Norfolk, Va. Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for "dividing God's land."
"God considers this land to be his," Robertson said on his TV program "The 700 Club." "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."'
Sharon, who ordered Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year, suffered a stroke Wednesday.
In Robertson's broadcast from his Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach, the evangelist said he had personally prayed about a year ago with Sharon, whom he called "a very tender-hearted man and a good friend." He said he was sad to see Sharon in this condition.
He also said, however, that in the Bible, the prophet Joel "makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land."'
Sharon "was dividing God's land and I would say woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU (European Union), the United Nations or the United States of America," Robertson said.
In discussing what he said was God's insistence that Israel not be divided, Robertson also referred to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who had sought to achieve peace by giving land to the Palestinians. "It was a terrible thing that happened, but nevertheless he was dead," he said.
The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement urging Christian leaders to distance themselves from the remarks. Robertson made similar comments as the Gaza withdrawal occurred, it said.