Monday, February 05, 2007

Canadian government reportedly forming pro-Israel lobby; Prime Minister Harper to attend official announcement?

The Jeruselam Post Online Edition

Canadian government forming pro-Israel lobby

The Canadian government is establishing an "Israel Allies Caucus" this week meant to mobilize support for the State of Israel and promote Judeo-Christian values amid a groundswell of Christian support for Israel around the world.

The launching of the Canadian parliamentary lobby, which is based on the formation of the Knesset's "Christian Allies Caucus" three years ago, comes less than six months after a similar lobby was established in the US Congress.

The establishment of the new pro-Israel lobby will be officially announced in Ottawa on Tuesday in the presence of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian and Israeli parliamentarians, including MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party) MK Orit Noked (Labor) and MK Ran Cohen (Meretz), as well as members of the Canadian-Israel Friendship League.

The event comes at a time of burgeoning relations between Israel and the largely supportive evangelical Christian community around the world.

"The launching of the Canadian Parliamentary Israel Allies Caucus is a sign of things to come," said Josh Reinstein, director of the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus in an interview from Canada on Sunday.

"We hope that one day every parliament and government around the world will form a sister caucus to the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus which will mobilize support for Israel around the world and promote Judeo-Christian values."

Over the next six months, similar parliamentary lobbies are expected to be established in the Philippines, South Korea, Malawi, South Africa and Finland.

The increasingly influential Israeli parliamentary lobby, which is currently made up of 12 MKs from seven parties across the political spectrum, has come to epitomize Israel's newfound interest in garnering the support of the Christian world in the 21st century, especially the largely pro-Israel evangelical Christian community around the world, at a time when radical Islam is on the rise.

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The Jeruselam Post Online Edition

Christian Allies Caucus vows that 'the best is yet to come'

The Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus is marking its third anniversary on Tuesday, as ties between Israel and the predominantly supportive Evangelical Christian community around the world continue to strengthen.

The increasingly-influential parliamentary lobby, which is currently made up of 12 Knesset members from seven parties across the political spectrum, has come to epitomize Israel's newfound interest in garnering the support of the Christian world in the 21st century, at a time when radical Islam is on the rise.

"A State of Israel which does not understand that its strongest friend in the world at a time of growing threats from Islamic extremism is the Christian world, and particularly the Evangelical Christian community, is a state which is not politically astute," said interim Caucus leader MK Benny Elon (National Union-National Religious Party), the hawkish rabbi who spearheaded the campaign to court Evangelical Christian support during his tenure as tourism minister.

Established in January 2004 amid an unprecedented wave of Palestinian suicide bombings, the parliamentary lobby immediately took off, as pro-Israel Christian pilgrims, particularly Evangelicals, stood out in the then-empty streets of Jerusalem, their moral support conspicuous among the city's hard-hit residents at a time when even many American Jews didn't come to Israel.

After decades of shying away from Christian supporters, the newly formed lobby burst onto the scene with a flurry of activity, which continued apace in the last year, even as the Caucus's highly-respected founder, MK Yuri Shtern (Yisrael Beiteinu), had to temporarily step down from his position due to his debilitating battle with cancer.

In the past year alone, the endlessly-active lobby spurred the launching of a sister caucus in the United States House of Representatives known as the Congressional Israel Allies Caucus, while half a dozen similar pro-Israel caucuses in governments around the world are now being planned, including one that is scheduled to be launched in Canada next month.

Ultimately, the group hopes to create an international network of parliamentary sister caucuses that coordinate activities in support of Israel in close communication with each other.

"The singular achievement of the Christian Allies Caucus is that in its three years, it has become a well-known institution operating within the Knesset, and many Christians of all walks of life have become aware of it and are relating to it," said Rev. Malcolm Hedding, the executive director of the staunchly pro-Israel International Christian Embassy, a Jerusalem-based Evangelical organization.

The lobby, which met with top Christian leaders in the United States, Europe, Singapore and South Africa over the past year, is involved in programs to increase Christian tourism to Israel, strengthen Israel's dialogue with the African American community and improve the status of women globally on the basis of Judeo-Christian values, events that aim to broaden its ties with Christians of all denominations, beyond its natural alliance with the supportive Evangelical world.

At the same time, the Caucus's work - and goal in courting the support of predominantly conservative Christians - has been given the cold shoulder by the predominantly liberal American Jewish leadership, whose outlooks on social matters such as abortion, the separation of church and state and school prayer are 180 degrees to the left of the Christian Right in America.

Indeed, despite its almost overnight success, most mainstream American Jewish organizations have shied away from the parliamentary lobby or ignored it altogether.

The conflicting views on the two sides of the Atlantic over Israel's warm relations with the Evangelical Christian world came into full play last month, when, in a unprecedented move, the New York office of the World Jewish Congress publicly disassociated itself with an annual event to honor Christian supporters of Israel that its Israel office had already cosponsored.

At the same time, the Caucus's main limitation to date has been that it has primarily dealt with the supportive Evangelical Christian Community and has failed to make major inroads with the Catholic Church or other mainstream Protestant communities, some of whom have pressed ahead with Divestment Campaigns from Israel to protest Israeli policies vis a vie the Palestinians.

Still, Caucus director Josh Reinstein, who has termed the lobby "the personification of the new relationship between Jews and Christians in the 21st century," is overtly optimistic about the future.

"The Caucus has toiled to accomplish a great deal in the last three years, but the best is yet to come," he concluded.

Copyright 1995-2007 The Jerusalem Post -


The Jeruselam Post Online Edition

Congress forms Israel Allies Caucus

The United States Congress on Thursday announced the establishment of an Israel Allies Caucus, meant to mobilize Christian support for Israel around the world.

The American congressional lobby, which is modeled on the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus created two and half years ago, will debut with a membership of four Congressmen - two Republicans, Dave Weldon of Florida and Trent Franks of Arizona, and two Democrats, Eliot Engel of New York and Gene Green of Texas.

The new caucus plans to advocate Israel's right to live in peace within safe and secure borders, on the basis of shared Judeo-Christian values.

The establishment of the caucus was moved up as a sign of solidarity as Israel confronts terrorist threats from Hizbullah and Hamas.

"During the current crisis, Israel and the world need to know that the US Congress stands firm in its commitment to Israel's protection and right to defend itself against terrorism and state-sponsored terrorists," Weldon told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday.

He said the formation of the caucus reflected an unwavering Congressional commitment to the state of Israel, and would serve as another means to communicate with an important ally.

"Israel's fight against terrorism is the US's fight against terrorism," Engel said in a telephone interview from Washington.

Engel, who is the only Jewish member of the caucus, said it was important to garner support for Israel on a bipartisan basis among its many Christian friends in the US.

Weldon and Engel will co-chair the lobby.

A separate pro-Israel caucus has existed in the House of Representatives for decades.

The founding of the new caucus, which will serve as a forum for outreach and communication among pro-Israel Christians, comes at a time of burgeoning ties between Israel and the predominantly pro-Israel Evangelical Christian community around the world.

"I think that our basic appeal of reuniting people and especially politicians around Israel, not on a temporary cost-benefit approach, built on the most fundamental values of our civilization emanating from the Bible has proven itself," said Knesset Christian Allies Caucus founder MK Yuri Stern (Israel Beiteinu). He noted that similar parliamentary caucuses were being planned in the Philippines and in South Korea.

"This is not about religious observance or fundamentalism, it is about better understanding our identity and the things we are ready to fight for," he said.

"The civilized world's war with the Islamic terror regimes is at its root, a war of values, and this congressional sister Caucus to the Knesset's Christian Allies Caucus signals a recognition that the Judeo-Christian values America and Israel share lie at the heart of their alliance and the special relationship between them," said Knesset Christian Allies Caucus director Josh Reinstein.

Copyright 1995-2007 The Jerusalem Post -


Etgar Lefkovits-Dallal is a Jerusalem Correspondent for the Jerusalem Post. He has extensive knowledge of the region. Mr. Lefkovitz is responsible for daily coverage of all major news in the city; including police, city hall and terror attacks. He has been involved in many diplomatic discussions regarding Jerusalem’s future. He was invited by Polish government to Warsaw to write a series on Israel-Polish relations. He was responsible for on-site coverage of Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000. He was a research assistant to former Jerusalem Bureau Chief Serge Schmemenn, and Deborah Sontag, where he was responsible for assisting with research, in-person and phone interviews, monitoring breaking news stories, keeping the bureau chiefs informed of developments and trends in the country, and wrote occasional articles that appeared in the New York Times.

Mr. Lefkovitz was the Israel reporter for a major San Antonio, Texas radio station, for a magazine of the Israel Defense Forces, where he was responsible for covering foreign affairs interviewed visiting chiefs of staff and senior officers of foreign armies, as well as military attaches stationed in Israel. Mr. Lefkovitz has a B.A. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is fluent in English as his mother tongue, Hebrew, and French.

Availability: Etgar lives in Israel and frequently comes to the US for speaking engagements.
Contact JNF Speakers Bureau for availability.


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