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Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, who in the past has angered Muslims by describing Islam as a violent religion and Muhammad as a “wild-eyed fanatic,” is now ruffling Jewish feathers by stating in Israel that Jews need to proclaim Jesus as their Messiah.

Robertson said in a 40-minute speech that Jews need to cry out for their Messiah. “I’ve met wonderful Jews in Siberia, the United States, here in Jerusalem, who all are saying, ‘Yes, Jesus, you are our Messiah,'” Robertson said, according to the New York weekly Forward.

Robertson is leading a group of 4,000 American evangelicals on a pilgrimage timed with the Jewish festival of Sukkot to demonstrate their support for Israel.

The International Christian Embassy, a pro-Israel evangelical organization sponsoring the tour, distanced itself from Robertson’s remarks. The group did not release tapes of Robertson’s speech to the press and a spokesman said Robertson’s “views are off.” The spokesman insisted that Robertson is not trying to force conversions and the group wouldn’t be part of any “missionizing.”

Israeli lawmaker Yuri Shtern, who has been active in promoting conservative Christian support for Israel, said he was “very upset” with Robertson. “I had hoped a leader of [Robertson’s] standing accepted the continuing existence of the Jewish people as part of God’s plan,” he said.

The founder of the Christian Broadcasting Network and former presidential candidate also raised eyebrows with comments quoted by the Associated Press suggesting American evangelicals support Israel because they believe the nation’s 1948 founding fulfills Bible prophecy forecasting a Battle of Armageddon in the Mideast, Jesus’ return and that Jews will be either annihilated or converted.

Robertson denounced peace plans calling for creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, calling it “a Satan’s plan.” He urged Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to abandon a unilateral plan for withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, saying, “This is God’s land, and the Jews are God’s people, and nobody has any right to dislodge God’s people from God’s land.”

“God says, ‘I am going to judge those who carve up the West Bank and Gaza Strip,'” Robertson continued. “It is my land and keep your hands off it.”

Robertson is also quoted as saying on the trip that President Bush would lose support if he backs any plan to divide Jerusalem. “Bush has no problem with evangelical support, but if he starts up with Jerusalem, he’ll lose it,” Robertson warned. “They’ll start a third party.”

The Palestinians claim eastern Jerusalem as their capital, while Israel insists that both eastern and western parts of the city must remain under Israel’s control. Most nations, including the United States, do not recognize Israel’s 1967 annexation of eastern Jerusalem and keep their embassies in Tel Aviv.

Robertson said Israel should not have to give up land for a Palestinian state but that Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Egypt should take in the 3.5 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Robertson called Israel’s Arab neighbors “a sea of dictatorial regimes” and said he believes Muslims want to destroy Israel. “I see the rise of Islam to destroy Israel and take the land from the Jews and give East Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority…. I see that a Satan’s plan to prevent the return of Jesus Christ, the Lord.”

Bruce Prescott of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists accused Robertson of “forcing God’s hand” by promoting policies intended to set the stage for Armageddon instead of avoiding it.

“You would think that as many times as they have had to revise their own books and charts about the path to the millennium that dispensationalists would be more cautious in giving advice to those who shape our foreign policy,” Prescott said in a Friday Weblog.

Robertson said at a press conference he does not share his views on Messianic Jews while meeting with Knesset members and Cabinet ministers.

In 2002 Robertson drew criticism from Arab-Americans after saying on his “700 Club” television program that Islam is a violent religion that wants to “dominate and then, if need be, destroy.” He said of the prophet Muhammad on CNN’s “Hannity & Colmes,” “This man was an absolute wild-eyed fanatic. He was a robber and a brigand.”

Sukkot, often translated as the Feast of Tabernacles, commemorates the 40-year period the Bible says Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land. The seven-day festival is also celebrated by “Messianic Jews” who claim Jesus as their Messiah but don’t label themselves as Christians.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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