Are you satisfied by the effort made on the part of the US to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities? What should be the next step?
No, I am not at all satisfied. Neither diplomacy nor sanctions are working. As the Wall Street Journal noted earlier this month, the Obama administration has opened loopholes in the sanctions “you could drive a warhead through.” As a result of the Administration’s policy, Iran’s top 20 trading partners are largely exempt from the sanctions.
We need to immediately tighten the sanctions regime. But that’s not enough. I think that our efforts at diplomacy and sanctions can only be effective if we make it clear that America will never permit Iran to acquire a nuclear weapons capability and that all options are on the table to prevent this. This is why our CUFI activists are going to go to the Hill in support of two resolutions – H. Res 568 and S.J. Res 421 – which clarify our red lines and make clear that all options are on the table except for permitting and containing a nuclear Iran.
Not long ago, a Jewish students’ magazine published an article vehemently criticizing the “unholy alliance” between evangelicals and pro-Israel campus groups. CUFI responded to this specific article, but my question is this: why do such articles still appear, and does it mean you’ve failed, thus far, to educate or convince fellow Jews that CUFI’s motivations are not conversional?
Not at all. Look, there are certainly still critics out there. But in the short six years since I founded CUFI we’ve seen a fundamental shift in the response of the Jewish community to our efforts. At first, the mainstream of the community kept its distance, and only a few brave souls ventured out to embrace us. Today, the opposite is true—the mainstream of the Jewish and pro-Israel community embraces us, and only an ideological minority insists on criticizing us and staying away from our events. As the piece you referenced makes clear, those who attack us have to invoke myths and lies, because the truth is far too friendly.
How are you and CUFI responding, if at all, to efforts by Christian supporters of the Palestinians to encourage Evangelicals to ‘switch sides’ and even back divestment from Israel?
We’re moving full steam ahead to grow CUFI as the big tent for all Christian friends of Israel. We may never win over the ideological foes of Israel in the leadership of some of the mainline denomination. But there’s a large rank and file which doesn’t share the sentiments of their leaders. When it comes to support for Israel, these Christians are in play. We need to reach them with our pro-Israel message before others reach them with their message of boycott and divestment. This is why we do an average of 40 events every month. This is why we held over 70 events in the month of April alone. We have a lot of work to do and a lot of Christians to reach!
A Vanity Fair writer explained not long ago that “The American Bibi appeals not only to American Jews; in fact, evangelical Christians like him even more, and certainly far more uncritically.” Do you think he’s right – do evangelical Christians like Netanyahu more than American Jews?
Well, last I checked Bibi was extremely popular in Israel. I don’t believe that any other Israeli prime minister has ever had so large a government majority. And he sure seems to get a warm reception from American Jews every time he speaks in America. But yes, it’s certainly true that Christian Zionists admire Prime Minister Netanyahu a great deal. We have a lot in common. Like him. we believe strongly in Israel’s right to exist and right to self defense and don’t apologize for it. Like him, we believe that Israel must always bargain from a position of strength. And lately, we have one more thing in common: since he’s been studying the Bible with his son, Prime Minister Netanyahu has been quoting scripture even more that a lot of clergy I know!
You said last year that President Obama is not pro-Israel - have you changed your mind in the past 12 months? Do you see Mitt Romney as more pro-Israel than Obama? In what ways?
I’m not going to make any comparisons or endorsements. But I do stand behind what I said last year. I’ve been disappointed by President Obama’s approach to Israel and the region. He seems to see Israel as the main obstacle to peace in the Middle East. This mistaken belief leads to a mistaken emphasis and mistaken policies.
You have spoken out against efforts to convert Jews to Christianity, but not members of other faiths - why?
I have opposed targeting Jews for conversion. The Bible makes clear that God has his hand on the Jewish people and they are central to God’s plans for humanity. The same cannot be said of other faiths.
My closest friend in the clergy is Rabbi Aryeh Scheinberg, the Orthodox Rabbi of San Antonio. We’ve basically agreed that when Messiah comes one of us is going to have a serious theological adjustment to make. He thinks that I’m the one who’s going to have to adjust, and I of course he’ll be facing the adjustment. But until Messiah comes we’re going to lock arms and work together on behalf of Israel and the Jewish people.