Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Christians can freely practice their faith, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

Speaking to a group from the US-Evangelical organization Christians United for Israel at a Jerusalem hotel, the prime minister said pounding his fists on the podium that "At a time when Christians are under siege in so many places, in so many lands, Christians are free to practice their faith" in Israel.

Netanyahu - whose comments about Christian freedom in Israel were met with rousing applause from the visiting group - said Israel has values which "set us apart" from neighboring regimes like Syria, who he accused of "butchering" its own people.

He decried Gaza's Hamas and Lebanon's Hezbollah for firing rockets from civilian areas, and then hiding behind citizens when Israel retaliates, both of which he said were war crimes.

"Our enemies don't hate us for what we do, they hate us for what we are," Netanyahu said, adding that "us" means both the United States and Israel.

Following his speech, CUFI founder and Christian-Zionist John Hagee - who founded a San Antonio, Texas megachurch that boasts 19,000 active members - presented the prime minister with an honorary plaque.

Hagee told Netanyahu: "As you personally wrestle with the crisis in Iran," and despite the fact that "you have the future of the Jews in your hands... you are not alone."

"The Jewish people have a right to live in Israel," Hagee declared, adding that  "the modern state is the fulfillment of this historic right."

Please LIKE our Facebook page - it makes us stronger