A prominent US evangelical Christian leader warned Monday that Israel could lose the support of his 77 million followers if the Knesset confirms the so-called “change government” and ousts Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Speaking at a press conference in Jerusalem, Mike Evans, who runs the “Jerusalem Prayer Team,” lambasted the members of the unity government who will face a confirmation vote on Sunday, 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.
“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.”
Asked later by reporters if he would work against the government of Israel, he clarified: “We will still support the State of Israel but we will not have the same position we had before, because we won’t have trust and trust is everything.”
Evans has been on a campaign in recent days to persuade Israelis not to ditch Netanyahu, making his point in a vituperative post on The Times of Israel’s blog platform, in which he said God had chosen Netanyahu to lead Israel.
His post accused leaders of the anti-Netanyahu “change bloc” of seeking to “crucify a man they hate and they’re willing to destroy the nation to do it,” and called them “rabid dogs possessed with power and revenge.”
He compared them to Jewish leaders during the Holocaust and appeared to blame Jews for bringing the Nazi death camps upon themselves, writing: “German Jews were busy insulting each other, drunk on the wine of pride. They did not see the smoke of Auschwitz rising because they were more German than they were Jews.”
Evans also released an open letter to Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett, calling him a “disgusting disappointment” and accused him of “shitting on the face” of US evangelicals.
He apologized for that on Monday, saying that Bennett “has actually been a strong Zionist most of the time I know him, and he deserves more respect.”
“I want to personally apologize to Naftali Bennett because I used some harsh statements and rude language,” he said.
But during his press conference, he again launched an attack on change bloc leaders, saying they were “blinded by your hatred, by your petty politics and your obsession with power.”
He belittled Bennett, repeatedly calling him “seven-seater” in reference to the low number of seats his Yamina party won in the March election and saying world leaders would not take him seriously nor even know his name.
“You have a prime minister who is not so likable, but I’ll tell you one thing: The power brokers of the word trust him,” said Evans, conceding that Netanyahu was flawed but saying that the biblical King David was “10 times more flawed.”
Becoming emotional at times, Evans said he was motivated to oppose the new government because he was tired of going to funerals of terror victims. “Unity governments produce widows and orphans because they didn’t have the strength to stand up against the devils,” he said.
Evans also criticized Israelis for being ungrateful for all that US evangelicals had done for Israel and appeared to suggest he believed that the latter should have some say in the direction of Israeli politics.
“No one asks us, even though we are 77 million,” he said, claiming credit for the Trump administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. “You didn’t get that from the Jewish community in America. You got it from the evangelicals. Donald Trump would not have given you one thing in four years if it wasn’t for us.”
Evans was behind the dozens of billboards that went up around Jerusalem in May 2017 urging Trump to “Make Israel Great.” The purpose of the billboards was to remind Trump of his election promise to evangelicals to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Evans said he had reassured an Israeli leader who expressed doubts that Trump would go ahead with the move: “Relax, we have enormous power over him, it’s going to happen.”
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 last month 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.”
“People have to understand that the backbone of Israel’s support in the United States is the evangelical Christians. It’s true because of numbers and also because of their passionate and unequivocal support for Israel,” Dermer said.
“About 25% [of Americans] — some people think more — are evangelical Christians. Less than two percent of Americans are Jews,” he said. “So if you look just at numbers, you should be spending a lot more time doing outreach to Evangelical Christians than you would do to Jews.”
The organization Evans heads, the “Jerusalem Prayer Team,” until recently had more than 75 million followers on its Facebook page. The page was taken down in May without explanation. The organization’s purpose is to encourage Christians all over the world to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” as well as to inform them about developments in Israeli politics from a Christian perspective.
According to the website, Jerusalem is important because “most all prophecy points to Jerusalem and the end times; the new Temple being built, the Antichrist, the Battle of Armageddon and the 144,000 Evangelists. When we pray for the peace of Jerusalem we are praying for the Lord to return. ‘So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.’”
Evans is also responsible for the Friends of Zion Heritage Center, a multimedia museum in central Jerusalem dedicated to the history of the friendship of non-Jews toward Jews and Israel.
Evans said he had been meeting with lawmakers from the change bloc, trying to convince them not to oust Netanyahu.
Evans claimed four MKs told him they were ready to jump ship but each did not want to be the first.
“Bibi Netanyahu’s death was greatly exaggerated,” he said.
Evans’s statements appeared to draw criticism from another evangelical organization, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem. In a statement Saturday, the group’s president Jürgen Bühler said: “No one should doubt that pro-Israel Christians around the world have great respect for Benjamin Netanyahu and his many accomplishments as Israel’s longest-serving prime minister. But we do not detect any widespread move among Evangelicals, whether in America or worldwide, to stop supporting Israel if he is replaced.”
Without specifically mentioning Mike Evans, the statement continued, “In fact, Israel has been gaining millions of new Christian friends around the globe over the past decade and we fully expect that trend to continue.”