Pastor Robert Jeffress, one of President Trump’s most devoted supporters and defenders, said during a Dove TV interview on Thursday that he is going to be delivering the opening prayer on Monday at the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Israel in Jerusalem. Jeffress, among the Religious Right leaders who lobbied hard for Trump to fulfill his campaign pledge to move the embassy, gushed that Trump is “the most faith-friendly president we’ve ever had.”
Christian leaders in Jerusalem strongly criticized Trump’s decision to move the embassy, warning that it would “yield increased hatred, conflict, violence and suffering in Jerusalem and the Holy Land, moving us farther from the goal of unity and deeper toward destructive division.” But Religious Right leaders in the U.S. were ecstatic. Christians United for Israel’s John Hagee said that because of the embassy move, Trump “will be remembered for thousands of years.”
Jeffress, like many other Religious Right leaders, has opposed the “two-state solution,” long an anchor of U.S. policy in the Middle East, because he believes that it would violate God’s will for Israel to give up control of land in the West Bank to a future Palestinian state.
In an interview with the Christian Post at the end of 2016, Jeffress declared that President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were “on the wrong side of God on this issue” when the U.S. chose not to veto a United Nations resolution on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Jeffress said the Bible declares that “God will judge any nation that divides the land that God gave to Israel.” He said the Bible was clear that the “geography of the land that he was giving to his people” includes “what we call today the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, all of that was a part of God’s gift to his people.”
Jeffress further insisted that “the Palestinians have no claim” to the land.
While a coalition of Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant churches praised the Obama administration decision, many conservative evangelicals opposed it. As Baptist News reported last year, the nation of Israel figures prominently in the end-times theology of many evangelicals:
A 2015 study by LifeWay Research found that seven in 10 evangelical Christians believe the modern nation of Israel was formed as a result of biblical prophecy and that God has a special relationship with the state of Israel declared in 1948. Nearly three in four U.S. evangelicals said current events in Israel fulfill prophecies in the New Testament Book of Revelation.
Other Religious Right leaders who have opposed any exchange of land for peace with Palestinians include televangelist Pat Robertson, who said in 2006 that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke and the earlier assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were divine punishments for “dividing God’s land,” and “historian” David Barton, who said in 2014 that God had established Israel’s boundaries and that politicians who talk about giving up land would be “messing directly with God.”
The 2016 Republican Party platform, shaped strongly by Religious Right leaders, dropped the party’s previous support for a two-state solution. Liberty Counsel praised Trump’s choice of David Friedman as U.S. ambassador to Israel in part because he has been “an opponent of the so-called two-state solution.” Liberty Counsel’s Matt Staver has also praised the Trump administration’s decision to drop the term “occupied” in reference to the West Bank and Golan Heights; Religious Right leaders refer to disputed territories by the biblical names of Judea and Samaria and insist that Israel has a divine deed to all the territory.