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(photo credit: AP - File)
US Evangelical leader Pat Robertson sent a letter of apology Thursday to Omri Sharon for his remarks last week suggesting that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for the Gaza withdrawal, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
In the two-page letter, Robertson wrote, "My zeal, my love of Israel and 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 the national grief experienced because of your father's illness.
"I ask your forgiveness," Robertson continued, "and the forgiveness of the people of Israel for saying what was clearly insensitive at the time."
Robertson also expressed his "profound sympathy and condolence" over the prime minister's "tragic illness," and added that he was personally praying that the "doctors attending him will bring him back to consciousness and, hopefully, the full restoration of his physical faculties."
Noting that he has been a staunch supporter of Israel for more than 30 years, the 75-year-old former Republican presidential candidate and leading Christian televangelist also recalled his numerous meetings over the years with Sharon both in Israel and in the US.
"I had the privilege of meeting with him in his office and praying with him about a year ago," Robertson said. "More recently, I was a member of a delegation that met with him at the Israeli Embassy when he was last in the United States."
"To me, he is a kind, gracious and gentle man," he added.
The letter came in the aftermath of criticism over Robertson's January 5 remarks on his popular 700 Club television show, in which he stated: "God considers the 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, He says: 'No, this is mine.'"
After a live report from Jerusalem on the condition of Sharon, Robertson went on to add: "I would say, woe unto any prime minister of Israel who takes a similar course to appease the EU, the United Nations or the United States of America. God says, 'This land belongs to me. You better leave it alone.'"
In response, the Tourism Ministry announced it would "not do business" with Robertson, calling into question plans to construct a proposed $50 million Christian Heritage Center in the Galilee.
Robertson is considered to be one of the top Evangelical leaders in the US. The Christian Broadcasting Network, which he founded four decades ago, is broadcast in 180 countries in 71 languages, and is viewed by more than one million Americans daily.