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Christian Zionism Attracts GOP Presidential Hopefuls Amid Israel’s Political Turmoil

by Ethan Kim
8 comments
Christian Zionism

In the 2008 presidential race, Republican nominee John McCain found himself disavowing an endorsement from Pastor John Hagee of the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) organization following an antisemitic sermon. However, the political landscape in the run-up to the 2024 elections paints a different picture. CUFI and Hagee have been embraced by the GOP, a testament to the evolving stance of the party towards Christian Zionism.

This year’s CUFI annual summit in suburban Washington witnessed the attendance of several Republican presidential aspirants, such as Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and ex-Vice President Mike Pence. All attendees pledged unwavering loyalty to Israel, taking a united stand in criticizing President Joe Biden’s perceived weaknesses.

Over the years, especially during Donald Trump’s presidency, the GOP has increasingly welcomed Christian Zionism into mainstream politics. The CUFI summit has now become a significant event for Republicans to showcase their support for Israel and conservative Christian values to the primarily white evangelical audience.

With Israel currently undergoing significant political shifts to the right, backing the Israeli government has become a crucial strategy for gaining the support of the white evangelical Republican base, many of whom see the state of Israel as fulfilling biblical prophecy.

Former President Donald Trump, a leading figure in the GOP, was not present at the summit this year. During his term, he had implemented policies popular among American Christian Zionists and Israeli religious-nationalists, such as moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem and supporting Jewish settlements in occupied territories, which disappointed Palestinian statehood aspirations.

Other Republican contenders are also making efforts to position themselves as the Christian Zionist pick for 2024. Senator Tim Scott has been actively fighting against antisemitism, and Governor DeSantis, a frequent visitor to Jerusalem, has highlighted his role in relocating the U.S. embassy. Both Pence and Haley have longstanding ties with Hagee and have been regular attendees at CUFI events.

However, the GOP’s increasing acceptance of Christian Zionism is not without controversy. McCain faced backlash in 2008 over Hagee’s derogatory remarks about Catholics and the LGBTQ+ community. An audio clip of Hagee suggesting Hitler was a divine tool to return Jews to Israel was the final straw.

In recent times, Israel has witnessed widespread protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning government, particularly its proposed judiciary reform. Critics warn this could lead to unchecked power and a slide towards authoritarianism. Despite this, most Republicans maintain staunch support for Netanyahu.

The CUFI summit took place in a politically charged climate, with President Biden hosting Israeli President Isaac Herzog at the White House during Israel’s 75th anniversary, and Netanyahu slated to meet Biden in the U.S. in the fall. However, progressive Democrats, including Representatives Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have expressed their intention to boycott the summit, adding to the ongoing partisan discord over Israel.

The rising influence of CUFI and Christian Zionism has drawn criticism, particularly from Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah, a U.S.-based rabbinic human rights organization. According to her, CUFI’s support for a right-wing government and the occupation does not align with Israel’s long-term sustainability.

The growth of Christian Zionism is seen by some as a means to an end, a prerequisite for the second coming of the Christian messiah. This has been downplayed by CUFI, even though Hagee’s books focus on end-time prophecies. Despite this, some, like Josh Reinstein, president of the Israel Allies Foundation, remain undeterred, emphasizing the importance of unity among pro-Israel allies until the issue of the messiah’s return is addressed.

Reinstein’s organization works to strengthen relationships with pro-Israel politicians globally, many of whom are evangelicals. He argues that Christian outreach is a vital tool in Israel’s diplomatic arsenal and that Israel should reciprocate the loyalty of their “tried and true friends and allies.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Christian Zionism

What is the significance of the Christian Zionist vote in the 2024 GOP presidential race?

The Christian Zionist vote is significant in the 2024 GOP presidential race because of the party’s increasing acceptance of Christian Zionism. Republican candidates are showcasing their pro-Israel stances and conservative Christian values to court the primarily white evangelical voter base, many of whom see the state of Israel as fulfilling biblical prophecy.

Which Republican presidential aspirants attended the CUFI annual summit?

Notable attendees of the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) annual summit included Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, and ex-Vice President Mike Pence. They used this platform to demonstrate their unwavering loyalty to Israel and critique President Biden’s policies.

What stance have the Republicans taken on Israel’s political shifts?

Despite widespread protests in Israel against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-leaning government and proposed judiciary reforms, most Republicans have maintained staunch support for Netanyahu. They view backing the Israeli government as a crucial strategy for gaining the support of the white evangelical Republican base.

What criticisms have been directed towards the growth of Christian Zionism within GOP politics?

Critics, such as Rabbi Jill Jacobs, CEO of T’ruah, argue that CUFI’s support for a right-wing government and the Israeli occupation does not align with Israel’s long-term sustainability. There is also concern that Christian Zionism is seen as a means to an end, a prerequisite for the second coming of the Christian messiah, an idea downplayed by CUFI but highlighted in Pastor Hagee’s books.

What actions have other GOP candidates taken to position themselves as the Christian Zionist choice for 2024?

Other GOP contenders, such as Senator Tim Scott, have fought against antisemitism. Governor DeSantis has visited Jerusalem frequently and highlighted his role in relocating the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Both ex-Vice President Mike Pence and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley have longstanding ties with Pastor Hagee and are regular attendees at CUFI events.

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8 comments

TruthSeeker2024 July 18, 2023 - 11:52 pm

this just shows how GOP is changing…back in the day, Hagee’s endorsement was a big NO. now, they’re all lining up for it. Wow, just wow.

Reply
StevensWorld July 19, 2023 - 1:28 am

Desantis, Haley, Pence…and all trying to distance themselves from Trump while using his policies for leverage. politics sure is a strange game!

Reply
BibleBeltBetty July 19, 2023 - 2:43 pm

You gotta love Hagee. He’s not perfect but his support for Israel is unwavering and that’s what we need right now!

Reply
EternalOptimist July 19, 2023 - 4:27 pm

These candidates need to focus on improving our country, not another! Is it just me who feels that way???

Reply
Jake_NY July 19, 2023 - 4:44 pm

I find this stuff kinda scary tbh. Its like politics n religion getting all mixed up, isnt this what we should avoid???

Reply
RedWhiteAndBlue4Life July 19, 2023 - 5:05 pm

Bible comes to life when you’re in Israel, huh? nice line DeSantis. Let’s see if your words convert into real policies!

Reply
PollyPeace July 19, 2023 - 6:00 pm

israel is such a touchy topic in politics. one wrong move and it’s over for these politicians, they’ve got to tread carefully.

Reply
FactChecker24/7 July 19, 2023 - 7:11 pm

FYI Trump was NOT invited to this year’s summit. That’s a significant point to note. Wondering why they decided to leave him out?

Reply

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