While Arabs across the Middle East protested and the rest of the world looked on with concern, ‘ecstatic’ American evangelical Christian leaders were not only heaping praise on Donald Trump for recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Israel last night, but also claiming, with apparent justification, considerable credit for the controversial move.
Pastor John Hagee, the conservative leader of Christians United for Israel, told Fox News that Trump ‘will be remembered for thousands of years for his act of courage to treat Israel like we already treat other nations’.
And Hagee revealed to the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), in a sign that this was more about pleasing Christian evangelicals than Israelis or Jews: ‘President Trump, when I spoke to him in the White House about this several weeks ago, he said this very emphatically. He said, “Other presidents have failed you, but I will not disappoint the Christian community in this issue. I will stand with Israel, and we will at some point in time, move the embassy.”‘
And Johnnie Moore, who coordinates evangelicals and their contacts with the White House, said: ‘I have no doubt that evangelicals played a meaningful role in this decision. I don’t believe it would have happened without them.’
As Jerry Falwell Jr, the president of Liberty University and a close Trump ally, explained, he had not talked to the President about the issue but had received emails from other leading evangelicals in the past several days ‘asking me to support this or tweet that, and try to get the word out’.
‘The faith community has talked to the administration for months and months about the need to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,’ said Robert Jeffress, pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas and an evangelical adviser to Trump.
‘But the fact is, we didn’t have to do any convincing of this administration. This was a campaign promise that President Trump was happy to keep because he feels that way,’ Jeffress told Reuters yesterday.
They were joined by a host of other evangelical leaders hailing the move.
James Dobson, the founder and president of Family Talk, contrasted Trump with past presidents, saying: ‘Throughout the years, I have had the great privilege of serving and advising political leaders at all levels of government, and yet, I have witnessed many promises made concerning Israel that were never fulfilled. With the decision to formally recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, President Trump stands apart, once again demonstrating that he intends to keep his promises to the American people. I am greatly encouraged by this declaration and believe that America is always stronger when it stands firmly behind its allies, especially when it comes to the Jewish people and the land of Israel. Please join me in praying for continued wisdom for President Trump and this administration, and for a lasting peace in Israel and throughout the Middle East.’
Governor Mike Huckabee, the honorary national chairman of My Faith Votes, did the same. He said: ‘For over two decades American presidents have talked the good talk on Israel. But when it’s come to taking action, they’ve hesitated and kicked the can down the road instead of standing with our ally and recognizing its right to call Jerusalem its capital. Today, President Donald Trump did what his predecessors didn’t have the courage to do: recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital city. In so doing he set two great examples for us – how to make good on promises and how to treat your friends.
‘There is no brighter beacon of democracy in the Middle East than Israel, and President Trump’s announcement of Jerusalem as its capital reinforces – for the whole world to see – the truth that it has a right to exist.
‘Christians in America should be proud that one of our closest allies, also the ancient homeland of our Judeo-Christian faith, exudes tolerance, steadiness and strength in a region too often marked by all the reliability of deserts full of shifting sand.’
Paula White, the senior pastor at the New Destiny Christian Centre, said: ‘Promise made. Promise kept. Once again, President Trump has shown the world what I have always known — he is a leader who is willing to do what is right however loud the voices are of the sceptics and the critics. Evangelicals are ecstatic, for Israel is to us a sacred place and the Jewish people are our dearest friends.’
Rev Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference who has at times criticised the President over policies including those on immigration, backed the move too, saying: ‘The historical record, empirical fact and our faith all confirm that Jerusalem is in fact the capital of the Jewish people. I therefore enthusiastically applaud President Trump’s decision to formally recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, a promise every president has made since Clinton, and which none has fulfilled until today.’
Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, said it was a ‘major milestone in America’s historic relationship with Israel’. He added: ‘Under the bold and courageous leadership of President Trump, America is finally putting American interests and the interests of our key allies first. America’s foreign policy, as it pertains to Israel, is coming into alignment with this biblical truth: Jerusalem is the eternal and indivisible capital of the Jewish state.’
And televangelist Pat Robertson also celebrated the announcement and claimed it was God’s will. ‘In the Six Day War, Jews finally took sovereignty over Jerusalem, and it’s absolutely crucial in terms of biblical prophecy that they maintain control over that,’ he said. ‘Remember, you go in favour of breaking up Jerusalem, you’re gouging against the direct word of Jesus. God is not going to let anyone break that. It’s going to be a major battle, it will be over Jerusalem.’