WASHINGTON (JTA) — A top Christian Zionist leader criticized the Obama administration’s "pressuring" of Israel.
While not mentioning President Obama by name, Christians United for Israel founder and chairman Pastor John Hagee said Tuesday evening at the organization’s Washington conference that "America is singling out Israel" in the Middle East.
"Despite all of the risks Israel has taken for peace, our government is pressuring Israel to take more risks," said Hagee in a speech to 4,000 delegates at the group’s "A Night to Honor Israel" banquet. "Hello Congress, we’re putting pressure on the wrong people here. You want to get tough, get tough with the terrorists, not the only democracy in the Middle East."
Earlier in the day, when introducing a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Hagee specifically criticized U.S. demands that Israel freeze settlement construction, saying that he and his supporters back "Israel’s sovereign right to grow and develop the settlements of israel as you see fit and not yield to the presssure of the United States government."
CUFI also presented its Defender of Israel Award to U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.), who noted that he had attended three of the organization’s four annual conferences. Lieberman also made an apparent reference to Obama’s Middle policy, saying "the chief obstacle to peace in the Middle East is not Israelis living on the West Bank but the regime in Tehran."
The banquet also included greetings from the new Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, a speech from Jewish radio talk show host Dennis Prager and a muscial performance from Dudu Fisher. A number of delegates at one point danced the hora during the singing of "Hava Nagila."
CUFI delegates lobbied Wednesday on Capitol Hill, with Executive Director David Brog saying they would be urging their members of Congress not to "pressure" Israel but to respect "Israel’s democratically elected government" and "work with them." They also will be asking for congressional support on two pieces of Iran-related legislation having to do with sanctions and divestment.