WASHINGTON, DC – Hundreds of pro-Israel Christians descended on Washington, DC, on Monday to raise heated voices against the confirmation of former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.
The Action Fund of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) brought more than 400 Christian leaders, in addition to some rabbis, from 46 different states to Capitol Hill to lobby their U.S. senators and U.S. representatives to vote against Hagel’s confirmation.
At Monday’s preliminary session of the CUFI Emergency Summit, which began with a dinner and policy briefing, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), CUFI Founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee, and CUFI board member and President of American Values Gary Bauer presented the organization’s positions—which were conveyed to House and Senate members Tuesday.
“We Jews like to stand before God,” said Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg as he led the ceremonial blessing of the bread at the rapidly convened Emergency Summit dinner.
Hagee laid out CUFI’s objections to an attentive audience, concluding “we pledge that we will stand with Israel when push comes to shove.”
“Well,” extolled Hagee, “push has come to shove!”
Hagee acknowledged Hagel’s record as a Vietnam veteran and senator “with all due respect,” but stressed that the positions the former senator has taken on Iran and Israel make him unsuitable as Secretary of Defense.
“The biggest threat to the security and safety of our front line ally, Israel, is an aggressive Iran in pursuit of nuclear weapons and regional domination… Hagel is not the man for this job: not now and not in the future!” Hagee said.
Hagee suggested Iran “is so excited about Chuck Hagel’s nomination that they have endorsed him.”
“Connect the dots: Iran is a nuclear threat to Israel and America’s candidate is Chuck Hagel. He is not ours!” Hagee said.
“Iran wants to wipe the Jewish people off the face of the earth and their candidate is Chuck Hagel,” the pastor added.
Hagee reminded that Hagel has complained about what the former senator called the “Jewish Lobby.” In 2008, Hagel took a direct shot at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), telling former Middle East negotiator Aaron David Miller in a quote that appeared in Miller’s book, The Much Too Promised Land, that “the Jewish lobby intimidates a lot of people” in Washington. He also said, “I’m not an Israeli senator. I’m a United States senator.”
“Well,” said Hagee, “we are the Christians of America and we stand with Israel.”
“We have pledged our loyalty and our love for Israel and the Jewish people,” he said. “We have pledged our solidarity and love for Zion. We will not be silent.”
CUFI (Christians United for Israel) is the largest American pro-Israel organization. Its membership reflects a wide base of North American evangelical and other pro-Zionist Christian denominations, representing tens of millions of pro-Israel Americans.
Hagel chairs the Atlantic Council think tank, which in December published a column titled “Israel’s Apartheid Policy” as well as a policy paper predicting that Iran “should be viewed as a potential natural partner” for the U.S.
The former senator declined to sign an August 2006 letter asking the European Union to declare Hezbollah a terrorist organization (12 out of 100 senators did not sign), a November 2001 letter asking President George W. Bush not to meet Yasser Arafat until Arafat took steps to end violence against Israel (11 senators did not sign), and an October 2000 letter in support of Israel (four senators did not sign). Hagel did, however, sign a March 2009 letter asking Obama to directly negotiate with Hamas.