- - Monday, April 24, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

“An unidentified guest uses a Trump Hotel branded umbrella as she walks into the West Wing of the White House,” read the caption of an Associated Press photo in the Washington Examiner picturing an attractive young woman whose face is becoming increasingly familiar in Washington political circles.

Sandy Hagee Parker is the chairwoman of Christians United for Israel Action Fund (CUFI), the lobbying arm of the largest pro-Israel organization in the country. An accomplished attorney, she is also the daughter of Pastor John Hagee, founder and chairman of the influential Israel advocacy group.

According to a CUFI source close to the situation, Ms. Parker came to the White House with her father, as well as her mother Diana Hagee, CUFI director David Brog and CUFI Action Fund Washington director Gary Bauer.

“As part of our growing relationship with the administration, CUFI leadership met with Vice President Pence and visited with the president,” the source told the Haym Salomon Center. “The meeting with the vice president was off the record, but the principals discussed working together to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship, and CUFI leadership reiterated the central importance of this issue to our near 3.5 million members.”

And it’s precisely that rapidly growing membership that makes CUFI a unique advocate for Israel that policymakers cannot afford to ignore.

Prior to Inauguration Day, the organization’s perspective was considered idealistic and even irrational. But a tectonic shift occurred on Jan. 20, and idealistic became realistic.

Unlike typical K Street lobby groups, CUFI wields a unique brand of influence on campaigns and elections. In addition to its nearly 3.5 million members, Pastor Hagee reaches more than 7.5 million people every week from his pulpit and television cameras — voters who are energized, indeed passionate activists who believe their support for Israel is not only a moral imperative but a religious obligation as well.

The organization flexed its developing muscle even before Donald Trump took the oath of office.

Upon returning from Christmas break, the word around Washington was that President Obama had one last move against Israel at the U.N.

With literally only a few days’ notice, CUFI organized over 250 Christian leaders from across the country to come to Washington where they met with senators from 49 states (Vermont the exception) to express their alarm over the Obama administration’s betrayal of Israel and to promote the following agenda:

• Use U.S. leverage to end Israel-bashing at the U.N.

• Support moving the American embassy to Jerusalem.

• Confirm David Friedman, President-elect Trump’s choice to be U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Here we are, a few months later, and Mr. Friedman is ambassador to Israel; U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has channeled her inner Daniel Patrick Moynihan and attacked anti-Israel bias at the world body with vigor; and for the first time ever, there is serious consideration being given to moving the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The organization has also taken its efforts to state capitols, combating the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement by advocating for legislation that prohibits states from doing business with or investing in organizations that discriminate against the Jewish state. By the end of 2017, expect over half the union to have adopted anti-BDS legislation.

In what can be described as a Holy Week miracle, CUFI Action Fund supported an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to review Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization. Eleven families of Palestinian terrorism victims won their lawsuit, which was subsequently thrown out by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The friend-of-the-court request was signed by a bipartisan group of senators that included Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts Democrat, Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, Orrin Hatch, Utah Republican, Chuck Schumer, New York Democrat, and Marco Rubio, Florida Republican.

As a Christian organization, CUFI’s perspective sets it apart from other pro-Israel groups. Jason Stverak, CUFI Action Fund’s legislative director, is a former head of the North Dakota Republican Party. Mr. Stverak’s political experience coupled with his Christian perspective is a combination that most members of Congress can relate to.

Unlike the status quo in Washington, CUFI doesn’t concern itself with Israel’s internal politics. Pastor Hagee told the Haym Salomon Center in October 2015, “We will support whoever the Israeli people elect to be their prime minister. We are behind Israel and the Jewish people. We also don’t live in Israel, we don’t have to deal with rockets raining down from Gaza or attacks from the West Bank. America cannot dictate how Israel protects itself.”

Under discussion on Capitol Hill is the call for the United States to cut financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if it continues to encourage terrorism and provide stipends to terrorists and their families. The Taylor Force Act is legislation requiring that the PA “take credible steps to end acts of violence against United States and Israeli citizens” and “publicly condemn such acts of violence.”

The Obama administration scoffed at the legislation. But with CUFI’s influence on Capitol Hill and at the ballot box only growing stronger, I expect decency to prevail and Mr. Trump to sign the Taylor Force Act by the end of the year.

• Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center.

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