The Evangelical movement known as “Christian Zionists” wields considerable power over Israeli politics, yet its work goes almost unreported. Its extensive ties with Israel’s Right and parliament – the Knesset – are virtually unknown to the Israeli public, leaving Christian "Zionists" a powerful yet all but invisible player in the Israeli public life.
In the last decade, Christian "Zionist" leaders have developed close ties with top Israeli politicians and officials, allowing them to shape the agendas of Knesset members (MKs) and impact Israel’s foreign relations.
By investing a small fortune in the establishment of an organizational network in Israel, Christian "Zionist" groups now hold considerable sway over Middle East politics. Their impact on official Israeli institutions is kept far from the public eye, although that very public suffers the direct consequences of the growing involvement of religious fundamentalists in local politics.
This investigative report traces how the Christian "Zionist" lobby in Israel operates: its organizational structure, allies, and actions. We also analyze the implications of Christian "Zionist" involvement in Israeli politics and life. Who are the leading players? What are their ideological and theological motivations? Who funds them, and who are their main allies? Most importantly: why, despite their broad activity in Israel, does the public hear so little about them?
The Christian "Zionist" lobby operates mostly behind the scenes, under the guise of unqualified support for the state of Israel. In reality, these groups do not promote the general good of Israel but rather the specific political vision of the Israeli settler right wing. For that reason, most of the Christian Zionists’ financial and political ties are with right-wing players: political parties, non-profits, and local councils.
The relatively new political alliance between the Christian "Zionists" and the settler right wing is based on a confluence of interests and shared ideology. Like the Jewish Settler leaders, the Christian "Zionists" adamantly oppose a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Their motivation, however, could not be more different: they believe that establishing Jewish settlements throughout the biblical Land of Israel is a prerequisite to the Second Coming. The messianic vision of some Christian "Zionist" leaders designates a bitter fate for the Jewish people of Israel: two-thirds of them will be annihilated in Armageddon.
Ideologically, the Christian "Zionists" and the settlers share conservative social agendas and a deep hostility towards Islam.
A primary cause for concern over this alliance is Christian "Zionist" influence on U.S.-Israel relations. These highly-funded organizations now impact crucial foreign policy decisions, lending the settler right wing an unprecedentedly powerful voice in Washington. For example, they massively pressure the White House, regardless of presidential affiliation, to avoid advancing any political compromise between Israel and the Palestinians. Christian "Zionists" also played a major backstage role in the Obama-Netanyahu crisis leading up to Israel’s 2015 general elections.
Although many Christian "Zionist" groups openly anticipate the death of millions of Jews, official Israel collaborates with them. For some time now, Christian "Zionists" groups have engaged in intensive parliamentary lobbying through the powerful Knesset Christian Allies Caucus (KCAC) – one of 26 such lobbies in world parliaments.
The KCAC’s work is directed by the political agendas of the Washington-based Israel Allies Foundation (IAF)’s leaders and donors. Over the years, the IAF has successfully created total identification between the official lobby group and the foundation – including unlawful use of Israeli state symbols – enjoying the false front of an official Knesset entity.
Ideology aside, being a Knesset member with ties to Christian "Zionist" groups comes with considerable perks. The IAF, and many other organizations, often arrange lengthy trips to exotic destinations around the world for MKs, some even adding direct funding. The latter, in return, promote the interests of these various churches in Israel by awarding them prizes, cutting red tape for them, and even assisting with fundraising on their behalf. In one case, Israel granted a missionary church extensive land in the Galilee (near the theologically important Kinneret) for a real estate enterprise – sidestepping the governmental tender process and the need for relevant permits.
The Christian "Zionists" also heavily fund Israeli settlements in the West Bank. In recent years, tens of millions of US dollars have flowed insert Formula to into settlements for projects ranging from public buildings to security equipment to dairies and water towers. Christian "Zionist" organizations provide large numbers of volunteers for farmers in settlements, including in illegal outposts (settlements that are illegal under Israeli law, too). Within Israel, the Christian "Zionist" lobby works closely with IDF units and supports missionary organizations, anti-abortion non-profits, anti-gay action, and movements working to establish the Third Temple on the Temple Mount with the aim of sparking war with global Islam.
Above all, this political alliance speaks volumes of the processes at work in Israel’s right wing. First, the Right’s broad financial ties with the Christian "Zionists" quash criticism of the Israeli Left for receiving foreign aid. Second, its partnership with the only force in U.S. politics that still rejects the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is yet another indication of the growing, unprecedented distance from traditional allies in the liberal West. Third, finding ideological common ground with groups on the fundamentalist fringes of global politics is indicative of the extremist religious turn that the Israeli Right has taken in recent decades.
Summary of findings:
•In the last decade, the Israeli Right and the primarily U.S.-based Christian "Zionist" Right have grown dramatically closer. This political alliance allows Evangelical interests to play a significant role in on Israeli politics, with broad implications for Israel-U.S. relations. The fact that the Israeli Right is working closely with the only force in U.S. politics that still opposes the two-state solution indicates its growing distance from traditional liberal allies in the West.
•The Christian "Zionist" lobby in the Knesset is controlled by the Washington-based Israel Allies Foundation (IAF). Foundation employees use the official lobby title – including prohibited use of Israeli state symbols – as a front for independent lobbying to promote the political agenda of the foundation’s leaders and donors. This façade creates the wrongful impression that foundation employees are actually employed by the Knesset or work at its bidding.
•From 2006 to 2014, twenty Knesset members (MKs) enjoyed 69 trips to various destinations around the world courtesy of Christian "Zionist" organizations. The purpose of these trips was not explained to the public; some of them included unusually lengthy stays at exotic places such as the Philippines, Barbados, and the Caribbean Islands.
•These MKs, in turn, promoted the interests of Christian "Zionist" organizations in Israel by granting them awards, cutting red tape for them, and assisting fundraising efforts. In one case, Israel granted a missionary church extensive land in the Galilee for a real estate enterprise – sidestepping the governmental tender process and the need for relevant permits.
•Christian "Zionist" groups also heavily fund Israeli settlements in the West Bank, providing tens of millions of US dollars in recent years for projects in settlements (including illegal outposts) and for Jewish movements working to build a Third Temple.
•The Christian "Zionist" lobby within Israel funds and promotes missionary organizations (working with IDF units, among others), anti-abortion non-profits, and anti-gay action.