Evangelicals in Israel back McCain

Conservative Christian Israel supporters heap praise on McCain's vice presidential running-mate pick.

state-religion survey 224 (photo credit:)
state-religion survey 224
(photo credit: )
Evangelical Christians living in Jerusalem on Sunday voiced unflinching support for presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, and heaped praise on his surprise selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. "McCain has a depth of understanding of foreign policy - including in the Middle East - which makes him the best choice for Israel," said Michael Mott, a native of Colorado who has lived in Israel for the past 12 years. McCain's choice of Palin was a "strategic move" that "blew away" last week's Democratic National Convention, he said, adding that it was certain to win him more votes in the November election. The selection of Palin, who is anti-abortion and pro-gun rights, electrified social conservatives, including Evangelicals, who had previously been tepid about McCain's candidacy. Evangelicals living in Israel said the decision had only made the Arizona senator a stronger candidate. "I definitely feel that McCain is the better candidate in the race," said Roy Sanders, executive director of Christian Friends of Israel and an Iowa native who has lived in Israel for the past two decades. "He has the foreign policy experience that [Democratic nominee Barack] Obama doesn't have." "Particularly during these difficult times, it is important to have someone who knows how to respond on the international scene," he said, citing Russia's invasion of Georgia and Iran's nuclear threat. In contrast to the diverse political views among American Jews living in Israel, local Evangelicals were unanimous in their support for McCain. "Having lived in Israel for over a decade, and understanding the country's security needs, I think McCain is a much stronger candidate for Israel," said David Parsons, originally from North Carolina. "Christians living in Israel tend to be more supportive of McCain, just like the American Jews who come here tend to be more Orthodox and conservative," he said. Parsons estimated that several hundred of the approximately 1,000 Evangelicals living in Israel will be voting by absentee ballot. The 70 million evangelical Christians in the US make up as much as 40 percent of Republican Party voters. Their views on social issues such as abortion, separation of church and state, and school prayer are 180 degrees to the right of American Jews, although the staunch support for Israel among many evangelical Christians has more recently brought the two groups closer together. "When it comes to Israel, most Evangelicals see the issues as pretty black-and-white," said Chuck King, of Oklahoma City, who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 13 years. "Evangelicals are nervous about Barack Obama on several levels, but it comes down to, Who is this guy and who does he represent?" he said.