If Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is successfully ousted, it could damage the country’s relationship with American evangelical Christians, who Netanyahu has worked closely with during his time in office, USA Today reports.
The former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, recently said that his country’s leadership should focus on improving ties with American evangelicals rather than American Jews, saying they are "disproportionately among our critics," while evangelical Christians are the "backbone of Israel’s support."
USA Today foreign affairs reporter Deirdre Shesgreen noted in an article on Thursday that "No one worked harder to cultivate ties between Israel and the U.S. evangelical community than Netanyahu, experts say, and many American Christian leaders are closely watching the political upheaval in Israel that will determine Netanyahu's fate, likely on Sunday when Israel's parliament, the Knesset, is scheduled to vote on the coalition government."
Last week, evangelical pastor Mike Evans criticized and insulted Naftali Bennett, the conservative politician that will likely succeed Netanyahu as prime minister, in an open letter.
"You want to be in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood and Leftists. God have mercy on your soul," he wrote. "You are a pathetic, bitter little man, so obsessed with destroying Netanyahu that you're willing to damage the State of Israel for your worthless cause."
Evans later apologized for his "rude" comments, but still condemned the leaders of the coalition government for pushing out Netanyahu.
"Bibi Netanyahu is the only man in the world that unites evangelicals," he said at a press conference in Jerusalem.
"The evangelicals are going to stand with Bibi Netanyahu," he said. "If Bibi Netanyahu goes into the opposition, evangelicals — my 77 million people — will go into the opposition with him."
However, other American evangelical leaders dismissed Evans' comments. Rev. Johnnie Moore, the former spokesperson for the evangelical group that advised former President Donald Trump, said that "his statement was absurd, it was unhelpful, and it is absolutely not reflective at all of the point of view of any evangelical leader that I know."
He added that American evangelicals should not insert themselves into Israeli politics, noting that although Netanyahu is highly regarded among conservative Christians, "I am without a doubt entirely sure that the evangelical friendship with Israel is stronger than any government, any political party, any prime minister."
Moore noted that "Unlike any Israeli figure since the founding of the modern state of Israel, [Netanyahu] has had direct relationships with evangelical leaders – and scores of them – for a very, very long period of time."
He added, "Unlike any Israeli figure since the founding of the modern state of Israel, [Netanyahu] has had direct relationships with evangelical leaders – and scores of them – for a very, very long period of time," and Netanyahu "was willing to walk across a bridge [between Christians and Jews] as it was being built."
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