A Southern Baptist megachurch pastor says President Donald Trump was right to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel because the Bible tells him so.
“President Trump is not only on the right side of history; he is on the right side of God,” Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, said Dec. 14 on Fox News.
Appearing on “The Story with Martha MacCallum,” Jeffress, one of Trump’s evangelical advisers, said the New Testament nativity story “proves that the Palestinians are absolutely wrong and President Trump is absolutely right about Jerusalem.”
“In Luke’s Gospel, it notes that Jesus was a descendant of King David,” Jeffress said. “We know from history that David is the one who named Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in one thousand B.C. That’s a full 11 hundred years before the term Palestinian was invented by the Roman emperor Hadrian.”
Jeffress, a Fox News contributor and early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign, said the president asked him to say a few words before closing last week’s White House Christmas party with a prayer.
“I thanked President Trump for having the guts to do what no other U.S. president has been willing to do in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” Jeffress said. “President Trump is not only on the right side of history; he is on the right side of God.”
Trump’s Dec. 6 decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. embassy there broke with previous administrations who thought it would jeopardize peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and further destabilize the region.
The move sparked protests in Muslim majority countries and was widely condemned by the international community, including some of America’s allies.
Israel considers Jerusalem the “complete and united” capital of the state, but it is a contested claim. After Israel’s conquest of East Jerusalem during the Six Day War in 1967, foreign embassies moved to Tel Aviv to avoid the appearance of taking sides.
Trump promised during his presidential campaign to move the embassy, describing Jerusalem as “the eternal capital of the Jewish people” in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In July, Vice President Mike Pence told Christians United for Israel, an American Christian organization led by Texas pastor John Hagee, that he supports Israel because of his Christian faith.
Hagee, founder and senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, called Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem “a bold and courageous stand that will be remembered in history forever.”
“President Trump told me, when last we spoke regarding the embassy, that he would not disappoint us, speaking of the evangelical community, and today he has kept that promise,” Hagee said Dec. 6. “This shows the world that Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is not up for negotiation, and America is, and shall always remain, a loyal ally of Israel.”
Evangelical Christians like Hagee are some of Israel’s staunchest defenders. So-called Christian Zionists believe both the founding of the State of Israel in 1948 and the capture of Jerusalem in 1967 were fulfillment of God’s promises made to Abraham to establish Israel as a Jewish nation forever.
Christian Zionists often point to Bible verses like Gen. 12:3 to argue that God will “bless” the United States if it “blesses” Israel and “curse” the nation if it does not. Some argue that Jewish possession of Jerusalem, and particularly the Temple Mount in East Jerusalem, are vital to fulfilling prophecy related to the Second Coming of Christ.
Critics of Zionist theology say it misinterprets the Bible and legitimizes injustice by Israel’s government against Palestinians. A recent LifeWay Research poll showed support for Israel slipping among younger evangelicals.
While theological support for Israel may be eroding, the threat caused by terrorist groups like ISIS is causing some U.S. citizens to look at Israel in a more positive light. A new White House strategy document says the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is no longer the “prime irritant” prolonging Mideast conflict.
“Today, the threats from radical jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems,” the document says. “States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.”
Other Americans, meanwhile, support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks “to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law.”