Yaalon: Israelis and Evangelicals are 'All in the Same Boat'

Strategic Affairs Minister says government wants to strengthen its relationship with evangelicals, at conference on Bible prophecy.

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Gil Ronen, | updated: 19:45

Moshe Yaalon (file)
Moshe Yaalon (file)
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yaalon spoke at a high profile Christian evangelical conference in the United States on Saturday, and stated that the Israeli government wants to continue to strengthen its relationship with evangelical Christians. Israelis and evangelicals are "all in the same boat," the former Chief of Staff added.

According to CBN analyst Erick Stakelbeck, Yaalon was “undoubtedly the most anticipated speaker for the roughly 1,500 in attendance and 20,000 tuning in via satellite from around the world” to the 2010 Epicenter conference in Philadelphia, which focuses on Bible prophecy, Israel, and the Middle East.

Yaalon called for the "intensive dialogue" between Israel and the United States to become "deeper and, based more on empathy on both sides.” Both sides, he said, “have to show more readiness to listen to the other and understand and respect the concerns and the logic of the other."

The former top IDF soldier expressed hope that the coming meeting between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, slated to be held July 6 in Washington, "will send this message of closing the gaps."

Yaalon, who is a member of Netanyahu's 'Septet' of trusted cabinet ministers, said he believes there is still time to stop Iran's nuclear program through non-military means, should the West decides to do so. He said that he is encouraged by Russia's willingness to cooperate with sanctions against Iran.

Evangelical Christians, who wield great influence in the United States and believe that the Jewish rebirth in the Land of Israel is part of a Divine plan for redemption, are seen by many as Israeli nationalists' strongest ally in an largely hostile world. Some evangelical leaders, like possible Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, are frequent visitors to Judea and Samaria and enjoy excellent relations with Arutz Sheva, Israel's leading nationalist media outlet. Still, relations between the Israeli religious-Jewish Right and the American Christian Right are a tricky matter, because of the mutual distrust inherent in any relationship between religions.

However, Yaalon, like Prime Minister Netanyahu, is a secular Jew, and thus arguably more free to make alliances according to what he perceives as the State of Israel's current geopolitical and military interests.