In January of 2018, Vice President Mike Pence delivered an address at the Knesset to announce the Trump administration’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The speech was notable not only for its occasion, but also for its symbolism. As a conservative evangelical, Pence represented the community of American Christians that forms the bedrock of American support for Israel and is arguably more enthusiastic about the Jewish state than many American Jews.
It is the figure of Pence and the millions of Americans he represents that was noticeably missing last week when Rep. Ilhan Omar suggested that spending by Jewish lobbyists was the source of America‘s “special relationship” with Israel. The new Democratic congresswoman may have chosen her words carelessly in a glib tweet laced with anti-Semitic overtones, but the view she expressed is fairly common among critics of Israel. In short, it holds that the American-Israeli alliance is somehow unnatural and must be coerced through payouts and imposed by force on a reluctant populace. Thus, if lobbyist money dried up so would American support for Israel. But this belief is not only mistaken, it actually inverts the truth. In fact, it is the broad American electorate, rather than any narrow interest group, that drives support for Israel. This attitude is not principally motivated by money but, rather, by a sympathetic kinship that predates the creation of AIPAC by centuries.
Addressing the Knesset, Pence’s remarks were animated by the deep rooted American Christian Zionist tradition. His speech went beyond a narrow political justification for the embassy move to draw a parallel between the American nation and the people of Israel. “My country’s very first settlers also saw themselves as pilgrims, sent by Providence, to build a new Promised Land,” Pence explained. “The songs and stories of the people of Israel were their anthems, and they faithfully taught them to their children, and do to this day. And our founders, as others have said, turned to the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible for direction, guidance and inspiration.” Continue Reading….