One thing you have to hand to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – he certainly knows his audience.Addressing a virtual summit Sunday night of the rabidly pro-Israel Christians United for Israel (CUFI), which boasts some 8.5 million members and is headed by the charismatic Pastor John Hagee, Netanyahu lofted a softball to their breadbasket.
Referring to the biblical sites of Beit El and Shiloh, he made his pitch to the already convinced disciples of the Greater Israel concept for the virtues of his and US President Donald Trump’s annexation plan in language that spoke to their hearts: “These places are an integral part of the historic Jewish homeland… but also an integral part of Christian identity. They’re a part of your heritage. They’re a part of our common civilization. And under Israeli sovereignty, our common heritage will be forever protected.”
That statement could have been Bibi playing up his TV evangelical preacher persona to the hilt, working up the flock into a frenzy at the thought of those historic sites becoming a sovereign part of Israel and no longer disputed territory. One step closer on the road to redemption and the Messianic era.
However, if you want to interpret the statement differently, it represents a considerable shift from the reports that have been circulating in the lead-up to July 1, when Israeli is supposedly receiving the green light from the US to begin its annexation plans.
Instead of declaring 30% of the West Bank as sovereign Israel, it’s expected that the Netanyahu government will start the process with a seriously smaller move – either annexing Ma’aleh Adumim or parts of Gush Etzion. Both are considered within the national consensus of winding up as part of Israel under any eventual deal with the Palestinians.
The outcry would still be great, but after the EU, UN and Arab world condemnations, it’s likely that not much would change. However, both Beit El and Shiloh are settlements deep in the West Bank that are surrounded by a large Palestinian population.
If Netanyahu is seriously considering a July declaration that would also include those areas of Judea and Samaria, then it’s a totally different ball game, one that a significant portion of the Israeli public might not be so enthusiastic about. It would also be a move that would insure that the resultant uproar would not die down quickly, as well as increasing the chances of a violent reaction from the Palestinians.
However, it’s all conjecture. Nobody knows what will happen in July, because two days before the possible date, nobody knows what a July annexation will look like!
Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz said Monday that July 1 is not a date set in stone. US special advisers Avi Berkowitz and Scott Leith are in town this week, coordinating the expected move with Gantz and Netanyahu. But if anybody knows what the plan is, they’re keeping it close to their chest.
Netanyahu’s specific mention of Beit El and Shiloh might have been throwing a bone to his unblinking Christian supporters – it wouldn’t have gone over as well if he had referred to Ariel and Kfar Adumim as being “integral part of the historic Jewish homeland… but also an integral part of Christian identity.”
The question is not what he tells American evangelicals in English, but when is he going to address the people back home in Hebrew about how he intends to implement his sovereignty plan?