Last Update: 04/10/2004 22:44
Robertson: If Bush 'touches' Jerusalem, we'll form 3rd party
By Daphna Berman, Haaretz correspondent, and agencies
Influential American evangelist Pat Robertson said Monday that Evangelical Christians feel so deeply about Jerusalem, that if President George W. Bush were to "touch" Jerusalem, Evangelicals would abandon their traditional Republican leanings and form a third party.
Evangelical Christians - estimated at tens of millions of Americans -
overwhelmingly support Bush for his pro-Israel policies, Robertson told a Jerusalem news conference Monday.
But if Bush shifted his position toward support for Jerusalem as a capital for both Israel and a Palestinian state, his Evangelical backing would disappear, Robertson indicated.
"The President has backed away from [the road map], but if he were to touch Jerusalem, he'd lose all Evangelical support," Robertson said. "Evangelicals would form a third party" because, though people "don't know about" Gaza, Jerusalem is an entirely different matter.
Robertson, an outspoken supporter of Israel who is in the country to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, also added that visitors to Israel should not be overly critical of the government's political decisions.
He has refrained from overtly criticizing Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's disengagement plan and says only that he hopes the "Israeli people will make the right decision" in matters of territorial concessions.
"It is unwise for a visitor from America to get involved in Israeli politics," he stated at a press conference in the capital's International Convention Center.
Together with an estimated 5,000 Christians from around the world, Robertson has been touring the Holy Land this week, in effort to support and pray for the people of Israel. He led a prayer service on Sunday outside the Knesset, where he blasted Hezbollah, Hamas, and the idea of jihad.
"Arab nations want a conflict and want to keep the suffering of people in Gaza," he said. "They don't want peace; they want the destruction of Israel."
Robertson urged that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) be abolished, given what he called the organization's active role in the "perpetuation" of the Palestinian refugee problem. He warned that a Palestinian state would become "a constant source of irritation" that would "endanger the territorial integrity" of Israel.
"A Palestinian state with full sovereignty would be a launching ground for various types of weapons, including weapons of mass destruction," the former presidential candidate said.
Thousands of Christians march for Jerusalem
As many as 20,000 marchers were expected to take part in the annual Jerusalem March procession, which was to pass through the heart of the city on Monday the afternoon, among them thousands of Evangelicals and other Christians.
Police officials began closing streets at 1:30 P.M. to allow marchers to pass. Among the central Jerusalem traffic arteries closed, either fully or in sections, were Ben-Zvi, Bezalel, Ben-Yehuda, King George, Jaffa, Shlomzion HaMalka, Koresh, Azza, Agron, Menashe Ben-Israel, HaEmek, HaRav Kook, Havatzelet, Heleni HaMalka, Histadrut, Shammai and Hillel Streets.
Most of the streets were to have been re-opened by 5:30 P.M.
In a gathering of more than 4,000 pilgrims at a Jerusalem convention center Sunday, Robertson warned that some Muslims were trying to foil "God's plan" to let Israel hold on to its lands. The number of pilgrims was about 25 percent higher than the past three years, according to organizers with the International Christian Embassy.
"I see the rise of Islam to destroy Israel and take the land from the Jews and give East Jerusalem to [Palestinian Authority Chairman] Yasser Arafat. I see that as Satan's plan to prevent the return of Jesus Christ the Lord," said Robertson, a Christian broadcaster.
In two Jerusalem appearances, Robertson Sunday praised Israel as part of God's plan and criticized Arab countries and some Muslims, saying their hopes to include Israeli-controlled land in a Palestinian state are part of "Satan's plan."
Robertson, who has made critical statements of Islam in the past, called Israel's Arab neighbors "a sea of dictatorial regimes."
He said he "sends notice" to Osama bin Laden, Arafat and Palestinian militant groups that "you will not frustrate God's plan" to have Jews rule the Holy Land until the Second Coming of Jesus.
Only God should decide if Israel should relinquish control of the lands it captured in the 1967 war, including the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem, Robertson said, in a reference to Sharon's plan to pull out of Gaza next year.
"God says, 'I'm going to judge those who carve up the West Bank and Gaza Strip,'" Robertson said. "'It's my land and keep your hands off it.'"
Blowing rams' horns and exclaiming "Hallelujah," hundreds of pilgrims - including visitors from Norway, England and Germany - gathered in downtown Jerusalem to pray for peace and celebrate Israel's unification of the city with the capture of East Jerusalem in 1967.