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Pompeo says Bennett has Israel’s best interests at heart

Former US secretary of state, who had close ties with Netanyahu, says he prays new government ‘will get it right’

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

In this March 26, 2021 file photo, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the West Side Conservative Club, in Urbandale, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
In this March 26, 2021 file photo, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks at the West Side Conservative Club, in Urbandale, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, long seen as a close ally of former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has praised new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.

“Mr. Bennett, I’m convinced, has the Israeli people at his heart that he will do the right things on security issues,” Pompeo said in an interview with All Israel News founder Joel Rosenberg at the National Religious Broadcaster convention in Dallas on Thursday.

All Israel News, which published excerpts from the conversation, said that Pompeo lavishly praised Netanyahu, who he worked with closely during the Trump administration, but said that he expected Bennett’s policies would not be too different from those of his predecessor.

However, Pompeo expressed concerns over whether Bennett would be able to keep his diverse coalition in line.

“He has a tough job, as he is managing an unruly coalition that really united around ‘anybody but Netanyahu,’” Pompeo was quoted as saying, referring to the new government of eight parties from across the political spectrum.

“I pray that they get it right…for Israel and for the Jewish people,” Pompeo added.

Then-defense minister Naftali Bennett addressing a conference celebrating US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s declaration about the legality of West Bank settlements in Jerusalem, December 8, 2019 (courtesy Kohelet Policy Forum)

Pompeo is widely expected to run for president in 2024 and has long highlighted his pro-Israel bonafides, which attract large swaths of the Evangelical Christian electorate. He visited Israel shortly after Bennett was sworn in as prime minister.

Pompeo’s comments come amid mixed reactions from the pro-Israel evangelical community to the new government.

Earlier this month, Pastor Mike Evans launched a tirade against the new government at a Jerusalem press conference.

The senior US evangelical leader warned then that Israel could lose the support of his 77 million followers if the Knesset confirmed the so-called “change government” and ousted Netanyahu.

Evans, who runs the “Jerusalem Prayer Team,” lambasted the members of the unity government, calling them a coalition of Arab anti-Zionists and post-Zionists who will “wave a white flag” and surrender to radical Islam. He said the upcoming Knesset vote was “for or against Zionism.”

“Bibi Netanyahu is the only man in the world that unites evangelicals,” he said, using the former prime minister’s nickname. “The evangelicals are going to stand with Bibi Netanyahu.”

Days earlier, Evans 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.”

US evangelical leader Mike Evans speaks at a press conference in Jerusalem on June 7, 2021 (Screen capture/YouTube)

Against the backdrop of Evans’s press conference, over 80 evangelical Christian leaders from around the world signed a letter to Bennett expressing their support for the new premier.

The letter was organized by the Philos Project, a conservative-leaning pro-Israel group that aims to promote positive Christian engagement in the Middle East.

“May you, your family, and your coalition partners be blessed as you lead the people of Israel into a new phase of its history. Please consider us friends in the spirit of our common values and allies in a common mission. We look forward to meeting you in person the next time we are in Jerusalem,” the evangelical leaders wrote.

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