“I'm grateful for his commitment to the support of the state of Israel, and I'm very grateful for many of his commitments around the world, including to the independence and freedom of the state of Israel,” he told CNN’s Campbell Brown on April 29.
Hagee’s commitment to Israel, however, is itself controversial: It’s rooted in the belief that the Jewish state will be the site – soon — of Armageddon.
Hagee, who leads the Evangelical group Christians United for Israel, is a proponent of U.S. aid and support for Israel, and he is a major ally of Israeli conservatives who reject any “land for peace” formula in dealing with the Palestinians. But Hagee is viewed with distrust by some Jews and Israelis because his brand of Christian Zionism closely links support for Israel to the end of the world and the conversion of the Jews to Christianity.
Hagee’s predictions are very clear. Armageddon, the final battle, could begin, he wrote in his 2007 book "Jerusalem Countdown," “before this book gets published.”
The Antichrist “will be the head of the European Union,” he writes.
Using geographical calculations based on the Book of Revelation, he writes that Israel will be covered in “a sea of human blood” in the final battle.
The Jews, however, will survive the battle, Hagee says, long enough to have “the opportunity to receive Messiah, who is a rabbi known to the world as Jesus of Nazareth.”
“They will be blessed beyond their wildest imagination,” he writes.
A spokesman for McCain, Brian Rogers, said, “John McCain’s commitment to the state of Israel is clear, and he respects Pastor Hagee's commitment as well.
“As he has said many, many, many times, when folks endorse John McCain it doesn't mean he endorses all of their views,” Rogers said.
Many Jewish political leaders have also embraced Hagee. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) spoke to Hagee's group last year, and Hagee has been invited to speak to the lobbying organization AIPAC.
Other Jewish groups have more nuanced views of the pastor.
“Support for Israel is something that we should welcome and yet be very much aware of where that support comes from and cautious about it,” said Michael Salberg, the director of international affairs for the Anti-Defamation League. Salberg said Hagee’s political stance on Israel “seems to us to be sincere, genuine and welcome.”
But Hagee has also been criticized, most recently by the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie.
“Christian Zionists, and especially Christians United for Israel, do not offer unconditional support for the Jewish state. They offer support for a particular religious vision, particular Israeli leaders, and particular political factions, all of which reflect their own prophecy-driven view of the Middle East,” Yoffie said in an April speech, calling Hagee and his group “extremists.”
Yoffie thinks that Hagee “is not the kind of friend that Israel needs,” a spokesman, Donald Cohen-Cutler, said yesterday.
Indeed, although McCain praised Hagee’s stance on Israel, he doesn’t appear to share it. Hagee has written that Israel’s plan to give up the West Bank and Gaza – a two-state solution backed by President Bush and Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, as well as McCain – “violates the Word of God.”
“McCain can say he’s a great friend of Israel, but he clearly doesn’t understand Hagee’s position on Israel,” said Ira Forman, the executive diretor of the National Jewish Democratic Council, a partisan group. “Hagee’s opposed to McCain’s own policy – he opposes the peace process.”