Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been pushing the US administration to enable Israel to annex land in Judea and Samaria on the assumption that US President Donald Trump’s Christian Evangelical base is pushing equally on the other side of the Atlantic.
But Evangelical Christian leaders and insiders said Netanyahu may be acting on a false assumption.
“The term ‘annexation’ is a misnomer… as it commonly denotes the forcible taking of the territory of another,” the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ) said in a statement. “Here, Israel already held a legitimate historic right and claim to Judea/Samaria even before it came into possession of these areas in an act of self-defense in 1967. The question now facing Israel is whether to fully assert its sovereign title to certain of these territories by simply extending its laws there.”
Conservative Evangelicals see Jewish settlement in this area as the fulfillment of many Bible prophecies. It says in Jeremiah 30:3, for example: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will bring my people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave their ancestors to possess, says the Lord.” In Jeremiah 33:7 it is written: “I will bring Judah and Israel back from captivity and will rebuild them as they were before.”
For Christians, the prophets promised that the children of Israel would return to these mountains and rebuild Jewish cities and Jewish towns.
And that is what’s happening now, with around 400,000 Jews living in the biblical heartland – whether Israel “annexes” the territory or not.
“The Jewish people’s claim to the historic Land of Israel was recognized by the international community at the San Remo Conference in 1920 and in the League of Nations’ mandate decisions in 1922,” wrote the ICEJ.
“This was not the granting of a new right to the land, but recognition of the Jewish people’s pre-existing claim as an indigenous people seeking to reconstitute their national sovereignty in their ancestral homeland. Nothing since has abrogated or voided that right to sovereignty over the Land of Israel, including those areas now commonly referred to as the West Bank.”
But for Christians these promises are not for today. Rather, they are for the time when the messiah comes. While Christians believe that Jews returning to live in the land will help usher in the messiah, what Evangelical insiders say they want today is a safe, secure and peaceful Israel – not a bigger country.
Rather, the question of applying Israeli law to the territories is one that most Christians believe is meant for the Israeli people and its leaders to decide.
SECRETARY OF State Mike Pompeo has already said that annexation is an Israeli decision. And while Netanyahu will likely be looking for support from the current administration – and Trump is unlikely to stand in the prime minister’s way – one should not jump to the conclusion that the president is looking to push Israel or make a move that might be against its best interest to score some additional points with his Evangelical base.
Pro-Israel Evangelicals already believe that Trump is the most pro-Israel president to date and there is little he could do (or needs to do) to add to that sentiment.
Moreover, there is a chance that annexation could actually harm Trump’s re-election campaign. If violence erupts in the form of a third intifada; Jordan or Egypt break their peace treaties with the Jewish state; or Israel faces harsh international sanctions or is put at risk in another way, then annexation could appear to be “just another reckless move” by the president, said an Evangelical insider.
Meanwhile, there is a crisis of historic proportion in America right now: Coronavirus has killed 115,000 Americans; the George Floyd “Black Lives Matter” riots have killed at least five people, injured numerous others and caused millions of dollars in property damage; and much of the US economy is shut down.
Finally, while some settler leaders claim to have the ear of top Evangelicals, who they say will lobby against the Trump peace plan in Washington, “most conservative Evangelicals are much more loyal to Trump” than the settlers, said Rabbi Tuly Weisz, the founder of Israel365, which connects Christians with the land and people of Israel.
It is possible that Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan or Jordan Valley Regional Council head David Elhayani have many close political and grassroots Christian leaders as friends. However, it is unlikely these friends are going to support anything they feel is anti-Trump right now.
Evangelicals will stand with and support Israel if it chooses annexation. But annexation is a domestic issue – so don’t blame Trump or the Christians if the government decides to go ahead with it.