Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee says he wants to move to Israel… at least temporarily. This declaration was made after laying a ceremonial brick at the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where a Jewish settlement was being built.
“I’m building because I one day might want to purchase a holiday home here in Efrat,” he told journalists at an event supported by settler organisations.
“If President Trump could be here today, he’d be a very happy man,” he said, standing in front of a red sign that said “Build Israel Great Again”, a twist on Donald Trump’s campaign slogan.
“I certainly can say that the president would be very proud to see beautiful, wonderful, thriving neighbourhoods being built,” said Huckabee, who has visited Israel since he was 17 and has been an outspoken settlement backer.
Trump would have been pleased to join him, he said, “because he is a builder and he loves to see construction sites”.
But the evangelical Christian added: “I’m not speaking for my government. I’m speaking for myself and God.”
Because of course he is.
It’s worth noting that evangelicals like Huckabee may support Israel, but they do so with mixed motives. Their hope is that by bringing all the Jews back to the homeland, they can hasten the return of Jesus. And they will do whatever they can to achieve this goal, even if it isn’t politically wise.
Huckabee was also suggesting that the move to Israel would be good for others. But in the past, when prominent evangelicals have pushed for aliyah (the immigration of Jews to Israel), it hasn’t gone over so well within the Jewish community.
“There’s a certain irony here when you see Christian evangelicals working to move Jews out of their countries, which is very different from the ideology that says Jews should live everywhere,” said Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American history at Brandeis University. He noted that by moving full force into the field of aliyah, the Fellowship and its Christian backers are, in fact, taking the side of “traditional Zionists” who believe in promoting immigration of Jews to Israel, as opposed to the ideology of many American Jewish groups that believe in helping Jews live full and safe lives in their countries of residence.
Huckabee will likely admit that’s not what he was trying to say, but his words send a strong symbolic message. Some may see it as the latest version of the Religious Right using Jews to advance their own agenda.
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