By Shelley Neese—
After four elections in two years, it appears that Israel has a new government in place. I know for many Americans with a two-party political system, the Israeli parliamentary form of government is confusing and seems unstable. You are right. It is confusing and the last two years have shown how unstable that it can be when prime ministers are not elected directly and voters choose from a diverse array of political parties.
Over the last two years, Benjamin Netanyahu has had several chances to try and form a coalition that would create a stable majority in the Knesset. Since nothing has stuck, Israel has gone two years without a budget. Two years without a clear driver at the wheel. Two years of constant campaign politics and the havoc that wreaks on the national soul. These two years have been filled with problems that desperately demanded a steady government and defined budget. Some of those problems, like Covid, they shared with the world. Other problems were particular to the Israeli plight, like the recent war with Gaza.
So, it is no wonder that on June 2nd something unprecedented happened in Israel’s Knesset. Yair Lapid, head of a center-left party in Israel, and Naftali Bennet, head of a far-right wing party, joined together, agreeing to rotate the position of Prime Minister. Included in their unlikely coalition are six other political parties, one of which includes the United Arab List led by Mansour Abbas. This will be the first time that an Israeli Arab political party joins the majority coalition. What is even more shocking is that the agreement came on the heels of the violence both inside and outside Israel’s borders. Yair Lapid called President Rivlin to announce the deal just thirty minutes before the deadline was set to expire on his mandate. The deal shows how desperate the parties were to avoid new elections. The parties come from all across the political spectrum and the important positions are all set for a rotating basis. Bennett will serve as Prime Minister for the first two years and Yair Lapid will be the acting foreign minister.
Immediately after the Change Coalition made its historic announcement, one evangelical leader, Mike Evans, went on a rampage to try and do everything he could to stop this new government from coming to power. You may or may not have heard of Mike Evans but he has long claimed to represent 10 percent of American Evangelicals, mostly because 77 million Christians have clicked like on his Friends of Zion Facebook page. Evans is the founder of the Friends of Zion museum in Jerusalem which I have been to several times and very much enjoy. Evans was also a part of the team of evangelical advisors to Donald Trump. He has known Prime Minister Netanyahu for forty years.
But Evans crossed a line with his political diatribe. Evans sent a foul-mouthed scathing letter to Naftali Bennet, accusing him of Crucifying Netanyahu and performing a political striptease for voters. He then submitted an article to the Times of Israel claiming that he had the power to withdraw the American Evangelical support from Israel if the “rabid dogs” of the change coalition took power. In a press conference the next day, Evans defended his attack, comparing himself to Corrie Ten Boom and Dietrich Bonhoeffer because he also was defending the Jewish people against Jewish haters. It kept getting worse and more incoherent from there.
I stand with many other Christian Zionists in leadership who want to publicly separate ourselves from what Mike Evans is claiming and doing. Christian leaders like Joel Rosenburg and ICEJ’s David Parsons reacted to Evan’s offensive campaign, saying he has no right to go on the attack against Israel’s democratic process. My former pastor in Beer Sheva, Howard Bass, was the first to come out and say that Evans’s self-righteous indignation was not holding himself to the standard that he should as a man of God and a representative of Yeshua.
Right now, I want Jerusalem Connection to go on record. Prime Minister Netanyahu led Israel through many difficult times over the last fifteen years. He was a great friend to the American Evangelical movement who support Israel. And that must be recognized. But he is not Israel. He is not the Messiah. He is a man, a politician.
And being a Christian Zionist is not just being about being pro-Bibi. We are pro-Israel. Our support of Israel is not conditioned on the leaders that the democratic country chooses to elect. We are not voting citizens in Israel and we have no intent to meddle in Israel’s political affairs or issue threats to Israeli politicians we don’t esteem. I can only hope that Mike Evans is wrong. And that he can not push a magic button and erase the support of almost 80 million pro-Israel evangelicals simply because Israel felt Netanyahu’s period of leadership had run its course.
Israel is a democracy. And that fact should be praised. Our support for Israel is based on biblical principles and the belief that the Jews were right to return to their covenanted land and build a nation for themselves. Jerusalem Connection will not walk away from Israel, no matter what government is in place. We follow the words of the prophet Isaiah to comfort God’s people and speak tenderly to Jerusalem.