Jerusalem Countdown: Christian Zionists and the New Israeli Government

In early April of last year, at a conference in Jerusalem of American evangelicals organized by Pastor John Hagee, Benjamin Netanyahu told the audience that Israel had no better friends than America’s Christian Zionists. “This is a friendship of the heart, a friendship of common roots, and a friendship of common civilization,” Netanyahu said.

Now, nearly a year later, with Netanyahu cobbling together a ruling coalition in Israel, three men of the US Christian Right, Pastor John Hagee, Michael D. Evans, and Joel C. Rosenberg—all of whom have had long-term associations with the prime minister-to-be—may feel like they’re about to be handed the keys to the Promised Land.

All three have had bestselling books related to the Middle East and apocalyptic theology, have raised significant amounts of money for Israeli charities (although how much of that money reaches the poor and needy has been questioned), lobbied heavily in support of policies advanced by Israel’s right wing, and opposed The Road Map to Peace. To one degree or another, they are all leaders in the broad movement known as Christian Zionism, now estimated to be about 40 million strong.

The End of the World as We Know It

Pastor John Hagee, the San Antonio-based preacher who presides over a multimillion dollar ministry, has been cooling his heels since taking a drubbing from the mainstream press last year after saying Jews had caused the Holocaust.

“The end of the world as we know it is rapidly approaching,” Hagee wrote in his 2006 book, Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World. “Just before us is a nuclear countdown with Iran,” he wrote, “followed by Ezekiel’s war [as described in Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39], and then the final battle—the battle of Armageddon.”

The same year, Hagee founded Christians United for Israel, one of the largest Christian grassroots movements in America. It hosts a yearly July Washington-Israel Summit in Washington DC, and a biannual solidarity summit in Israel.

During an interview last year, Glenn Beck asked Hagee: “You had several meetings with fairly prominent individuals. You’ve met with Benjamin Netanyahu. Have you had enough conversations with these people to tell them that you believe that we’re living in the end times, and what is their reaction?”

Hagee replied that Netanyahu had come to visit him in his “office” and that they “have talked about the geopolitical circumstances of the Middle East.” Hagee went on:

Benjamin Netanyahu sat just across my desk and told me that when he was prime minister, he had to give photographic proof to the United States intelligence agencies to convince them that Russia was in Iran helping them produce long-range missiles. Now, those long-range missiles would have the ability to hit London, New York, and Jerusalem, and right now Israel. Iran is trying to get their hands on nuclear weapons and if they can put nuclear warheads on these missiles, can you imagine, Glenn, a world where London, New York, and Jerusalem have been hit by a nuclear missile on the same day. That’s the nightmare scenario that Ahmadinejad is trying to put together and he’s dangerously close to doing it.

Because Benjamin and I are So Close

The subject line of a recent Mike Evans newsletter read “Send your congratulations to Benjamin Netanyahu.” It asked supporters to “Sign the letter of congratulations to Prime Minister Netanyahu,” and Evans, founder of the Jerusalem Prayer Team, pledged that he would “personally present it to him.”

In a Washington Times op-ed piece dated February 22, Evans talked about meeting a “quiet, almost shy” Netanyahu in 1982, and he writes that he “was so impressed” with him “that the following day I asked Prime Minister Menachem Begin and his senior adviser Reuben Hecht to offer… Netanyahu a position in government. I said, ‘Someday this young man will be the prime minister of Israel.’ Mr. Begin smiled and asked the identity of this competing prime minister. I did not relate this to Benjamin Netanyahu until he asked me about the meeting some 20 years later.”

These days, Evans is vigorously urging his supporters to traipse over to to buy his latest book Jimmy Carter: The Liberal Left and World Chaos: A Carter/Obama Plan That Will Not Work (Time Worthy Books). The book mocks and belittles former President Carter’s efforts working for peace in the Middle East. Although the book resided at #4713 in “Books” in early March, a couple of recent appearances on the Fox News Channel provided a book-buying surge, driving it to #1 in the “Leadership” category, and #2 in “Middle East.”

In an early March e-mail, Evans reported on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to the Middle East. Clinton “called for urgent action by Arabs, Israelis, and the international community to break the cycle of Mideast violence and to move toward a comprehensive peace in the region,” Evans noted. What this really means, according to Evans, is “that Israel would be forced to give up East Jerusalem, and the holy sites beloved by Christians worldwide, as well as most of Judea and Samaria.”

Evans also pointed out that Netanyahu would soon be traveling to Washington to meet with President Obama and that he “want[s] to present him with one million signers of the letter asking him not to allow Jerusalem to be bartered,” wrote Evans. “Because Benjamin and I are so close, I am in a position to personally place your letter in his hands. I would like him to be able to tell the president how many people have contacted him about this subject.”

The Joshua Fund

“The big question for Netanyahu, however, may not be how best to form his government, but how his government—whatever form it takes—will interact with President Barack Obama, given the deep fissures between the two men over how to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear-armed power,” Joel C. Rosenberg recently wrote on his blog.

Rosenberg, who used to work for Netanyahu and runs a charity called The Joshua Fund, also said:

Based on my conversations with Israel’s next Prime Minister, I believe Netanyahu fundamentally understands the apocalyptic, genocidal Islamic eschatology driving Iran’s current leaders. By contrast, I am convinced that President Obama or Secretary of State Clinton do not understand at all the End Times beliefs of the current leaders of Iran, and are thus making wrong policy choices based on their lack of understanding. Let us pray, therefore, that as Mr. Netanyahu forms his government and then meets with President Obama and top US leaders that he is able to help American officials understand who they are dealing with in Tehran, and find a way to work together to stop Iran before it is too late.

Rosenberg, the author of Epicenter: Why The Current Rumblings in the Middle East Will Change Your Future, recently announced that he will host the 2009 Epicenter Conference. The confab will “examine several rising global geopolitical and economic crises in light of Bible prophecy.”

Scheduled speakers include Rosenberg, the controversial Lt.-General (retired) Jerry Boykin, former commander of the Army’s elite Delta Force and former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, and Pastor Chuck Smith, Bible teacher, author, radio host, and prophecy expert.

“With wars and rumors of wars dominating the Middle East, the eyes of the world are riveted on Israel, Iran and their neighbors, the epicenter of the dramatic events that are shaping our world and shaking our future,” said Rosenberg:

Americans are reading apocalyptic headlines out of the Middle East. They are looking for answers to questions like, Is there any chance of peace in the Middle East in the near future, or are we headed toward even more catastrophic wars? Why are Iran’s leaders saying the end of the world is near, and the way to hasten the coming of the Islamic Messiah is to annihilate the U.S. and Israel? What happens if Iran gets nuclear weapons? Why is Russia helping Iran go nuclear? How will coming events in the Middle East affect us as Americans, economically and geopolitically? Were the global crises we see unfolding today foretold thousands of years ago by the Hebrew prophets? And given the urgency of such crises, is there any hope in the world today?

Over the years, Hagee, Evans, and Rosenberg have all cultivated and maintained relationships with Netanyahu. How the new prime minister will relate to his longtime Christian Right supporters now that he will be steering the ship of state remains to be seen. For now, however, it appears that their cups runneth over with possibilities.