Evangelicals back Israel in Washington

Fourth annual summit of Christians United for Israel amasses thousands for learning and lobbying.

Pastor John Hagee 88 298 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Pastor John Hagee 88 298
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Over 4,000 Christians are gathering in Washington this week to advocate for Israel on Capitol Hill. The fourth annual summit of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) has brought together Christian leaders and supporters of Israel from around the country, starting Monday and continuing through Wednesday. Founded in 2006 by Pastor John Hagee, the organization is now active in all 50 states and in dozens of countries. Throughout the year it holds local events to educate Christians about Israel, build up their support and raise money for the organization and for charities in Israel. The Christian Zionist organization cites biblical sources as imperatives for Christians to support and help the Jewish people and the State of Israel. For the first two days of the conference, participants are learning about issues relating to Israel and the Middle East. They will spend Wednesday lobbying their elected officials on Capitol Hill. The conference features a wide range of leaders and policy experts, including Israel advocate Gary Bauer and Susan Michael, director of the US Branch of the International Christian Embassy, Jerusalem, as well as some of CUFI's religious leadership. Most of the speakers, however, deal with Israel and Judaism. They include Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg of San Antonio, Texas; Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, founder and president of The Israel Project; Congressman Eric Cantor; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Asaf Shariv, consul-general of Israel in New York; and talk radio host Dennis Prager. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will also address the conference via satellite. While the Obama administration has been promoting a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, CUFI does not want President Barack Obama to ask Israel to make land concessions. Obama was not popular among evangelical voters in last year's presidential election, and following his victory, Hagee was quoted as saying, "Our respect and prayers do not prevent us from continuing to speak out and speak out strongly when we disagree on biblical issues with the president." This is the first CUFI conference to take place outside of George W. Bush's presidency, and it remains to be seen how the organization can work with an administration and Congress that do not hold as strong ties to the right-wing evangelical community. Hagee also has a mixed relationship with the Jewish community, part of which strongly supports him for the work he does for Israel, and part of which is wary of some of his controversial views on Middle-East politics, Jewish suffering, the Holocaust and the end of days.