Will Evangelicals, who claim that Donald Trump blessed Israel more than any other American president in recent memory, stand behind him again as he announces another run for the White House?
“We knew he would recognize Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, because we were influencing him,” said Dr. Mike Evans, one of America’s most prominent Evangelical Christian leaders who is also pro-Israel and founder of the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem’s city center.
Evans helped mobilize the Evangelical vote for Trump that won him the 2016 election. He also supported the former president in the 2020 election – which Trump lost only days after he removed political limitations on research cooperation between the United States and Israel, and allowed Americans born in Jerusalem to choose to put Israel on their passports.
“We knew he would recognize Jerusalem and the Golan Heights because we were influencing him.”Dr. Mike Evans
“Donald Trump was the best American president for the State of Israel in my lifetime,” Evans told The Jerusalem Post, in an exclusive interview this week. “What he accomplished for Israel was spectacular.”
But the outspoken Zionist pastor said he is not sure that Evangelicals will collectively stand behind the previous president this time around.
Trump said Tuesday night that he’s running for president a third time. He made the announcement only a week after the Republicans failed to achieve an expected “red wave,” instead flipping only enough seats to win a slim majority in the House of Representatives.
Many GOP candidates lost in key races, including some who were handpicked and endorsed by Trump. These included candidates seen as extremist such as Pennsylvania Republican Mehmet Oz, who was defeated by Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
Evangelical support for Trump is divided - Evans
“At the present moment, our [Evangelical] movement is divided” on Trump, Evans said. “The average Evangelical Christian is a faith-based person… [and] Donald Trump does not personify biblical values. So, although they very much admire his policies, they honestly don’t admire the person.
“He does not have the support of the Evangelicals that he did,” Evans said.
HOWEVER, he admitted that Evangelicals will likely be faced with a dilemma: Trump is likely to win the Republican primary. But in doing so, he knocks out all the Republican pro-Israel, pro-Evangelical candidates, such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, former vice president Mike Pence and US Senator Ted Cruz (Texas).
“By shutting them all out, I don’t believe he can win a general election again,” Evans contended. “The Republican vote is only 28% of the vote in America, so you have … to have independents and some Democrats to win. He does not have the support of his own base, the Republican Party, so he cannot win a general election now, which would guarantee a Democrat [president] for four more years.”
There is also a question as to whether Trump would be as good to Israel if reelected. Shortly after his 2020 loss, Trump blasted then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu for disloyalty.
“The first person that congratulated [US President Joe Biden] was Bibi Netanyahu, the man [who] I did more for than any other person I dealt with,” Trump said. “Bibi could have stayed quiet; he has made a terrible mistake.”
Netanyahu, whose bloc won 64 seats in the 2022 Israeli election, was tapped on Sunday by President Isaac Herzog to form a government.
Evans blasted former prime minister Naftali Bennett in 2021, after he defeated Netanyahu to form a government, in an open letter that was widely circulated on social media.
“You betrayed the very principles that a generation gave their blood for and died for,” Evans accused Bennett. “You want to be in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood and leftists… You’re a pathetic, bitter little man so obsessed on murdering Netanyahu that you’re willing to damage the State of Israel for your worthless cause.”
He had said that he would “fight [Bennett] every step of the way. You have lost the support of Evangelicals – 100%… We gave you four years of miracles under Donald Trump and this is how you show your appreciation... How dare you!”
Evans later apologized to Bennett.
HE TOLD the Post that he regretted the way in which he made the comments. He explained that he was going through a personal trauma after he came to Israel to defend the Jews against antisemitism in the aftermath of the May 2021 Gaza War but himself was targeted by 2.5 million antisemitic posts on his Friends of Zion Facebook page. The company shut down his page, which had 77 million followers and in which he had invested more than $6 million. It has since been restored.
“When they pulled us down, it was the same time as the Bennett election, and I was very upset about it,” Evans said humbly. “I hadn’t slept in two days. I said some things I regret because emotionally I was worried about Israel.”
“I hadn’t slept in two days. I said some things I regret because emotionally I was worried about Israel.”Dr. Mike Evans
However, Evans said that although he should not have made his comments in the way he did, he continues to back Netanyahu, who he believes is the real winner of the American midterms.
“The State of Israel won the midterms,” Evans said.
“If you remember the last phone call between Bibi Netanyahu and Donald Trump, Trump … tried to bait him about Biden and he would not take the bait,” Evans continued. “Bibi said ‘we work with all presidents.’ And Bibi congratulated Biden. I met with Bibi shortly thereafter and I noticed he was saying kind things about Biden. I also realized that Biden likes Bibi.”
Evans said “things should be clear sailing for Israel” over the next two years.
“The president cannot use the next two years on foreign policy; he has to work on domestic policy, so Israel is going to get a free pass,” he said. “Bibi Netanyahu is going to be in the driver’s seat: Israel is in a good place.”
Evans was among a small group of prominent Evangelical leaders who held closed-door meetings with prominent leaders in the Gulf, including the crown princes of the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, which helped plant the seeds for peace with Israel. He stressed that the Abraham Accords happened because of Netanyahu, not Trump, and predicted that the presumptive incoming prime minister could score a peace deal with the Saudis in the next four years.
“One-hundred percent Saudi Arabia is going to make peace with Israel,” Evans declared – and “it very well could be during [Netanyahu’s] reign.”
He said that Netanyahu’s potential is “the greatest ever” and promised that if Netanyahu does form a government, he will once again have the support of the Evangelical community.
“The only human being on the planet who unites the Evangelicals of the world is Netanyahu,” Evans said – “not Donald Trump.”