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Christians Courted For Tourism, Support

Tourism Minister Benny Elon was scheduled to hold a press conference at noon today at the UN Plaza - Millennium Hotel, to announce the Tourism Ministry's new initiative entitled "Project Go Israel."
First Publish: 8/19/2003, 12:22 PM

Tourism Minister Benny Elon was scheduled to hold a press conference at noon today at the UN Plaza - Millennium Hotel, at which he was to announce the Tourism Ministry's new initiative entitled "Project Go Israel." The goal of the project is to bring one million tourists to Israel in the coming year.

Elon recently completed a Bible Belt tour of the United States, including visits to Memphis, Tn. and Atlanta, Ga. He met with Roberta Combs, President of The Christian Coalition of America; Mike Evans, Chairman of The Jerusalem Prayer Team; Ed McAteer, a founder of the Moral Majority; former Presidential candidate Gary Bauer; and others.

"In the Bible belt, I received a very warm reception," Elon said afterwards, "as our Christian evangelical friends understand quite clearly the importance of Israel fighting terror, and not giving in to the whims of Palestinian Arab terrorists. Our friends throughout the United States understand my criticism of the State Department [which warned against visiting Israel] and the need to continue to visit the State of Israel." He said that Project Go Israel is intended to "continue to revitalize Israel's tourism, for while the Road Map isn't working, our Jewish and Christian friends must stand by us and continue to visit."

Minister Elon's trip was the subject of a story in yesterday's Washington Times, which quotes evangelical Christian leaders strongly opposed to the Road Map plan. "We either have to oppose the road map or oppose the Bible," says Mike Evans, and Ed McAteer is quoted as saying, "Bible-believing Christians believe all that land belongs to Israel. It is a fatal, fatal mistake that George Bush is making. [He] is probably the most powerful man in the world, but he ain't more powerful than God. And God gave them that land. Every grain of sand on that piece of property belongs to the Jews because God gave it to [them]."

Benny Elon himself said, "I really think the Road Map won't work, because we are making the same mistakes of the Oslo Accords. It's just a question of time before everyone understands the Road Map is a Road Trap."

Herb Zweibon of Americans for a Safe Israel said that it is in Mr. Bush's interest to listen to his Christian electoral power base:
"One year after the [2000] election, Karl Rove gave a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, saying they expected 19 million of the Christian Right to show up [for the election]. Only 15 million did, so 4 million of those people did not vote. Well, tell me what President Bush has done for them since. Absolutely nothing. [The Bush administration has] been catering to the Muslim community."