Why some Christians back Israeli settlers in the West Bank

US Evangelicals' support for Jewish settlement of the West Bank has grown in the last decade or so, giving Israel greater traction in Washington.

Zionism founded on religious conviction has gained greater traction in US politics over the past 10 to 15 years as evangelical Christians have joined with Jewish groups to promote Israel's interests. While not all Evangelicals back settlements, a growing number see the return of Jews to the land of Israel as a prerequisite to the second coming of the Messiah.

Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, has argued that evangelical Christian support could provide political leverage well beyond that of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States. They also have financial clout; he revealed in 2005 that his organization contributed more than $100 million per year to Israeli interests.

Such work is not without controversy among Christians. Some say that because Jews did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah prophesied in the Bible, they forfeited their calling as the children of Israel – and this role passed to Christians, an idea known as Replacement Theology.

However, Kim Troup, director of the North American office for Christian Friends of Israeli Communities (CFOIC) Heartland, argues that God keeps his promises: both that Jesus is the Messiah and that Abraham's descendents – the Jews – would inherit this land forever.

"Either God is true, and His word is true, or it's not," she says.

CFOIC Heartland was founded in the wake of the 1993 Oslo Accords, which outlined a phased handover of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. With so many biblical sites located in the West Bank, many Christians and Jews see it as a biblical heartland that is irrevocably tied to the Jewish people. Some Jews say as many as 80 percent of the events recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures took place there.

Ms. Troup says her group's efforts, which include bringing Christians to meet settlers in the West Bank, are to show gratitude for all the Jewish nation has done for the world and also are a way to make up for centuries of anti-Semitism. Her group also says that God is working through the Jewish people to fulfill a promise that they will be a "light unto the nations."

"God is doing something in Israel today, and God's not done," she says. "God really does have it all under control ... it doesn't matter who's in control – the UN, EU, Russia, China ... because God's got a plan."

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