WASHINGTON - Pro-Israeli Christian groups operating in the United States have decided to form an umbrella organization that will engage in lobbying efforts in Washington beginning this coming summer.
The organization, made up of mostly evangelical groups, will also open offices across the country, hold events in support of Israel, offer political, financial and public relations support, and work to strengthen the strategic alliance between the U.S. and Israel.
This umbrella organization is expected to comprise some 30-35 million American evangelists who have until now operated separately, and will act similarly to the way the Jewish lobby operates in the U.S.
The new organization will be led by John Hagee, an influential evangelist with some put at the White House, who heads a congregation of tens of thousands of worshippers in San Antonio, Texas. Hagee's Sunday sermons are broadcast to millions of American viewers on television.
Some two weeks ago, Hagee convened 400 heads of Christian congregations and organizations, representing 30-35 million Americans, to discuss the establishment of the umbrella organization, set to be directed by Hagee himself. Israel's Ambassador in Washington Danny Ayalon later hosted a special meeting with 80 Christian leaders, including Robert Stern, designated to serve as vice chairman of the organization.
In July, heads of the group are scheduled to arrive in D.C. and present their initiative before members of Congress.
'Cooperation with evangelists near consensus'
Up until now, Christians in the U.S. have only joined forces once a year, during the "Day of Prayer for Israel," held for the fourth time this year. Ambassador Ayalon and Israel's consuls in different parts of the country have routinely attended the events.
Ayalon welcomed the establishment of the new umbrella body and said that nurturing the relations with Christian communities is an important goal. During the last four years, Israel has institutionalized ties with Christian groups, Ayalon said, adding the Jewish community overcame many fears regarding this cooperation, which is now "almost a consensus."
According to Ayalon, the pro-Israeli Christian community in the U.S. is a prominent community in American society and constitutes a significant aspect of strategic relations between the two countries.
The formation of this umbrella organization is an important development that may ensure Christian support for Israel for many years to come, Ayalon concluded.