WASHINGTON (JTA) – Declaring that evangelical Christians are “on the front line of defense for Israel in the United States of America,” the Rev. John Hagee brought delegates to the Christians United for Israel Washington Summit 2012 to their feet with loud cheering and even the sounds of shofars being blown.
“We’re united in the belief that all Bible-believing Christians have a Bible mandate to support Israel,” Hagee, founder of the 7-year-old group, which has been dubbed the Christian AIPAC after the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said in his opening address Monday at the Washington Conference Center. “The Bible is a Zionist text beginning with the fact that God created the world, and as the owner of the world he entered into a contract with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their descendants forever and gave them the land. Israel does not occupy the land, they own the land.”
Hagee, who said CUFI now has more than 1.1 million members, has stressed repeatedly in interviews that CUFI will not take a position on what Israel’s government decides in negotiations with the Palestinians. He also made it clear that his group will continue to press the government of Israel’s cause in Washington.
“We have a Bible mandate to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, to speak out in the defense of Israel,” he said. “As Isaiah said, ‘For Zion’s sake we will not hold our peace and for Jerusalem’s sake we will not rest.’ We will not be intimated by any person, by any groups of people when Israel is on the line. We are the front line of defense for Israel in the United States of America.”
He added, “The covenant that God made with Abraham is eternal and it cannot be repealed by the president of the United States, by the president of the United Nations.”
Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, a friend of Hagee’s for three decades, helped the Christian leader organize the first Christian Salute to Israel event, which was held in San Antonio, Texas. He was less indirect regarding his views toward Israeli control of the West Bank, which incorporates the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria.
“The entire territory from the Jordan to the Mediterranean” is God’s “gift to the Jewish people. It is not stolen land. It is the eternal heritage of the Jewish people,” he told the audience to strong applause.
The three-day summit will conclude Wednesday with participants lobbying their congressional representatives. The delegates will focus on stopping Iran’s nuclear quest, US-Israeli security cooperation, US security aid for Israel and stopping Palestinian incitement.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will address the audience via satellite on Tuesday afternoon.
Breakout sessions after the opening plenary include “The Basics of the Arab-Israeli Conflict”; “Christian Zionism: It’s History and Importance”; and “The Looming Threats — Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas.”
Jewish leaders speaking at the sessions include Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat; Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America; and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.”