American Conservative Defends Israel's Right to Defend Itself

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Israel has a right to defend itself, and that includes pursuing a policy of targeting terrorists in assassination operations, according to U.S. religious leader and television evangelist Pat Robertson.

During a brief visit to Jerusalem this week, the chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network said Israel has a responsibility to defend its citizens and to develop policies that reflect its "own best interests."

Israel's inner security cabinet decided Wednesday to step up its policy of targeting Palestinians heavily involved in terrorist attacks. Officials argued that the policy was designed to "intercept" terrorists in the face of imminent attacks.

More than a dozen activists have been killed in such operations since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising in September.

In an incident last weekend that led to a further deterioration in relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, three members of the Islamic Jihad were killed in a helicopter strike.

The policy was drawn severe criticism from the State Department and others around the world.

But Robertson said he supported Israel's policy of "surgical strikes" against Palestinian terrorists.

"Which is more righteous - to make war against one person who is an architect of terror, or is it more righteous to wage war against an entire population?" he said during a press conference in Jerusalem.

Robertson, a staunch supporter of Israel for years, said the policies implemented by the Clinton administration had built up "false expectations" among the Palestinians that the U.S. would stand behind them no matter what they did.

Clinton was often accused here of being too closely involved in the details of mediating a peace deal between Israel and the PA, but not as concerned about what was actually happening on the ground.

Israeli critics point to numerous commitments made by the PA in signed agreements which it simply never fulfilled, as proof that Clinton was more interested in pushing a process and making a name for himself than true peacemaking.

Robertson, who said he has interviewed Arafat in the past, said he believes the PA chairman leader can no longer be considered a negotiating partner for Israel.

Although he would love to see the violence stop and some accommodation made for the Palestinians to enable them to lead a "happy, prosperous life," he said he did not believe this would happen until there was new Palestinian leadership.

While Israel had no right to choose a Palestinian leader, it was incumbent upon the Palestinians themselves to select responsible leaders who would govern with an "honest administration" and "fiscal sanity," Robertson said.

"I'm happy to raise a voice in support of peace," he added. But in light of the continued violence the Israeli government may be forced to take "more dramatic" steps to combat a "carefully crafted campaign of terror."

The 71-year-old religious leader, who paid a three-day visit with his wife Dede, said he believed his trip would encourage some of the 50 million evangelical Christians in the U.S. to visit the country despite the security situation.

Robertson hosts CBN's flagship program, The 700 Club, which reaches about a million American viewers every day. He has been deeply involved in the Middle East since CBN took over a Christian television station in southern Lebanon in 1982.

Middle East Television's transmitter was seized by the Hizballah terrorist organization after Israel's hasty withdrawal from southern Lebanon last year. It had previously been car-bombed twice.

See Earlier Story:

Lebanese Army Arrests CBN Staffer (23 July 1999)