Christian Group Mounts a Strong Defense for Israel in Washington
“An unidentified guest uses a Trump Hotel branded umbrella as she walks into the West Wing of the White House,” read the caption of an Associated Press photo in the Washington Examiner. The photo was of an attractive young woman, whose face is becoming increasingly familiar in Washington political circles.
Sandy Hagee Parker is the chairwoman of Christians United for Israel (CUFI)’s Action Fund, the lobbying arm of the largest pro-Israel organization in the country. An accomplished attorney, she is also the daughter of Pastor John Hagee, the founder and chairman of CUFI, the influential Israel advocacy group.
According to a CUFI source close to the situation, Parker came to the White House with her father, as well as her mother Diana Hagee, CUFI Director David Brog and CUFI Action Fund Washington Director Gary Bauer.
“As part of our growing relationship with the [Trump] administration, CUFI leadership met with Vice President Pence and visited with the president,” the source told the Haym Salomon Center. “The meeting with the vice president was off the record, but the principals discussed working together to strengthen the US-Israel relationship, and CUFI leadership reiterated the central importance of this issue to our near 3.5 million members.”
And it’s precisely their rapidly growing membership that makes CUFI a unique advocate for Israel — an advocate that policymakers cannot afford to ignore.
Unlike typical K Street lobbying groups, CUFI wields a unique brand of influence on campaigns and elections. In addition to its nearly 3.5 million members, Pastor Hagee reaches over 7.5 million people every week through his pulpit and television cameras — voters who are energized, passionate, and who believe that their support for Israel is not only a moral imperative, but a religious one as well.
The CUFI Action Fund had flexed its muscle even before Donald Trump took the oath of office.
Upon returning from Christmas break, the word around Washington was that then-President Barack Obama had one last move against Israel at the UN.
With literally only a few days’ notice, CUFI organized more than 250 Christian leaders from across the country to come to Washington, where they met with senators from 49 states (Vermont the exception) to express their alarm over the administration’s planned betrayal of Israel. They were also promoting the following agenda:
- Use US leverage to end Israel-bashing at the UN;
- Support moving the American embassy to Jerusalem;and
- Confirm David Friedman as the US ambassador to Israel.
Here we are, a few months later, and David Friedman is ambassador to Israel; UN Ambassador Nikki Haley has channeled her inner Daniel Patrick Moynihan and attacked anti-Israel bias at the UN with vigor; and there is serious consideration being given to moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The CUFI Action Fund has also taken its efforts to state capitols, combating the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement by advocating for legislation that prohibits states from doing business with or investing in organizations that discriminate against the Jewish state. By the end of 2017, CUFI expects that more than 25 states will have adopted anti-BDS legislation.
The CUFI Action Fund also supported an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to review Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization. In that case, 11 families of Palestinian terror victims won their lawsuit against the Palestinian Authority, but the suit was subsequently thrown out by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The friend-of-the-court request was signed by a bipartisan group of senators that included Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Orin Hatch (R-UT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). When was the last time you saw those names all on the same side?
Unlike many other groups in Washington, CUFI doesn’t concern itself with Israel’s internal politics. Pastor Hagee told the Haym Salomon Center in October 2015 that, “We will support whoever the Israeli people elect to be their prime minister. We are behind Israel and the Jewish people. We also don’t live in Israel, we don’t have to deal with rockets raining down from Gaza or attacks from the West Bank. America cannot dictate how Israel protects itself.”
There is currently a bill on Capitol Hill that would call for the US to cut financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority if it continues to encourage terrorism, and to provide stipends to terrorists and their families. Instead, the Taylor Force Act requires the PA “take credible steps to end acts of violence against United States and Israeli citizens” and to “publicly condemn such acts of violence.”
With CUFI’s influence on Capitol Hill and at the ballot box only growing stronger, I expect decency to prevail, and for President Trump to sign the Taylor Force Act into law by the end of the year.
Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on twitter @pauliespoint.
A version of this article was originally published by The Washington Times.