Israel wraps Glenn Beck in 'a bear hug'

McClatchy NewspapersJuly 12, 2011 

JERUSALEM — By all accounts, Glenn Beck's visit to Israel this week couldn't have gone better.

Making the second of what he calls "solidarity" trips to Israel this year, the conservative pundit and former Fox News personality came to the parliament, or Knesset, in a widely watched public appearance ahead of a "Restore Courage" rally he's scheduled for Aug. 24 in Jerusalem.

More than a dozen Israeli news outlets filled the packed room Monday morning to hear politicians laud Beck as "one of Israel's greatest friends," in the words of Likud lawmaker Danny Danon, who'd invited Beck.

Beck's words were met with warm applause that grew to a crescendo when he announced that the "Israeli-Palestinian conflict ... is about the destruction of Israel and the end of the Western way of life. Period."

Beck — who recently ended his popular but often controversial Fox News show and is launching his own multimedia production company — said that thousands of people would attend his rally and show that they "stand with Israel, on all things."

He spent much of his speech deriding the mainstream news media as having an anti-Israeli bias and telling Israeli lawmakers that they should seek "friendly" media outlets and bloggers to spread their message.

"There are millions of people (who support Israel) that you don't see, because the media doesn't want to tell their story," Beck said.

Lawmakers thanked Beck for his unwavering support for their country, which they said came from his deep-rooted Christian values.

"It isn't a coincidence that you're a religious person," Likud lawmaker Tzipi Hotovely said. "This is a religious battle led by Islam. We can't ignore this basic truth. It's important that we stand behind a historical truth: We're not just here because of Zionism, but because of the Bible."

Evangelical Christian groups have increased their support of Israel in recent years as their ties with messianic Jews, who believe that Jesus was the Messiah, have strengthened. Much of their shared support is directed toward Israel's West Bank settlers, who they say are doing "God's work" by inhabiting land associated with biblical Jews.

The settlements were the key stumbling block that brought the most recent round of peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders to a halt. The settlements are built on land earmarked for a future Palestinian state, and are considered illegal under international law.

Palestinian official Saeb Erekat has explained that the Palestinians consider building on the land a "slap in the face" of peace negotiations.

Many evangelical Christian groups have rejected a "two-state solution," which would see a Palestinian state on much of the West Bank, because it would call on Israel to uproot its settlements.

During his visit Beck didn't give his views on a final peace agreement, saying only, "I'm not against a Palestinian state. I'm not here for a political solution. There's something bigger than politics here."

Beck also visited the settlement of Ma'ale Zeitim, where well-known millionaire and pro-settlement supporter Irving Moskowitz held a reception in his honor. Moskowitz, a Florida-based businessman, has long provided financial backing to groups that are looking to expand Israel's settlements.

Reporters weren't invited to the event, but one political official who attended said the mood was "adoring."

"Israel has clearly given Mr. Beck a bear hug," said the official, who requested anonymity to discuss the meeting with the media.

(Frenkel is a McClatchy special correspondent.)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2011

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