Pat Robertson braves Katyushas to pay a timely visit to Israel.
By DAVID PARSONS
CBN founder Dr. Pat Robertson paid a solidarity visit to Israel in mid-August, touring the northern border while it was still under Hizbullah rocket fire and then meeting with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. Afterwards, the Prime Minister's Office told The Jerusalem Post Christian Edition that Robertson's visit and words of encouragement were "exciting" and "overwhelming." That evening, back at the King David hotel, we spoke with Robertson about his visit and the current crisis in the Middle East.
Christian Edition: What has brought you to Israel at this time?
Israel is under stress and I wanted the people of Israel to know that the Evangelical Christians of America are standing with them and praying for them. And I wanted to initiate my program [The 700 Club] from where the battle is being wagedâ€¦ and also from Jerusalem, where we have had important meetings. So I just wanted to let the Jewish people know they have a special place in our hearts and that they're not alone in this struggle.
Q: You were in the North visiting communities as they were being shelled. What was that like?
Well, I thought I was going to be afraid when I went up there, but God gave me a great peace. I just felt covered by His protection. But I could see, for example, in Akko - where [our humanitarian relief arm] "Operation Blessing" is assisting in food distribution - there are thousands in bomb shelters who don't have any food and they're afraid to go outâ€¦ Just down the street, five people were killed by a Katyusha. I was shown ball bearings; these dreadful things not only explode, but send terror to the civilians around.
Q: Some are saying this is the opening salvo of a much larger war with Iran over dominance of the Middle East. Do you agree?
I wouldn't be surprised. I met [GPO director] Danny Seaman in Metulla and he said this conflict is very much like the Spanish civil war, when the Fascists were trying out their techniques to see if the democraciesâ€¦ would know how to fight, and if they had the will to fightâ€¦. It was the techniques perfected during that conflict that led to the terrible things Adolph Hitler did. So could this be a dress rehearsal for more serious Iranian involvement? The answer is "absolutely yes," and that's why it's important for Israel to win a decisive victoryâ€¦ If this country was irresolute, it would open the door for future horror.
Q: Were you well received at Prime Minister Olmert's office?
He and I go way back, so we met today as dear friends, and before it was finishedâ€¦ I joined hands with the prime minister and prayed for God's blessing on Israel, for safety and protection over the IDF, and for victory. It was a very moving moment, I believe, for all of us.
Q: What was your impression of Ehud Olmert now versus when you met him as mayor of Jerusalem?
From what I saw today, if he continues as he is now, he is going to become one of the great prime ministers of Israel. You know, crises sometimes develop greatness. This is a crisis where an irresolute leader could have damaged this country greatly. He is not that kind of leader. He is a strong leader.
Q: What was it like passing by Bible sites up in the Galilee and realizing they're now in the midst of a war zone and Christians can't go there?
This whole thing is so surreal. It was a beautiful, sunny day. We skirted the area of Tiberias and realized that the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked was under attack. Katyusha rockets had fallen on it. We realized that the vast majority of Jesus' ministry was performed in the very places where the greatest bombardment is now coming. It was so surreal, that in this picturesque settingâ€¦ death could fall out of the sky at any minute.
Q: I understand 'Operation Blessing' is also active in Lebanon. Can you tell us about your heart for the Lebanese people?
I've had warm friendships with Lebanese Christians for years, and the southern Lebanese forces under Major Hadad and others were the ones who helped us establish Middle East Television. The Lebanese Christians are a beautiful people. They have been victimized first by the PLO, then by Syria, now by Hizbullah. The Christians are suffering, and our relief arm is extending to Beirut and also throughout Israelâ€¦ because there's so much suffering on both sides.
Q: There is a push right now for a ceasefire at the UN. Should the US continue to try to give Israel more time to weaken Hizbullah if they say they need it?
I think it's imperative. The prime minister made clear to me that President Bush has been very supportiveâ€¦ The president realizes that the fight against terrorism is a worldwide fight and that Israel is on the front lines. So without question he will do everything he can to give Israel timeâ€¦ but nevertheless this war has got to be fought swiftly. It can't be dragged out.
Q: What do you think of a "robust" international force being placed in South Lebanon, and should it have an American component?
I think the American people are pretty much tired of sending troops anywhere. I think Iraq has given us war fatigue. But UNIFIL, or anything associated with the UN, would be a disaster. UNIFIL has often assisted terrorists instead of restraining them, and certainly the Lebanese army is not powerful enough to disarm Hizbullah. So I think at this point Israel has to do the job. Israel has to disarm Hizbullah. And then the US needs to assist the Lebanese in building up their armed forces and establishing an independent countryâ€¦ If there should be a force in there, I think it should be a NATO force.
Q: What do you think is driving Iran's radical regime?
Their current president Ahmadinejad has an apocalyptic vision, where he thinks that about a year from now the 12th Mahdi, or Imam, will reappear, but that before he comes the world has to be in chaos and total destruction. People like that are fanatics, they are crazy.
Q: Do you think Iran has suffered a setback with the weakening of Hizbullah?
I don't think they have yet. I think the issue is still in doubtâ€¦ Little by little, Hizbullah is being weakened. But if they are allowed to remain standing when this conflict is over, they will declare it a victory.
Q: British Prime Minister Tony Blair said last week that he would not sacrifice Israel for the sake of peace with the Islamic world. Would it bring peace if the West abandoned Israel to the Arabs and Muslims?
Of course not! The goal of Islam - if you carefully read the Koran and what they believe - is world domination. That used to be the goal of atheistic communism, but nothing is as virulent as what is believed by Islam.
Q: What should Christians be doing to stand with Israel at this critical moment?
I think the most important thing is prayer. This is a supernatural struggle. It is either the God of the Bible or the moon god of Mecca they call Allah. It's one or the otherâ€¦ it is a spiritual battle and we must pray for Israel. We must also pray for the eyes of the Arab peoples to be opened, because they are descendants of Abraham and many are going to come under the covenant of Abraham... Beyond that, we should do everything we can to [guard] Israel [from] the anti-Semitic activities that have so characterized the United Nations.
Q: Israelis are often skeptical of the motives of Christians who say they love Israel. Some think we're out to convert them or to force Armageddon. How do you answer these charges?
Look at my track record. I've been at it for about 45 years and in terms of evangelism, I treat Jews like everybody else; I hope that all people will be saved. But saying I'm after Jews per se, it's not true. My goal is to support Israelâ€¦ I was asked this same question by a news anchor on [Israel TV] Channel One today, and I said: "Just think what would happen if God Almighty would appear on the Mount of Olives, with all His angels. What do you think the Jewish people would do? They would fall on their knees and worship Him." It wouldn't be a question of forced conversion.
Q: Actually the Hebrew prophets say the Messiah is coming to fight for them against their enemies.
And that's what I'm expectingâ€¦
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