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Who really wants Trump to recognize Jerusalem? His evangelical supporters at home

Noah Bierman, Tribune Washington Bureau on

Published in News & Features

Hagee and others reject that connection, however. Some evangelical leaders point to Israel's biblical role as the home to Jews and to its modern role as a key American ally. A 2014 Pew survey found that 82 percent of white evangelicals in America believe God gave Israel to the Jewish people, a theological conviction shared by only 40 percent of American Jews.

"For evangelicals, Israel is not an issue. It's a question of identity," said Nicholson. "They see themselves as connected."

For Pence, the nexus is especially important. He serves as a conduit within the Trump administration to the evangelical community and the Republican donor class, a role that could prove valuable if he ever pursues the presidency. A White House official said Pence was among those who advocated strongly for the Jerusalem declaration during a high-level meeting with Trump last week.

Pence was especially eager to have the decision made before his planned visit to Israel and Egypt. He is scheduled to deliver a formal address to the Knesset in Jerusalem. Nikki Haley, who courted evangelical support as governor of South Carolina before becoming Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, was also seen as a forceful advocate for Trump's position.

More establishment figures, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, were said to have urged caution and stressed potentially negative fallout in the region.

Matthew Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the promise to move the embassy was the top applause line when Pence addressed his group in February, a national conference in Las Vegas that is often viewed as a testing ground for Republican candidates seeking Adelson's financial support.

"It's been the cornerstone of our agenda for a long time," Brooks said.

 

Brooks credited Pence with strong support for Israel since his days in Congress, when he authored legislation supporting Israel's right to construct a security barrier. Later, as governor of Indiana, Pence signed a law opposing boycotts of Israel. He has also traveled to Israel, including a 2014 trip with Christians United for Israel.

But ultimately, it will be Trump who bears responsibility for the move.

"The buck stops with the president," Hagee said. "I've discussed the issue of Jerusalem with him, and I believe this is an issue that resonates deeply with him."

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