Evangelical leaders react to Israel's new prime minister
Israel's new government that pushed out former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after over a decade in power has received praise and condemnation from prominent pro-Israel evangelicals, with many saying they will continue to support Israel no matter who is in charge.
After serving an unprecedented 12 consecutive years in power and another three years before that, Netanyahu lost his position as prime minister of Israel when new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was sworn in Sunday.
Netanyahu, the longest-serving leader of modern Israel who dealt with corruption charges in his final years in office, was respected by conservative evangelical Christians but criticized by many across the globe. He promised: "we'll be back."
Bennett assumes Netanyahu's old role after Israel's Parliament voted for the new government by a slim vote of 60-59, ending a lengthy political gridlock. Some concern has been raised about how the new prime minister's alliance includes a party representing an Arab minority and has close relations with the Palestinians.
However, Bennett, described as a right-wing millionaire, is opposed to Palestinian independence and supports Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Here are some reactions:
Evangelical author Joel C. Rosenberg, a dual United States-Israeli citizen who has participated in meetings between evangelical leaders and world leaders in recent years, argued in an op-ed that Christians' "love for Israel is not tied to one man, but is based on the Abrahamic covenant and the biblical command to bless Israel and the Jewish people."
Rosenberg, who founded The Joshua Fund to mobilize Christians to bless Israel, encourages Christians to support and pray for Israel no matter who is in power. He is optimistic that Bennett and incoming Foreign Minister Yair Lapid can build relationships with evangelicals.
"Evangelicals will soon learn that Bennett is a protégé of Netanyahu, who shares Netanyahu's worldview and political philosophy," Rosenburg shared. "They will also learn that Bennett, a strong right-wing hawk, served as Netanyahu's defense minister and shares his hardline position against the Iranian regime. What's more, they will soon learn that Netanyahu desperately courted Bennett to be in his next government."
The president of the Congress of Christian Leaders and a former commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, encouraged Christians not to allow their friendship with Israel to be hindered by politics after the announcement of the new prime minister.
The public relations executive and former Liberty University vice president advised evangelicals to support Israel regardless of the change in the political party.
"It is unwise for American evangelicals to meddle in internal, Israeli politics beyond praising the power of Israel's democracy and if Evangelicals do it anyhow then they should be circumspect and respectful," Moore said in a statement.
"Even though most evangelical leaders have enjoyed a tremendous friendship with Netanyahu— which will continue — their friendship with Israel transcends the machinations of Israel's politics and its political parties," he continued.
"Evangelicals will stand with Israel whomever is the Prime Minister, always," Moore continued. "We look forward to a close relationship with all future Israeli governments. As soon as this all settles, I'll — for instance — be on a plane to Israel. Until then, I am watching and praying."
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley is visiting Israel with Christians United for Israel founder and pastor John Hagee to express solidarity for Israel and meet with the new prime minister and other Israeli leaders, All Israel News reported.
"PM @netanyahu's contributions to Israel's security, diplomacy & economy have been historic. He's a friend personally to me & Michael, & to the US. I wish him & Sara the best. Congratulations to PM Bennett," the former governor of South Carolina and advocate for Israel tweeted on Sunday.
"We are committed to the undeniable bond between the US & Israel."
Haley reiterated the United States' support of Israel regardless of the leader.
"It doesn't matter which leaders are there. What matters is the United States is going to stand with Israel, needs to stand with Israel and will be there," she said in a Fox News interview.
The former South Carolina governor warned about the Iran nuclear deal and said re-entering would be a "death wish" to Israel. Haley worked with former President Donald Trump to remove the U.S. from the nuclear agreement, but President Joe Biden is reportedly considering rejoining the deal, an idea opposed by Israel.
"The one thing we don't want to see happen is giving money back to Iran and have the world be a more dangerous place," Haley said.
Haley also tweeted a photo with Netanyahu and Hagee with a caption that read: "Time with Prime Minister @netanyahu is always invaluable. His contributions to Israeli security and prosperity are historic. We have not heard the last from him."
Jentezen Franklin, a Georgia pastor and Christian Zionist, also congratulated Israel on forming a new government.
He reiterated the Christian community's excitement to build a "congenial relationship" with the newly established government and "new era of Jewish-Christian friendship."
"I want to congratulate the State of Israel on the formation of its new government, and I call on Christians around the world to pray for God's help as they fulfill their responsibility, especially in ensuring the security of the State of Israel," he wrote.
"Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, along with Yair Lapid, have formed a coalition unique in Israel's history and in its diversity," Franklin continued. "I want to make it clear: our community looks forward to enjoying an open and congenial relationship with the new government in Israel as we have enjoyed an open relationship with its preceding administration."
Franklin added that Netanyahu "deserves credit for his extraordinary efforts which have strengthened the Israeli economy, built expansive friendships around the world, and forged peace and security throughout the Middle East."
"Prime Minister Netanyahu's handling of the coronavirus pandemic also became the envy of the world," Franklin added. "Bibi has not only been one of Israel's longest-serving prime ministers but one of its historic leaders. Evangelicals are proud of our friendship with Netanyahu, a friendship that will continue."
Courtesy of The Christian Post