In January 2006, when Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon had a stroke, permanently incapacitating him, the American evangelical leader Pat Robertson attributed Sharon's medical condition to divine intervention resulting from Sharon's withdrawal from Gaza a few months earlier.
The book of Joel, the prophet Joel, makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who, quote, "divide my land." God considers this land to be his. You read the Bible and he says "this is my land," and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says "No, this is mine." Here, he's at the point of death. He was dividing God's land. And I would say, woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the E.U., the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, "This land belongs to me." You better leave it alone.
Pat Robertson, leading American evangelist.
Subsequently, Robertson apologized for his statement, writing in a hand-delivered letter to Sharon's son Omri:
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. … I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people of Israel.
I mention this history because a Mutagim poll published today asks Israelis about the question of Sharon and divine intervention. It turns up a remarkable result:
There are those who connect Sharon's health condition to the disengagement plan from Gush Katif and northern Samaria and they see it as a punishment. Do you think so?
Yes: 27 percent
No: 73 percent
The breakdown by religiosity of those saying yes explains offers an insight into this result:
Ultra orthodox: 57 percent
National religious: 58.5 percent
Traditional: 27.5 percent
Secular: 14 percent
Comment: Note that more than one quarter of Israelis, not evangelicals, agree with Robertson. This suggests a more profoundly religious quality to Israeli political life than is usually recognized. (December 27, 2007)
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.