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Don’t make us choose — you or Israel: Evangelical warns Trump over Netanyahu rift

‘There is no possibility you can win again if Bible-believing evangelicals see you as the F–k Netanyahu president,’ one former Trump adviser warns in letter to ex-US president

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

A senior evangelical leader has warned former US president Donald Trump to end his rift with ex-Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, saying that it could jeopardize support among American Christians.

Mike Evans, a former Trump adviser who is very close to Netanyahu, sent a letter to Trump, which he shared with the Washington Post, saying he was “horrified” by Trump’s recently reported comments.

The letter comes after the release of an interview with Trump by Israeli journalist Barak Ravid in which Trump lashed out at Netanyahu over the Israeli leader’s congratulations to US President Joe Biden after he won the presidency last year.

Trump said Netanyahu’s congratulatory message to Biden came too quickly after the election results were announced, results he continues to contest to this day.

“He was very early. Like earlier than most. I haven’t spoken to him since. Fuck him,” Trump said.

Further comments released saw Trump claiming Netanyahu, not the Palestinians, were the main obstacle to peace, and that Netanyahu angered and blindsided Trump with a plan to annex much of the West Bank.

“Please, I beg of you, don’t put us in the position to choose between you and Bible land,” the letter said according to the Post. “There is no possibility you can win again if Bible-believing evangelicals see you as the ‘F–k Netanyahu’ president who . . . blames the State of Israel, and not the Palestinians, for not making peace.”

Mike Evans at the Friends of Zion Museum in Jerusalem, on May 16, 2017 (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Evans implored Trump to “understand that Benjamin Netanyahu,” in his view, “has much greater support among evangelicals in America than you.”

Evans, who runs the “Jerusalem Prayer Team,” which boasts some 77 million followers, has come to Netanyahu’s defense before.

Earlier this year, when a coalition was coalescing under Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid to oust Netanyahu, Evans warned that such a move could see Israel lose the support of American Christians.

He called them a coalition of Arab anti-Zionists and post-Zionists who would “wave a white flag” and surrender to radical Islam.

“Bibi Netanyahu is the only man in the world that unites evangelicals,” he said.

Evans also released an open letter to Bennett, calling him a “disgusting disappointment” and accused him of “shitting on the face” of US evangelicals.

He later apologized, saying that Bennett “has actually been a strong Zionist most of the time I know him, and he deserves more respect.”

Netanyahu has been instrumental in recent years in shifting Israel’s diplomatic focus in the US from relying on the support of the US Jewish community — which is largely liberal and critical of Israel — to seeking evangelical support.

This was highlighted earlier this year when former Israeli ambassador to the US Ron Dermer suggested that Israel should prioritize the “passionate and unequivocal” support of evangelical Christians over that of American Jews, who he said are “disproportionately among our critics.”

Illustrative: Evangelical Christians from various countries wave flags as they march to show their support for Israel in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner, File)

Other evangelical leaders took a more nuanced view of Trump’s comments than did Evans, but were clearly unhappy with the rift.

“Evangelical support for Israel is rooted in our Biblical tradition which transcends both politics and personalities,” Sandra Parker, the action fund chairwoman for Christians United for Israel, the largest US pro-Israel lobby, told the Post in an email Tuesday.

Johnnie Moore, a former Liberty University official who helped organize Trump’s evangelical advisory board in 2016, said US evangelicals would not abandon Trump.

“The relationship between American Evangelicals and Bibi preceded the relationship with President Trump by many, many years,” he said. “But Bibi was an Israeli prime minister, and Trump was an American president. There’s a difference between the two for Americans,” he said referring to Netanyahu by his nickname.

Others noted that even if the reports were true, it did not diminish all that Trump had done for Israel, citing his recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal and recognizing Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

“Even if the alleged comments are true, it doesn’t diminish in the least that President Trump’s policies have been the most pro-Israel in history,” said Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Church of Dallas, who led a prayer at the 2018 opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Trump spoke to Ravid in April and July for the Israeli reporter’s new Hebrew-language book, “Trump’s Peace,” about the normalization deals between Israel and Arab states, which were brokered with the help of the Trump administration. Some of his comments, which were taped, have been broadcast on Israeli TV, including the “Fuck Bibi” remarks.

Despite Trump’s anger, Netanyahu was actually quite late in congratulating Biden in November of last year, conspicuously doing so long hours after many other world leaders.

Trump’s denial of Biden’s election victory led him to boycott his successor’s inauguration. It also led to the January 6 assault on the US Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters, for which the House impeached the former president for a second time.

Ravid writes for Israel’s Walla news site and the Axios news site in the US.

Speaking to Ravid, the former president said no one had helped Netanyahu more than he did, and he therefore considered it a betrayal when Netanyahu congratulated Biden on his election victory, even as Trump falsely claimed that the election had been stolen.

“Nobody did more for Bibi. And I liked Bibi. I still like Bibi,” Trump said. He was “the man that I did more for than any other person I dealt with.”

“But I also like loyalty. The first person to congratulate Biden was Bibi. And not only did he congratulate him, he did it on tape. And it was on tape.

“I was personally disappointed in him,” he said. “Bibi could have stayed quiet. He made a terrible mistake.”

In a statement after an initial broadcast of Trump’s comments last week, Netanyahu hailed Trump, and explained why it was important that he congratulate Biden on his victory.

“Former prime minister Netanyahu really appreciates the great contribution that president Trump made to the State of Israel and its security,” the statement from Netanyahu’s office said. “He also really appreciates the importance of the strong alliance between Israel and it was therefore important for him to congratulate the incoming president.”

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