White House Talks Mid-East Peace with Religious Right Leaders Who Reject Land-for-Peace

Evangelical leaders were invited to a White House "listening session" on Middle East peace negotiations. (Image from photo posted on twitter by pastor Jentezen Franklin)

Religious Right and evangelical leaders, including John Hagee, Lance Wallnau, Jentezen Franklin and President Trump’s “spiritual advisor” Paula White Cain, met at the White House on Thursday afternoon with Jason Greenblatt, Trump’s special representative for international negotiations.

CNN reported a month ago that the White House was getting ready to “rally support” for a Middle East peace plan, even though Palestinian officials had cut off contact with the Trump administration after it moved the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. Greenblatt joined Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner on a recent Middle East trip to brief allies about plans for the “deal of the century”—a peace settlement between Israel and Palestinians. Kushner reportedly kept U.S. embassy staff out of  his meetings with Saudia Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported this week that in a Tuesday interview, Greenblatt had made a plea for people to support the plan when its details emerge, saying “focus on the good, and see the possibilities of a brighter future.” It is the Israelis and Palestinians who will “have to live with the consequences of the plan,” Greenblatt told JTA, and “if the two sides are willing to engage, they will be the ones to work through the tough issues.”

But if the Trump administration hoped that its close political alliance with Religious Right leaders—and their gushing praise for the embassy move—meant they would support a land-for-peace deal, they haven’t been paying attention to some Religious Right leaders’ rhetoric that has for years denounced any return of land to Palestinian control as a violation of God’s will. Pat Robertson, for example, has said that then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke, and the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin a decade earlier, were divine punishment for “dividing God’s land,” and he warned a few years ago that God would punish the U.S. with natural disasters if it played a role in brokering a two-state solution.

On Friday, Trump-supporting “prophet” Lance Wallnau posted a video urging his followers to send Trump a message opposing any land-for-peace deal:

You want to pray about what’s happening. And you want to pray about it because we have got to get a message to the president that giving up land or opening up Jerusalem so that Palestinians have a capital and control part of Jerusalem is a disaster. And the reason why it’s a disaster for him is that the evangelical base will stay with him through thick and thin—we’re like Napoleon’s Old Guard—we’ll go to Waterloo with him, provided he doesn’t violate the sacred fundamentals of our faith: life, marriage, and Israel.

Israel—and every time we have given land up of Israel, we have had a curse on our country. You watch. Every time a president has taken something away from Israel, the judgement of God inevitably calls down.

Trump moved the embassy, so that means I believe there’s been a weird boomerang blessing on him, that no matter how insane the 95 percent of the media is and these investigations that Russia doesn’t exist but they’re going to go after his taxes. And it’s all just such a maddening manipulation of legal powers to pull him out of office, but the blessing of God is on him. …

I’m saying pray, pray, pray that the president hears the evangelical voices. Do not take away land from Israel! He has to have an agreement, because there could be a strike against Iran, if they move on the Syrian border, Israel’s going to strike them. …

So they wouldn’t tell us what the plan is, but they wanted to hear what evangelicals said. … Please share this, get the message out.

Wallnau’s position is not shared by all evangelicals, and not everyone who joined the White House meeting may take as uncompromising a stance. Franklin called it a “tremendous” and “encouraging” meeting and said it is an “exciting time.” He encouraged people to pray for peace.

In a Christians United for Israel tweet, Hagee, for whom Israel plays a key role in his apocalyptic theology, referred to the meeting as a “listening session” to “discuss the forthcoming peace plan.” Said Hagee, “For Zion’s sake we will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake we will not hold our peace.” In a video, he said, “Israel and the Jewish people need our prayers and our advocacy like never before.”

One of Trump’s biggest Religious Right boosters, Robert Jeffress, prayed at the Jerusalem celebration of the embassy move, but he has not been mentioned in news reports of this week’s meeting. Jeffress said in 2016 that “God will judge any nation that divides the land that God gave to Israel.”