As data still trickles in, it is becoming more evident that a strong showing of American evangelicals (estimates say over 80 percent) voting for the Republican candidate tipped the scales in favor of Trump. So what convinced so many evangelicals to vote for a candidate whose behavior and comments were, let’s say, problematic?
Experts say that it was Trump’s strong support of Israel that tipped the evangelical vote to his advantage. This was an ingenious move as Israel is one of only a few issues that inspire American Christians at the polls. During the campaign, Republicans opened headquarters in Israel for just this purpose. They wanted to send a clear message to American Christians: If you love Israel, Trump’s your man.
“Trump’s election campaign in Israel was specifically tailored for the Christian voters in the US,” explained Israeli journalist Udi Segal on Channel 2 TV. “Trump’s advisors understood that Israelis and Jews who sided with Donald Trump would also encourage American evangelicals to vote for Trump.”
American Christians will usually vote for the Republican candidate anyway, but with Trump they had a problem. He didn’t always fit their conservative Christian idea of how a president should conduct himself. By transferring the focus onto his support for Israel, the campaign was able to get Trump’s behavior out of the limelight and get Christians enthusiastic for the candidate.
All stops were pulled out. The campaign broadcast a live event from the Old City in Jerusalem, and Trump had a handwritten prayer delivered to the Western Wall. Settlement leaders and Jerusalem dignitaries stood before the cameras and told the Americans that they need to make sure Donald Trump gets into the White House.
“Trump needs to become president for the sake of Jerusalem,” said the deputy mayor of the city.
“The point they were making is that they cannot just sit back and do nothing,” said Segal. “None of the evangelicals were going to vote for Hillary Clinton anyway. American Christians allowed themselves to be talked into voting for Trump in spite of all the criticism against him.”
Israeli American attorney Marc Zell who led the Republican election campaign in Israel concurs. “The Israeli attitude towards Donald Trump was vitally important in influencing American evangelicals,” he said. “We had to bring the number of Christians participating in the elections to an additional 20 percent.”
There is an ongoing debate about the extent of Israel’s influence on the results of the US election in the Israeli media. Either way, the first step has been taken and Trump is president. Now government leaders and settlers want to make sure that the new administration in Washington stands by Israel, not only in word but in deed.