The U.S. delegation in Jerusalem on Monday to celebrate the opening of the new American embassy includes an evangelical Christian pastor who once said Jews “can’t be saved.”
The Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor of the First Baptist megachurch in Dallas and a longtime supporter of President Donald Trump, delivered an opening prayer of dedication at the ceremony.
“I’m going to be thanking God for the strong leadership of Benjamin Netanyahu, who is absolutely determined to protect Israel,” Jeffress told Fox News in advance of his appearance. “And I’m also going to be thanking God for our President Donald Trump, who had the courage to do what no other U.S. president has done, and that is to officially recognize Jerusalem and to move the embassy.”
The Rev. John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel, also delivered remarks at the ceremony. He came under fire in 2008, when audio resurfaced of him seeming to say Adolf Hitler was a “hunter” who was called upon to help Jews return to Israel.
Other members of the 250-person U.S. delegation include White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Ambassadors from only four European Union countries (Austria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic) attended a welcome reception on Sunday, while representatives from other nations reportedly boycotted the event in protest.
Monday’s embassy move marks a controversial and momentous foreign policy shift for the U.S. Although past presidents contemplated moving the American embassy out of Tel Aviv, Trump was the first to act on it, declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel in December. The announcement was met with mass protests and worldwide condemnation, likely to be rekindled on Monday.