EDITOR’S NOTE: Recently Dr. Evans hosted a historic Zoom call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and hundreds of evangelical leaders in America. During that call, Dr. Evans asked his friend of more than 40 years what the most important thing we can do to support Israel is. The answer came immediately—and it is a challenge that you need to hear. So we’re sharing excerpts from that conversation with you today.
ME: Well, this is a very special meeting with our evangelical friends, especially in America. The year was 1980. I met with Menachim Begin. And he said, “Why did you come?” And I said, “Why did I come?” He said it three times, and I didn’t answer. Finally he said, “Do you know why you came?” I said, “No, Mr. Prime Minister.” “Do you know anything?” he asked and I said, “God sent me.” He said, “Mike, when God tells you why He sent you, come back and tell me.” This was the 30th of June.
On the 5th of July, I came back and I went to him and I said, “I know why I came. God told me to build a bridge.” He laughed and said, “You’re going to build the Brooklyn Bridge?” said, “No, a bridge of love between Bible-believing evangelical Christians and the state of Israel.”
He reached out his hand and said, “Mike, I want to build that bridge with you together. And then I said, “There’s one more thing, Mr. Prime Minister. I met the Prime Minister yesterday.” He said, “No you’re mistaken. You met me on the 30th of June.” I said, “His name is Benjamin Netanyahu. Would you give him a job in the government?” He looked at Reuben Hecht and he said, “Reuben, offer him a position under Moshe Aaron.”
There’s no world leader except you, Mr. Prime Minister, who unites the evangelicals of the world. They dearly love you. Can you tell us several things? Number one, how important is the evangelical support of the state of Israel?
BN: Well, first of all, Mike, I learned from you that you’re responsible for all this mess that I’m in. So I’m holding you accountable. [laughter] I thank you for your support over the years and the support of the many friends in your audience. And the answer is that they’re great friends. I’m a great champion of devout Christians because devout Christians are the greatest champion of the state of Israel.
When you look at it, it was first British Christian Zionism and then American Christian Zionism in the 19th century that preceded Jewish Zionism and had a profound impact on the founding of the Jewish state and creating the international support that led to the Balfour Declaration and other things that enabled the rise of the idea of the Jewish state.
And I think that nothing has changed. That is still the most powerful engine of support that we have and one that is based on our common foundations, the Judeo-Christian tradition that is so important and that gives meaning to our lives, gives purpose and gives strength. So I thank you and I thank your audience, not only those who are watching this, but everywhere around the world. Thank you, friends.
ME: Tell me, tell them a little bit about the Netanyahu family. You don’t talk too much about it because you’re very busy, but your grandfather, your father, your brother had a great impact upon your life.
BN: Well, they did indeed. My grandfather was a rabbi and a great orator and a great Zionist leader. He was tremendously impressed and inspired by Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, the modern Moses. And he became a great disciple of his and went around the world, including the United States, where he gave some 600 lectures in support of founding of the Jewish state.
My father was a great historian who came to the United States during World War II to agitate for a Jewish state. He believed that he had to recruit not only the leaders of America, and he did. He met with many of them, including Eisenhower, as a young man, without any organization.
He was able to impress upon them the importance of founding of a Jewish state because of the common interest that we would have. He said that we would be the strongest power in the Middle East. Eisenhower looked at him and said, “How is that possible? You’re only 600,000 people. You’ll be swept away by the Arabs.”
And he said, “General, you’ve just seen in two world wars how we Jews fight for other nations. Can you imagine how powerful will be when we fight for our own nation?” And Eisenhower bought him before the general staff twice because he was so impressed with his spirit. But my father didn’t only appeal to Jewish interests. He said that we would help America block the Soviet domination of the Middle East. And it all turned
out to be true. But he also appealed to the American people. He believed in the power of America’s people. And he made a great effort to recruit American public opinion support for the state of Israel.
So I think I got something from both of them, certainly inspired by both of them. My older brother, Jonathan, Yoni, was a military commander. He was really a poet, a philosopher, and a warrior. And he fell leading the rescue mission, the famed rescue mission in Uganda on July 4, 1976, the bicentennial of America. There is a lot of…I suppose there are a lot of connecting points that I have not only to my family, but to to the United States of America, who I always believed was the beacon of freedom in modern times and in history.
ME: You’ve built alliances with virtually the majority of the nations of the world, at least the sane nations of the world. How did this transpire?
BN: Well, there’s a rule of politics and that is that strength attracts and weakness repels. If you’re strong, people will come to you. We had to be strong. To be strong, we had to be strong, not only in our faith, in our resolve, but we also had to be strong in the material capacities that make nations strong. The most important thing that you need for strength is a strong military, but a strong military requires a strong economy. I devoted a good deal of my time in office, 16 years as Prime Minister of Israel now, to convert Israel from a semi-socialist economy to a free market capitalist economy. And once we did that, we had all the genius that is embedded in our people, the technological and scientific powers, meet with the forces of the market, and that created this great transformation of Israel into the start-up nation, into one of the preeminent powerhouses of technology in today’s world.
So the combination of economic power, economic and technological power, and military and intelligence power, combined to give us diplomatic power, because now many countries are coming to us to benefit from our prowess in technology and in defense, fighting terror, for example. I have to say that the greatest and the most impressive change has been the response of Arab nations.
We’ve been able to make four historic peace treaties, the Abraham Accords, which we worked out with President Trump and his administration, because Arab countries were coming to us trying to benefit their own peoples, their own security, and their own prosperity. We did it essentially by making Israel strong. If you’re strong, people will come to you. If you’re strong, people will make peace with you.
Nobody makes peace with the weak. You know, I quietly met with a lot of these Muslim leaders during the Trump administration like the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. It took a while to persuade people even in the previous administration that we don’t have to go through the Palestinians get their consent to try to get peace with the broader Arab world.
That’s what people were telling us for 25 years. They said, “You can’t go beyond the peace that we made with Egypt and with Jordan. You’re not going to get to the broader Arab world if you don’t make peace first with the Palestinians.” The problem with that is that the Palestinians don’t want peace. They don’t want a peace with Israel. They want a peace without Israel. They don’t even want a state next to Israel. They want a state instead of Israel. So if we wait for them, we’ll wait another quarter of a century. We’re not going to get anywhere. And so we decided to go around the Palestinians and make peace directly with the Arab capitals.
And by the way, the Palestinians are about 2 % of the Arab world, but that 2% has been the tail wagging the dog. Once they realize that their hope, their fantasy of destroying Israel is not going to happen, because the rest of the Arab world gradually will make peace with Israel, then they might come around to accepting a Jewish state. And I think that peace doesn’t work inside out the Palestinians and then the Arab world. I think it works outside in the Arab world and then possibly the Palestinians.
But I want to tell you that we’re working now just as we did with the Trump administration with the current administration, the Biden administration to see if we can expand the peace to Saudi Arabia as well. I can’t guarantee that we will succeed, but we’re giving it a good try and I hope we succeed. It’ll be good for everyone.
ME: I want to ask you about judicial reform. In the United States, the Supreme Court justices cannot vote on each other, and the Attorney General is not over the president and the legislature. Would you please explain this, your judicial reforms, in light of the misinformation we’re getting in the media?
BN: Well this raises exactly the issues that are of concern to us. I mean, democracy is based on the idea that you balance the will of the majority with the rights of the minority, really the rights of individuals. How do you balance that? You balance that by having checks and balances between the three arms of government. You have a balance between the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. In Israel’s first 50 years, that balance was pretty much maintained.
But it was slowly eroded by the most activist judiciary on the planet. And they aggregated for themselves more and more powers of the executive, of the government, and the legislature, the Knesset. What we’re trying to do is bring it back in line, at least somewhat. And of course, that has received tremendous hate and misrepresentation Israel was a democracy, will be a democracy.
I think it’ll be a better and stronger democracy, and certainly one that has checks and balances and not only checks of the judiciary and no balance through the other branches of governments. I think it’ll be a stronger democracy when this is all over. Thank you. On the question of security and tourism, people hear misinformation about protests and all that. They wonder, is it safe to go to Israel? My question is, is going to Israel safer than going to Miami or Chicago? Well, I heard two friends talking about it, two American friends. And one of them said, “Is it safe to go to Israel?” And the other one said, “Well, you know, once you get past JFK airport, it’s fine!”
There’s lawlessness, there’s terror, there are problems. That’s true of every one of the countries in the world, even in the democracies. But I can assure it’s safe and you’ll be, as you know, the people who are watching you and those who’ve been to Israel know that Israel welcomes tourists. But our Christian friends, when they come here, they’re really embraced. I mean, you’ll find this across, there’s some, very few, a small minority who don’t share that view. We’re taking very strong action against them because you are the greatest friends that the Jewish state has. I never forget it. And the vast majority of Israelis strongly agree with me. So please come, you’ll be safe and you’ll be welcome.
ME: Mr. Prime Minister, you are the voice of moral clarity. I know your heroes are Churchill and Reagan. You are the one who stood up at the United Nations and a joint session of Congress against Iran. There’s a lot of concern we have right now because we’re seeing Iranian drones in Ukraine and we’re seeing the possibility of the Russians building a greater alliance with Iran that could potentially create a catastrophic nuclear arms race in the Gulf states. Can you update us on this Iran dilemma?
BN: Well, first of all, I think it’s very important to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons. Our efforts over the years have slowed them down. They thought they’d be where they are today 10 years ago. So they’re 10 years behind. We slowed them down, but we didn’t stop them. The only way you can stop them, the only way, is to have a credible military threat. And I think that if they don’t see that threat, then they’ll continue, and then you’ll have to exercise the means to physically stop them.
That’s what happened with our action against Saddam Hussein’s nuclear reactor in Iraq. We stopped it militarily. That’s what happened with Syria’s attempt to build a nuclear plant, a military nuclear program. We stopped it militarily. That’s what happened with Gaddafi’s Libya. It was stopped by the United States militarily, not by action, but by the threat. It wasn’t stopped in North Korea, because there was no threat through successive administrations. So now they have the weapons to threaten half of Asia, and they’re trying to build ICBMs, Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles, to reach the United States.
Iran is like 30 North Koreas. Iran calls America the Great Satan. We’re the little Satan. I always tell my European friends, don’t be offended, but you’re a middle-sized Satan. But they’re building long -range rockets and missiles to reach them to nuclear tip. If Iran is not stopped, then Iran will be able to threaten the Great Satan, any part of it, with nuclear weapons, with intercontinental ballistic missiles tipped with atomic bombs.
So we have a common interest to stop Iran’s nuclear program. And again, the one guarantor is that you have a credible military threat against them. And the second is something that has emerged over the last few years, and that is the Iranian people. The Iranian people are rising up in unbelievably courageous protests, where they’re mowed down often. People don’t know. I speak occasionally to Iranian audiences and we can monitor how many people listen to these broadcasts. We often have 20 million Iranians listening and there are 90 million Iranians. Can you imagine the thirst for freedom there?
So I would say, not only have a credible military threat against Iran, but also support the Iranian people, support the broadcasts that are going there, support the free media that is going there. That is perhaps as important as the first thing that I mentioned. As far as Iran and Russia, that’s very disturbing to us. It’s disturbing, one, that they’re selling these killer drones to Russia, and that’s killing obviously a lot of innocent people. But it’s also concerning to us that the other way could also be working, that there would be things that Russia is giving Iran militarily, or in terms of intelligence. And we’re monitoring that day by day. Both things are of great concern to us.
ME: My last question has to do with Friends of Zion Heritage Center. You were actually the inspiration for it. It’s now the largest pro -Israel social network platform in the world. Can you tell us what is the most important thing that the evangelicals can do now and focus on for the state of Israel?
BN: Right now, the most important thing that you can do, in my mind, is to educate your younger generation, to infuse them with your faith, with your knowledge, with your heritage, with our common heritage, to tell them how important it is for history, for humanity, and for our Judeo-Christian tradition, the revival, the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and the reconstruction of an independent Jewish state in the Jewish homeland. I think that’s important. If I had to say, what is the most important thing that you could do? Pass the torch.
ME: Mr. Prime Minister, it has been an extremely great honor. You and I have been cherished friends for 43 years, but you have tens of millions of cherished friends here in America and throughout the world. God bless you, sir.
BN: God bless you. Thank you. Thank you.
View the interview: https://youtu.be/G5SoR0rzjw0
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