(JTA) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cleared 20 minutes from the schedule of his visit to the Netherlands to thank the country’s leading Christian Zionist activist and chief rabbi for their support of the Jewish state and its people.
On Wednesday, Netanyahu called Roger van Oordt, director of the Christians for Israel organization, as well as Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs, the offices of both men said in statements to the media.
“This was a good visit, but it was too short, and I didn’t get to see our best friends in the world,” Netanyahu told a beaming van Oordt in explaining why they were speaking over the phone rather than in person.
“I wanted to call and show my deep appreciation, and we know we have no better friends on earth than you,” the Israeli leader said on speakerphone to the board of Christians for Israel, an international pro-Israel advocacy and charity organization based near Amsterdam whose 30 affiliates worldwide have hundreds of thousands of members.
Van Oordt responded that his group was privileged to be phoned by Netanyahu, who said: “I should say I’m the privileged one. We, the people of Israel, are the privileged ones in this partnership, this alliance, which is growing strong and based on the deepest values and the deepest, most rich history of culture and faith.”
Earlier this year, Christians for Israel’s Dutch affiliate urged its thousands of supporters to buy West Bank settlement goods to counterbalance a government-backed plan to issue special labels for products made by Jewish settlers in that area that is widely perceived as aimed at generating pressure on Israel to resolve the Palestinian conflict.
Also last year, Christians for Israel opened an affiliate in Ukraine, where the group for years has been engaged in efforts to help Jews immigrate to Israel and strengthen their Jewish identities in existing communities. Also involved in this effort is Jacobs, a personal friend of van Oordt.
Netanyahu thanked Jacobs, a Chabad rabbi who is outspoken in the media in his support for Israel and defense of its actions as designed to fight terrorism, for his efforts and for his cooperation with Christians for Israel, which is unusual in its scope for a haredi rabbi of his position.
Netanyahu’s two-day visit to the Netherlands ended Wednesday and included some uneasy moments. That day, Dutch-Turkish lawmaker Tunahan Kuzu, who has many Muslim supporters, demonstratively refused to shake Netanyahu’s hand. Hanna Luden, director of the Dutch pro-Israel lobby group CIDI, wrote on Thursday to the speaker of the Dutch parliament, urging disciplinary action against Kuzu.
“A lawmaker has many ways at their disposal to express their opinion,” Luden wrote. Kuzu “chose to stage a conflict with the leader of a friendly nation.”
Hours before Netanyahu’s arrival, a former Dutch prime minister, Dries van Agt, told a public broadcaster that Netanyahu was a war criminal who should be tried in The Hague rather than visit as a head of state.