Want to Fire Up Conservatives? Cheer On Israel
It is no secret that some of the strongest backers of Israel are Christian conservatives in America, a trend on full display last week at the Faith and Freedom Conference. Among all the issues mentioned by speakers, few, if any, received the amount of enthusiastic support as calls to strengthen American support for Israel.
President Obama said last month that negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians should begin along the 1967 borders. Presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) called this "a shocking display of betrayal of our greatest and friend and ally Israel."
"America must do what all previous presidents have done since Harry Truman and stand with Israel. I stand with Israel. … [W]e are sending a message to the world that President Obama speaks for a very tiny minority. He may the president of the United States, but he does not speak for us on the issue of Israel," Bachmann said.
It was the only statement by the Tea Party leader that moved the conference attendees to their feet in applause.
The reception of the audience was similar for other speakers. Calls to repeal "Obamacare," lower taxes, restrict abortion, and enshrine traditional marriage were well-received. But Israel—that was an issue that consistently received standing ovations.
GOP candidate Tim Pawlenty spoke for nearly 15 minutes on topics ranging from taxes to terrorism, but the crowd did not appear excited until he expressed his support for Israel.
"We need a President of the United States who stands shoulder to shoulder with our great friend Israel and make sure there is no daylight between the United States and Israel," Pawlenty said, bringing people to their feet.
The support for Israel hinted at Christian Zionism, with speakers saying that Israel was granted their land by God and should exist as a Jewish state.
American Center for Law and Justice chief counsel Jay Sekulow said that it was not enough that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel. The Palestinian Authority needed to recognize "the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state."
"I'm also telling you that I expect a rebuke aimed at the president of the United states coming out the United States Senate, with bipartisan support, saying no return to the '67 borders, no negotiations with Hamas, and no divided Jerusalem," Sekulow said, a rebuke the audience enthusiastically endorsed.
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, gave his entire speech on Israel, reading from Genesis where God promised to bless those that bless Israel. Land seemed to imply that Obama's recent statements put America at risk of not being blessed by God, possibly even cursed.
"If we want God to bless America, then we have to bless the Jews," Land said. "God gave that land to his chosen people forever. That issue is settled by God almighty."
Land took aim at President Obama, calling him "foolish" and "the worst president of the United States that Israel has ever had."
Land said he had a message of encouragement to Israel: "Help is on the way," Land said. "Israel yesterday. Israel today. Israel tomorrow. You are not alone."
It was a message that may not become the top issue in next year's presidential race, but it is clearly one that is lighting a fire under many in the Christian conservative movement.