Christian lobbyists to bring Tea Party support for Israel

CUFI’s leadership criticize Democratic President Barack Obama for harming Israel and the ties between the two countries.

Pastor John Hagee 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Pastor John Hagee 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
WASHINGTON – The head of the self-described largest Christian pro-Israel lobby in America declared that the group would win “the fight for the soul of the Tea Party” as thousands of its activists descended on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
David Brog, executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), a 700,000- member-strong lobby with good ties with Republicans, offered reassurance that his organization would help steer the Tea Party toward the direction Israel desires. CUFI is comprised of evangelical Christians, and many Tea Party members hold similar religious convictions and conservative political views.
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Some 5,000 members of CUFI were due to visit scores of congressional offices as part of their three-day annual Washington conference this week, the sixth of its kind.
While the Republican Party weighed massive cuts to foreign aid and a more isolationist policy stance, the CUFI’s leadership criticized Democratic President Barack Obama for harming Israel and the ties between the two countries, a preview of what is likely to be a frequent Republican criticism of Obama on the campaign trail.
Surging Tea Party members of Congress have been pushing their GOP leadership for even deeper cuts in the budget, particularly in international assistance, while expressing skepticism over many of America’s international commitments. Some members of the pro-Israel community have been concerned about how the new faction could affect US support for the Jewish state.
Brog, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, argued against the views of some Tea Party-backed members of Congress, singling out Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and his son, Sen. Rand Paul (RKentucky), who, according to Brog, hold that “cutting the budget extends to cutting our role in the world.”
The CUFI executive director warned against aid to Israel becoming a casualty of the current budget talks.
“We believe most conservative Christians want to continue playing a role in the world,” Brog said. “I think we represent the soul of the Tea Party.”
A major focus of Wednesday’s lobbying was to be focused on urging conservative members of Congress not to allow the budget crisis to affect American aid to Israel.
Other speakers at the pro- Israel summit advocated other means of spending cuts that would at once support the current Israeli government while undercutting Palestinian attempts to win international recognition of statehood at the United Nations in September.
At the event’s opening session on Monday night, John Bolton, former United States envoy to the UN, argued that the United States would be wise to ignore a non-binding resolution completely and remove any perception of the resolution’s legitimacy.
“Let’s remember, the General Assembly has no authority to declare a Palestinian state,” Bolton noted. But, he warned, “If you allow yourself to believe that the GA has the authority and legitimacy [to do so], it will keep that authority.”
Bolton, however, said the second-best approach would be for the United States to threaten to defund the United Nations “if [the UN] does something so profoundly wrong as to try to delegitimize Israel.”
Another notable right-wing personality headlined CUFI’s evening gala on Tuesday in support of the Jewish state, billed as “A Night to Honor Israel.”
Radio and TV host Glenn Beck enthralled the conservative Christian crowd, fusing religious fervor and the American narrative with historical references to Jewish suffering in a passionate defense for Israel and the cause of the Jewish people.
“Anyone who follows the one God of Abraham knows that we will be judged, as a people and as a nation, on how we treat Israel,” pronounced Beck.
Beck, a Mormon, played on the theme of repentance for previous instances of Christian indifference in the face of anti-Jewish discrimination throughout history, and the audience sat enraptured throughout, bursting occasionally into extended ovations.
“This is not Spain in 1492, or Germany in 1939,” Beck said. “This is still America, 2011. We are not the Christians of the Crusades. We are Christians United For Israel.”
The speech served as a possible preview for Beck’s planned “Rally to Restore Courage,” to take place in Jerusalem in a little over a month.
Preceding Beck at the podium were CUFI founder and president, Pastor John Hagee, and Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren.
Hagee’s speech took aim at both the threat of a nuclear Iran led by a “maniacal president,” as well as what Hagee called President Obama’s attempts to “separate the United States from Israel.”
Weaving biblical scripture together with a series of selfproclaimed “truths,” Hagee argued that “America should never pressure Israel to give up land for peace; not for any reason, not to anyone, not ever,” to vigorous applause.
Criticizing the current administration’s stand on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Hagee declared, “The truth is, President Obama has no authority to tell the Jewish people what they can and cannot do with the State of Israel.”
The production was replete with a uniformly smiling evangelical choir singing Israeli folk songs in nearly flawless Hebrew as thousands of attendees furiously waved American and Israeli flags. At one point, several hundred stood up and began to dance what appeared to be the hora as Israeli music played in the background.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed the conference live via satellite from Jerusalem, and was greeted with a standing ovation lasting over a minute.
Netanyahu thanked CUFI for its support and defense of Israel, saying that CUFI “defend[s] the truth that Israel is American’s only reliable ally in the Middle East.”
Netanyahu continued, “When you support Israel, you don’t have to choose between your interests and your values. You get both.”
Throughout the summit, Pastor Hagee provided rhetorical support for many of the positions articulated by Netanyahu’s governing coalition members. Beyond his staunch defense of Israeli settlement expansion, Pastor Hagee more than once decried the call for Israel to negotiate based on the pre- 1967 borders, calling them “indefensible.”