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By Joshua Gill
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the Christians United For Israel conference Monday, affirming the American Christian Zionists as Israel’s best supporters.
Netanyahu addressed the 2017 CUFI summit in Washington, D.C., in a live stream as he was on a diplomatic visit to Budapest, Hungary. He praised Christian evangelicals for their ardent support of Israel. Though Netanyahu has addressed the summit in years past, this year’s summit marked the 50th year since the reunification of Jerusalem, which Zionists mark as the year of Jubilee — a divinely appointed time of celebration and rest.
“And you, the supporters of Israel, the many thousands who are in that hall, and the millions, the many millions in the United States and elsewhere, Christian friends of Israel, you are always there for us,” Netanyahu said. “We have no better friends on earth than you.”
The summit also coincided with current efforts to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Israel, a move that has proved contentious among Palestinian supporters. Netanyahu addressed the issue of the U.S. embassy and of other embassies in Israel, calling once again for the move of embassies to Jerusalem.
“We have a great city called Tel Aviv,” Netanyahu said. “Tel Aviv is a cosmopolitan city. It’s a city of high tech. It’s a city of great energy, commerce, energy, of many things. But Tel Aviv is not Jerusalem. Los Angeles is a great city. Chicago is a great city. But they’re not Washington, D.C. The capitol of Israel is Jerusalem, and the embassies of the world should be in Jerusalem.”
President Donald Trump has delayed the move of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem amid the threat to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process posed by opposition to the move from Palestinians — opposition labeled as anti-Semitic by both Israeli leaders and members of CUFI.
CUFI is the largest pro-Israel group in the U.S. with more than 3 million supporters worldwide, and was started by Pastor John Hagee in 2006 as a network of Christian Zionists committed to combat anti-Semitism and to support the state of Israel.
Israel has faced constant threats from Palestinian and radical Islamic organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, and ISIS, which see the Jewish state as an insult to Palestinians and to the Muslim world. Neighboring Islamic countries have also posed a significant threat to Israel, such as Iran’s open sponsorship of terrorism against the country. Netanyahu told the summit that the threats posed by those organizations and regimes create a struggle not just for Israel, but for the free world.
“Now we’re engaged, as we speak, in a great struggle,” Netanyahu said. “It’s a struggle of civilizations. It’s the struggle of free societies against the forces of militant Islam. The militant sunnis led by ISIS, the militant Shias led by Iran — they want to conquer the middle east. They want to destroy the state of Israel, and they want to conquer the world.”
Netanyahu urged CUFI to continue to recognize that Israel’s fight against radical Islam was a struggle shared in particular by American Christians, as he said they share a common historical and religious heritage.
“People often make the mistake in conventional discussions when they say, or they used to say, that militant Islamists hate the west because of Israel,” Netanyahu said. “It’s actually the other way around. They hate Israel because of the west, because we represent the free society, built on the foundation of Judeo-Christian heritage. This is the society they despise so much.”
Netanyahu told members of CUFI that Israel was the “bulwark of freedom in the heart of the middle east,” and that the Jewish state “represents everything that you represent.”
The Israeli prime minister’s words struck home with the gathering of Christian Zionists on both a political and a deeply religious dimension. Members of CUFI claim Israel to be their spiritual home as well as that of the Jews. Indeed, the Christian Zionists do believe that Israel’s struggle is theirs to share, according to their belief that Jews have an ancient right to live and rule in Israel, as per the covenant of blessings and curses made between God and Abraham mentioned in the book of Genesis, which they say is still in effect and was not replaced by the new covenant ushered in by Christ in the Gospels.
For Christian Zionists, to have heard Netanyahu say “in the United States, we have no greater friend than you,” therefore, was to have heard that they have honored God, kept His covenant by honoring His chosen people, and will therefore be blessed.