Bibi: Christian Zionists our top friends

Pastor John Hagee announces donations of $6 million to a number of Israeli causes.

bibi sarah netanyahu 224 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
bibi sarah netanyahu 224
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Israel has no better friends in the world than Christian Zionists, Likud opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday. "This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilization," Netanyahu told a conference of American Evangelicals in Jerusalem. The event, which was organized by the San Antonio, Texas-based Christians United for Israel, drew 1,000 Israel supporters led by the conservative evangelical Pastor John Hagee, who has been a stalwart supporter of Israel for the past three decades. Hagee on Sunday announced donations of $6 million to a number of Israeli causes and declared that Israel must remain in control of all of Jerusalem. "Turning part or all of Jerusalem over to the Palestinians would be tantamount to turning it over to the Taliban," Hagee said. Among the 16 causes Hagee supported with the contributions he announced were Magen David Adom and a conference center in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. Hagee has united evangelical Christian supporters of Israel in the US under one umbrella organization, dubbed the Christian Aipac, which focuses solely on support for Israel and does not work to convert Jews to Christianity. Netanyahu's remarks come just days after the head of the left-leaning Reform Movement in the US Rabbi Eric Yoffie said that Israel should not deal with Christian Zionists like Hagee, calling him an "extremist" who rejected territorial compromise with the Palestinians and disparages Catholics. Hagee has vehemently denied being anti-Catholic and said his remarks have been mischaracterized, and based on statements that were "totally false." The head of the Knesset's increasingly influential Christian Allies Caucus MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), who has spearheaded Israel's relations with the evangelical Christian world, called Yoffie's politically based remarks "shameful," and called Hagee a "visionary man of courage" and an "outstanding spiritual leader." "You are the right man in the right place in the right time," Elon said Friday at a book launch of Hagee's book In Defense of Israel, which has now been translated into Hebrew. Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin called the burgeoning ties between Israel and the evangelical Christian world "one of the most important things," after close to 2,000 years of enmity persecution and pogroms. "What we have to understand is that the Christianity of persecution and intolerance and Jew-hatred is not the Christianity of Pastor Hagee and most evangelists today," Riskin said. He called the rapprochement between Christians and Jews "one of the miracles" of the 20th century. AP contributed to this report.