OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Israeli rabbis are threatening US President George W. Bush of divine punishment if he did not scrap an upcoming US-sponsored Mideast peace conference, saying Hurricane Katrina and California fires were God’s punishment for America.
"We wrote to President Bush, a man who believes in the Bible, to warn him against the terrible danger to which he is exposing his country by hosting such a conference," Rabbi Meir Druckman told Israel radio on Monday, November 5.
The letter, signed by eight rabbis, threatens Bush that "God punishes anyone who wants to force Israel to give up its land."
The US is expected to host later this year a conference bringing Arabs and Israel to talk peace.
Druckman claimed that the US should learn a lesson from earlier divine punishments.
"There is no doubt the New Orleans flood from the Katrina hurricane was God’s punishment for dismantling the settlements," he said, referring to the pullout from occupied Gaza Strip.
Hurricane Katrina, one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the US, left a trail of destruction across the entire Mississippi coast and into Alabama in 2005, driving thousands of Americans homeless.
In 2005, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of the ultra-orthodox Shas movement, also claimed Katrina was God’s punishment for Bush over Gaza.
"The recent fires catastrophe in California should be considered the last warning," said Druckman.
Last month’s deadly blazes have ravaged thousands of houses in the state of California and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
Famed US evangelist broadcaster Pat Robertson last month said Washington risks God’s wrath if it forces Israel to return occupied al-Quds (Jerusalem) to the Palestinians.
Israel captured Al-Quds in the 1967 six-day war and later annexed the holy city, home to Islam’s third holiest shrine, in a move not recognized by international community.
The rabbis’ warning came as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hopped the Annapolis meeting would yield a peace deal before Bush leaves office.
"Negotiations that I sincerely hope… could achieve their goals in the time remaining in the Bush administration," she said wrapping up two days of talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders.
On her eighth visit to the region this year, Rice gave no date for the much-awaited conference, saying only it would take place "before the end of the year".
During a joint news conference with Rice, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas sounded upbeat.
"There is progress in the preparations with a view to launching final-status negotiations at the Annapolis conference and to transform them into a real chance to launch a significant peace process."
Despite intensive talks for weeks, the Israelis and Palestinians remain divided over the joint statement they are supposed to draw up for the meeting.
Not a single word has yet been written for the document, which the Palestinians want to tackle the issues of borders, refugees, status of Al-Quds and a timetabled implementation.
Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert opposes a timeframe and favors a looser statement.
(IslamOnline.net + News Agencies – Nov 5, 2007)