Don’t Expect White Evangelicals to Be Troubled By Violence in Gaza

Yesterday we witnessed why so many Republicans have talked about moving the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, but none of them ever actually did it. While Jared and Ivanka celebrated the move with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli military killed dozens of protesting Palestinians and wounded thousands. The situation in Gaza was so horrifying that they put out this called for help.

Trump’s secretary of state wouldn’t even address a question about the violence.

The White House blamed Hamas.

Paul Waldman had the right take on what this all means.

Throughout, the United States has presented itself as not only a necessary partner in negotiations to end the conflict but, at the very least, a semi-neutral arbiter — one concerned about the future of both parties despite its closeness to Israel. It has remained committed to the goal of a two-state solution, in which Israel has the security it craves, the occupation of Palestinian lands ends, and the Palestinians are granted the right of self-determination.

Until now…

The policy of our government may be unstated, but it is crystal clear: The United States will no longer seek peace. The Netanyahu government is free to do whatever it wants — no matter how brutal — and we will not object. As for the Palestinians, we no longer care. They can accept their subjugation or they can cry out in rage against it, but it’s all the same to us.

All of this raises the question of why Donald Trump would align himself with everything Benjamin Netanyahu could hope for. One answer to that question is that Trump has a great affinity for authoritarian leaders. He has expressed admiration for the likes of Putin in Russia, Erdogan in Turkey, and Duterte in the Philippines. It therefore comes as no surprise that Netanyahu is his kind of guy.

But beyond that, the president has aligned himself with the bizarre views of some white evangelicals when it comes to Israel. For example, here are the two ministers the White House invited to the opening of the embassy in Jerusalem yesterday:

A Dallas evangelical pastor who once said that Jewish people are going to hell and a megachurch televangelist who claimed that Hitler was part of God’s plan to return Jews to Israel both played prominent roles on Monday in the opening ceremony of the new American Embassy in Jerusalem.

Robert Jeffress, who spoke at President Trump’s private inaugural prayer service and is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, delivered a prayer at the opening ceremony on Monday, while the Rev. John C. Hagee, a televangelist who founded Christians United for Israel and leads a San Antonio megachurch, gave the closing benediction.

If you had any doubts about how the line between church and state has been obliterated in this administration, take a look at how Trump’s ambassador to Israel, David Freidman, addressed the move of the embassy to Jerusalem during an interview with Steve Inskeep.

Well first of all, I would take issue with beginning the history lesson in 1947. Go back another 3,500 years. Go back to the Bible. I’ll tell you an interesting story. One of the great commentators on the Bible, his name was Rashi, and he said, the reason that the Bible begins with the creation of the world is to create the chain of title from God directly to the Jewish people for the land of Israel, so that if the nations of the world say that the Jewish people don’t own the land of Israel, they would point to the fact that God created the world and gave it to them.

In other words, U.S. diplomacy on the Israeli/Palestinian issue is now based on this particular interpretation of the Bible.

As I noted back when Trump announced this decision, that view of Israel is not at odds with the kind of statements we’ve heard in the past from Jeffress and Hagee. Their interest in all of this isn’t about the Jewish people, but their own interpretation of biblical prophecy. Here is how Diane Butler Bass explained it:

For decades, conservative evangelicals have been longing for this recognition. They believe it is necessary in order to regain control of the Temple mount. That is important because rebuilding the Temple is the event that will spark the events of the Book of Revelation and the End Times…They’ve been waiting for this, praying for this. They want war in the Middle East. The Battle of Armageddon, at which time Jesus Christ will return to the Earth and vanquish all God’s enemies. For certain evangelicals, this is the climax of history. And Trump is taking them there. To the promised judgment, to their sure victory. The righteous will be ushered to heaven; the reprobate will be banished to hellfire.

That’s why you won’t find white evangelicals being distraught about the death and destruction that happened in Gaza yesterday or the fact that the Trump administration has completely abandoned this country’s commitment to peace in the region based on a two-state solution. As I wrote previously, “Rising tensions in the Middle East are a feature, not a bug—because all of this was prophesied thousands of years ago as a prelude to the rapture.”

Trump’s alignment with white evangelicals has proven to be disastrous on domestic issues. We’re now witnessing the same thing when it comes to foreign policy—especially in the Middle East.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.