Evangelicals, Israeli PM, Discuss Tourism, Divestment

A group of prominent American Evangelical leaders met with the Israeli Prime minister on Tuesday. Their main purpose for the visit was to help market Israel to the Evangelical community abroad, according to officials in the Prime Minister's office.

The meeting was "very friendly," according to officials, who said that the delegation came to "show solidarity for Sharon."

Evangelical leaders present included Paul Crouch, the founder and president of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, Michael Little, the president and chief operating officer of The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), and Jay Sekulow, chief counsel for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).

The Jerusalem Post reports that Ariel Sharon was at first wary of meeting the group, since some evangelicals had protested the Prime Minister's Gaza disengagement plan.

However, Haggard said that opposition to Sharon does not represent the grassroots opinion of evangelicals.

Haggard met with the Prime Minister before his recent visit to the United States. They talked about the wall Israel is building along its West bank border to cut off traffic from Palestinian territories. "I told him walls work, but it's got to be on your own land," said Haggard, according to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

Last year, the Presbyterian Church (USA) announced a divestment plan to target businesses working with Israel, sparking waves of protest and controversy.

In March, in a statement issued by the Anti-Defamation League, Haggard said he was opposed to divestment in the region. He also opposed similar measures being encouraged by the World Council of Churches (WCC).

In related reports, the Israeli government offered to donate 35 acres near the Sea of Galilee for an evangelical Christian center to boost Christian tourism, according to AP, which cited a Wednesday edition report in the Gazette of Colorado Springs.

The government would reportedly be willing to improve a nearby airport, provide, water and phone lines.

The report states that Evangelical groups have yet to respond to the offer and don't have immediate plans. Any plans would have to receive government approval.

A press officer for the Consulate General of Israel in San Francisco was aware of the report but had no further information.