Israeli Generals, Christian Zionists Spar Over Biden Nominee

Three top Israeli generals support Colin Kahl appointment, while John Hagee’s group calls him a threat to the Jewish state

Christian Zionists don't always appreciate Israel's pragmatism
Abir Sultan/Flash 90

Who truly has Israel’s best interests at heart? Are Israel’s secular political and military leaders sometimes blinded by pragmatism, while ignoring the spiritual dimension of their nation’s survival?

These are questions that sometimes arise when Israeli leaders and their nation’s ardent Christian supporters find themselves at odds over what’s best for the Jewish state.

Who can forget when much of the Christian Zionist community was in an uproar over former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s decision to “disengage” from the Gaza Strip? Something similar is happening right now, with a great many Christians who genuinely love and care for Israel expressing frustration, disappointment and even distress over the Jewish state’s rush to become the first country fully vaccinated against COVID-19. (See: “Back to Life” Thanks to God and Pfizer)

Over in the US, a more minor incident is likewise exposing this often-uncomfortable dynamic. President Joe Biden wants to appoint Colin Kahl as his new undersecretary of defense. Israeli security experts are pleased with the move, while American Christian Zionist groups see it as dangerous in the extreme.

Kahl was a senior defense official in the Obama Administration and was reportedly instrumental in formulating the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that was so vehemently opposed by Israel. For Pastor John Hagee’s Christians United for Israel (CUFI), that’s all a Bible-believing Christian supporter of Israel need know to oppose Kahl’s appointment.

It looks like Kahl’s confirmation in the divided Senate will come down to a single vote, that of Sen. Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat from West Virginia. In an effort to sway Manchin, CUFI has launched an advertising blitz in West Virginia to stir up public opposition to the appointment.

Supporting Kahl’s appointment are:

  • Gadi Shamni, Israel’s military attache in Washington from 2009-2013;
  • Amos Gilad, former director of policy and political-military affairs at Israel’s Ministry of Defense from 2013 to 2017; and
  • Amos Yadlin, former head of military intelligence from 2006 until the end of 2010.

All three are high-ranking retired generals with intimate knowledge of Israel’s security concerns. And all three opposed the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, and are aware of Kahl’s involvement in it. However, all three also described Kahl as one of the few Obama officials sympathetic to and receptive of Israeli concerns regarding the deal. They believe he can similarly balance the more unsympathetic or even hostile voices in the Biden Administration.

What’s more, putting the Iran deal aside, the three generals said one cannot dismiss Kahl’s dedication to Israel’s security, and in particular Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME) in the Middle East.

“Attacking Colin Kahl for not being a friend of Israel is attacking the wrong target,” Shamni told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “I worked with Colin during my tenure in Washington. He expressed strong support for Israel and the Israeli position, for Israel’s defense, for protecting Israel’s QME, which is something that’s entrenched in US law, but without the right people it won’t be done properly.”

Yadlin said of Kahl that he “didn’t always agree with him, but I have no doubt his motives were positive and he cares about Israel’s security and interest.”

Gilad noted that even under Obama, Israel’s QME was never damaged thanks to officials like Kahl, while it was Israel’s great friend Donald Trump to ultimately disrupted the balance of power by dangling F-35s as a reward for peace between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Israel is the Jewish state. It is a nation built upon a foundation of Scripture and Jewish values. God and the Bible can be found in every aspect of life in this country. But Israel is also a largely secular state that prides itself on being pragmatic. And this doesn’t always sit well with Israel’s Christian friends.

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