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Israel halts Christian centre plan with Pat Robertson

US Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson

Israel has frozen a US$50 million tourism deal with US Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson after he suggested that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s stroke was divine punishment for Israel’s pullout from the Gaza strip.

"We will not do business with him, only with other evangelicals who don’t back these comments," said tourism ministry spokesperson Ido Hartuv on 11 January.

Israel had said it would provide free land for Robertson’s plans to build a Christian heritage centre overlooking the Sea of Galilee for pilgrims to walk in Jesus’ footsteps.

But Israel’s tourism ministry said it was breaking off the negotiations with Robertson due to his comments about Sharon’s stroke made on his television evangelist show "The 700 Club".

Robertson suggested that the 4 January stroke that has left Sharon fighting for his life in a Jerusalem hospital was punishment for "dividing God’s land", a reference to Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements in 2005.

He said on his TV programme: "The Prophet Joel makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who ‘divide my land’."

Robertson’s Christian Heritage Center was to have been located near important Christian sites on at least 14 hectares of rolling Galilee hills. The project had been expected to draw around one million pilgrims annually who would inject around US$1.5 billion tourist dollars into the local economy and create 40 000 jobs.

(c) Ecumenical News International

Photo : US Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson