Pastor John Hagee: Gulf states should offer Israel normalized ties

Hagee and his 8.5-million-member Christians United for Israel support Trump's plan “in its entirety” and would back up Israel if it decides to apply sovereignty to the West Bank and Jordan Valley.

HAGEE: ‘ISRAEL and the Jewish people face many threats, thus we must continue to grow.’ (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
HAGEE: ‘ISRAEL and the Jewish people face many threats, thus we must continue to grow.’
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
The Gulf states should offer to normalize diplomatic relations with Israel rather than threatening to cut burgeoning ties out of anger over Israeli annexation plans and the US peace initiative, Pastor John Hagee told The Jerusalem Post.
“The Gulf states, who are claiming that Israeli ‘annexation’ would lead to an end to their not-so-secret relations with Israel, ought to put their requests in a positive light,” said Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel. “Rather than threaten to walk away, they should publicly and formally offer normalization of ties between the broader Arab world and Israel if Israel gives the Palestinians a set period of time to return to the negotiating table in good faith.
“But there must be an understanding that if the PA walks away, ‘annexation’ will then have no impact on broader Arab-Israeli ties,” he said.
Hagee and his 8.5-million-member Christians United for Israel (CUFI) support the Trump peace plan “in its entirety” and would back up Israel if it decides to apply sovereignty to the West Bank and Jordan Valley.
He dismissed threats the United Arab Emirates and Jordan have made in recent weeks about possible damage to their ties with Israel, should annexation proceed.
King Abdullah and Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi have warned that they would review their country’s peace treaty with Israel and might decide to cancel it if Jerusalem annexes the Jordan Valley.
“I had more faith in the treaty before Jordan so easily threatened to cancel it,” Hagee told the Post. “I think this proves that Israel can only rely on herself, and not a piece of paper, to keep her citizens safe. And that means truly defensible borders.
“CUFI stands with the decisions of the democratically elected government of Israel. We don’t weigh in on internal debates, whether they are between average citizens or generals,” he told the Post ahead of the organization’s annual conference, which will take place June 28-30.
“If the government decides to move forward soon, they will have our support,” he said.
Hagee’s statements echoed remarks made this week by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in which he said that “the decisions about Israel extending sovereignty toward these places are decisions for the Israelis to make.”
Pompeo said the country’s Middle Eastern neighbors should stop making threats and focus more on offering solutions.
Nonetheless, Evangelical Christians like Hagee and Pompeo are deeply and theologically invested in the areas that Israel could annex as early as the beginning of next month. Christian support for Israel is rooted in religion. For them, the term “annexation” is a misnomer because, as the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem explained, that word “commonly denotes the forcible taking of the territory of another.”
“From a biblical, historical and legal perspective, Israel owns, and does not occupy, the Holy Land,” Hagee wrote in an op-ed in Haaretz. “And one cannot be an occupier on land it owns.”
Christians believe that the modern existence of the Land of Israel was prophesied in the Bible and that the “ingathering of the exiles” is a component of that prophecy.
But CUFI’s support for Israel does not end there, he wrote, adding: “Israel is a democracy and a US ally, and as such, Americans respect the Jewish state’s sovereignty.”
Recently, Evangelical author Joel Rosenberg wrote in the Post that “most Evangelicals in the US have not even heard of the ‘annexation debate.’”
Sandra Parker, chairwoman of the CUFI Action Fund, told the Post not all Evangelical Christians feel the same about Israel or annexation, but for CUFI’s membership “it is important. It is something that really matters.”
Hagee started what became a series of Nights to Honor Israel in the early 1980s. Since then, he has influenced millions of Christians to honor Israel, raised more than $100 million for Israeli and Jewish causes and wields much financial and political influence on the Jewish state. CUFI was founded in 2006.
Hagee is a close friend of US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who has said that in some cases, Evangelical Christians are more passionate supporters of Israel than many Jews.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2018 close to the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem, Friedman highlighted the involvement of Christian supporters and said Evangelicals “support Israel with much greater fervor and devotion than many in the Jewish community.”
CUFI co-executive director Shari Dollinger said the group expects “hundreds of thousands if not millions” to tune in to its next conference, which is virtual because of the novel coronavirus.
Expected to speak during summit are Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Reuven Rivlin, Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer, his  nominated successor Gilad Erdan, Pompeo, former US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley and senior senators such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
The summit will also serve as a platform for the organization to roll out its legislative agenda for the coming year, which centers on three pro-Israel bills.
The first is the United States-Israel Security Assistance Authorization Act (S.3176), which codifies the 2016 Memorandum of Understanding signed by Netanyahu and former president Barack Obama.
According to the CUFI Action Alert, which was shared with the Post, “The legislation also enhances cooperation in key technological areas and extends both war reserve stockpile authority and loan guarantees to Israel through 2025.”
While this legislation previously passed the House, it now includes an authorization for $12 million to enhance partnerships between companies in the US and Israel to develop innovative medical projects aimed at detecting, treating and curing COVID-19.
“It will return to the House where we are hoping it moves forward swiftly,” the document reads.
Another piece of legislation that CUFI is expected to promote in its summit is the 2021 House and Senate State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. This annual legislation appropriates $3.3 billion in American military aid to Israel.
“This assistance ensures Israel’s ability to defend itself and directly benefits the US as well,” the Action Alert reads.
According to the document, 75% of this aid must be spent in the US, “thereby supporting American jobs and ensuring America maintains [its] quantitative and qualitative military manufacturing superiority in an uncertain world.”
The suggested amount, which accounts for less than 1% of the federal budget, “also ensures that Israel is best positioned to provide the US with vital intelligence, exceptional military-related technological advancements which help protect American troops, and a true safe-zone for American servicemen and women in the Middle East,” it reads.
A third bill is the US-Israel Military Capability Act (S.3775 & H.R.7148), which would establish a permanent and dedicated working group for US national security officials and their counterparts in the Israeli government to collaborate on the research and development of technology used for national defense.
Parker said CUFI’s agenda will not change even if US President Donald Trump is not reelected.
“Our strategy does not change with respect to who is in the Oval Office,” she said.