Far-right evangelical warns Trump against insulting Benjamin Netanyahu: 'Please, I beg of you'
Former President Donald Trump can always be counted on to hold a grudge against anyone he views as disloyal, and that even includes former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But far-right White evangelical Mike Evans, a long-time Trump supporter, is warning the ex-president that he risks alienating evangelicals if he keeps attacking Netanyahu.
Netanyahu’s cardinal sin, in Trump’s mind, was congratulating now-President Joe Biden after he won the 2020 election and not going along with Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him.
During an interview with Axios, Trump said of the former Israeli prime minister, “I liked Bibi. I still like Bibi. But I also like loyalty. The first person to congratulate Biden was Bibi. And not only did he congratulate him, he did it on tape…. I haven’t spoken to him since. Fuck him.”
Washington Post reporter Steve Hendrix notes that although other evangelicals have been silent about Trump’s comments, Evans is speaking out. Evans was vehemently critical of Israeli politicians when Netanyahu was ousted as prime minister, and he still considers himself an unwavering Netanyahu supporter.
Hendrix explains, “Evangelical leaders in the United States — many of whom are ardent supporters of both Trump and Israel — have been largely silent on the former president’s reported comments. But Mike Evans, one of Trump’s early evangelical backers, said he was ‘horrified’ by the sentiments and said they would offend significant numbers of evangelical voters.”
In a letter to Trump that Evans wrote and shared with the Post, the far-right evangelical said, “Understand that Benjamin Netanyahu has much greater support among evangelicals in America than you…. Please, I beg of you, don‘t put us in the position to choose between you and Bible land. There is no possibility you can win again if Bible-believing evangelicals see you as the ‘F--k Netanyahu’ president who considers Abbas a father-like figure and blames the State of Israel, and not the Palestinians, for not making peace.”
Evans is quite controversial in Israeli, where he is by no means universally loved. When Netanyahu was being ousted as prime minister, Evans went to Jerusalem and railed against his political rivals — and he even wanted to speak before the Knesset. Some Israelis believe that because Evans isn’t an Israeli — he is a lifelong U.S. citizen — he needs to butt out and has no business telling Israelis how to run their government.
But then, the far-right White evangelical movement in general has a lot of bizarre contradictions where Israel is concerned. On one hand, White evangelical fundamentalists believe that Jews will all be condemned to eternal hell unless they convert to Christianity — a view that many Catholics and Mainline Protestants reject as anti-Semitic. But on the other hand, the far-right White evangelical movement considers itself passionately pro-Israel — which has a lot to do with the Book of Revelation and End Times theology. They believe that Israel will play a key role in Jesus Christ’s return to Earth.
Evans hates Israel’s current prime minister Naftali Bennett, slamming him as “a pathetic bitter little man.”
Trump himself is not an evangelical. He was raised Presbyterian in Queens and comes from a Mainline Protestant background. But his relationship with evangelicals has been one of convenience.
Discussing Trump’s Axios interview, Hendrix notes, “The former president reserved his greatest fury for Netanyahu’s decision to join other world leaders in congratulating Biden when news organizations declared him the election winner. Despite Trump’s assertion, Netanyahu was not the first to call the president-elect and was criticized by some for waiting a half-day before offering his good wishes in a statement and video.”
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