JERUSALEM: American evangelist John Hagee on Sunday announced donations of $6 million to a number of Israeli causes and declared that Israel must remain in control of all of Jerusalem.
Hagee, who has been in the news lately for his endorsement of U.S. Presidential candidate John McCain and his criticism of the Catholic Church, brought hundreds of backers on a solidarity trip to Israel.
Hagee’s group, Christians United for Israel, held a colorful rally at Jerusalem’s convention center.
Ad: Vacation? City Trip? Weekend Break? Book Skip-the-line tickets
The mostly American audience waved Israeli flags and cheered as Hagee joined keynote speaker Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Israel’s hardline opposition Likud Party, to insist Jerusalem remain united and under Jewish control.
“Turning part or all of Jerusalem over to the Palestinians would be tantamount to turning it over to the Taliban,” Hagee said. Palestinians claim the eastern part of the city, captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war, as the capital of their future state.
Among the 16 causes Hagee supported with the contributions he announced were divided the Magen David Adom emergency service and a conference center in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Ariel.
The fate of Jewish settlements like Ariel is one of the issues at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Support of evangelicals for Israel’s maintaining control of all of the West Bank endears them to Israeli hardliners but troubles more dovish activists.
“If they’re giving money to mainstream causes it’s hard to object,” said political analyst Yossi Alpher, who edits an Israeli-Arab online newsletter.
But he added, “When they give money to extreme right-wing causes and when they direct their political support there, they are damaging the peace process.”
Hagee’s statements about Catholicism caused McCain to distance himself last month. The San Antonio pastor suggested that Catholic anti-Semitism shaped German Nazi ruler Adolf Hitler, among other comments.