection to the land which goes back to the Bible, “in which I think roughly the first 2,000 years of the Jewish people is connected to the land from the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the fathers of the Jewish people.”
“Modern history has been rewritten with falsehoods and the most amazing thing is ancient history is being rewritten,” Netanyahu told Jeffress. “We've been attached to this land for millennia and an attachment that is unparalleled by any people and any other nation. And certainly no people have suffered so much – shed an ocean of tears and blood to regain back our ancestral homeland, the land of Israel, the land of Zion.”
Click here to watch the interview with Joel Osteen.
Click here to watch the interview with Robert Morris.
Click here to watch the interview with Chris Mitchell at CBN.
Click here to watch the interview with Robert Jeffress.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.