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Robertson Apologizes for Remark on Sharon

January 13, 2006|From Associated Press

TEL AVIV — Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson has sent a letter apologizing for suggesting that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's massive stroke was divine punishment for pulling out of the Gaza Strip last summer.

Robertson's comments drew widespread condemnation from other Christian leaders, President Bush and Israeli officials, who canceled plans to include the American evangelist in the construction of a Christian tourist center in northern Israel.

In a letter dated Wednesday and marked for hand delivery to Sharon's son Omri, Robertson called the Israeli prime minister a "kind, gracious and gentle man" who was "carrying an almost insurmountable burden of making decisions for his nation."

"My concern for the future safety of your nation led me to make remarks which I can now view in retrospect as inappropriate and insensitive in light of a national grief experienced because of your father's illness," the letter reads. "I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people of Israel."

The 77-year-old prime minister suffered a devastating stroke Jan. 4 and remained hospitalized Thursday in critical but stable condition.

The day after the stroke, Robertson suggested that Sharon was being punished for pulling Israel out of the Gaza Strip. The withdrawal was seen by many evangelical groups as a retreat from a biblical prophecy of Jewish sovereignty over the area.

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