Israeli Rabbis are outraged: MK Gafni’s remarks are an effrontery to the entire concept of Torah authority.
The storm that erupted in the Rabbinic world over the comments of MK Moshe Gafni continues to roil. Rabbis from across the entire religious spectrum have unmitigatedly rejected Gafni’s original “Torah position,” presented to the media, according to which “there is no need to take settlements into consideration [in peace talks]. Concessions made for peace are not concessions at all, and according to Jewish law, it is permitted to evacuate settlements and return them to the Arabs,” said Gafni.
In response to this distortion of Torah truth, the Rabbinical Congress for Peace has publicized an official protest in the name of 400 Israeli Rabbis who are against this proclamation.
Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, Chief Rabbi of Safed and member of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate has written: “It might have been possible to argue this matter theoretically, thirty of forty years ago; however, to show up today waiving outdated responsa and old letters is an effrontery to the entire concept of Torah authority. We must remember that from the time that those original theoretical discussions about the halachic status of Israeli territories were held in the 1980s, different Israeli governments have tried dozens of miserable ‘experiments’ to apply the ‘land for peace’ formula, only to leave behind a long trail of Jewish blood and serious damage to the Israeli security.
“Who among the legal experts of our time was greater than Rabbi Ovadia Yosef zt”l, who, in his first examination of the issue ruled that it was permissible to concede Israeli territories ‘in exchange for peace,’ yet – as a man of Torah guided solely by the truth – did not hesitate for a moment to retract his opinion immediately after the wave of terror began following the Oslo Accords. He himself wrote that the entire negotiations were fundamentally flawed, and concluded (based on Psalm 120:7): ‘I am for peace, and should I speak? They are for war!’
“After all the blood that has been spilled due to the concessions of territories to our enemies, how dare a person talk about a ‘Torah position’ that ‘prefers the transfer of territories in exchange for peace’? Is there a Rabbi in the world today who still thinks that Jewish law supports the destruction of settlements and the handing over of territories, positions, weapons and responsibility to those haters of Israel, the partners of I.S.I.S, in close proximity to Jewish settlements, G-d forbid!”
The famous legal authority, Rabbi Eliyahu Shlesinger, Rabbi of Gilo and Mekor Chaim, and one of the leading rabbis of Rabbinical Congress for Peace also protested sharply the words of MK Gafni, by saying: “Gafni seems to have been asleep for the last twenty-five years! He is talking today about ‘removing settlements in exchange for peace”! This is absolute nonsense! Today, you don’t need to be a Torah scholar or halachic authority to see the simple reality, which has always been clear – there has never been such a thing as “handing over land for peace.” Our enemies have absolutely no intention of accepting our existence, and no concession on our part will make them to change for the better; rather, the opposite is true. The true Torah position cannot be based on pipe-dreams.”
Rabbi Yermiyahu Cohen, Chief Rabbinical Judge of Paris and Rabbi of France’s expatriate community in Israel has also lent his voice to the protest, stating today that after we have come to realize that any concession made to our enemies has only increased terror and brought terrible dangers to the inhabitants of the country, it is highly inappropriate to even mention such views from the past: “We have come to see that the famous law of the Shulchan Aruch, which prohibits the withdrawal from Jewish territories in order to save lives, is itself the only assurance of life! Both Jewish law and the reality of the situation demand of us today to proclaim loudly that the transfer of territories is itself the gravest danger, and that any concession and withdrawal will only increase the danger to Jewish life. Claiming the opposite will only weaken and endanger the people of Israel.”
Last week at the annual convention of the Chabad emissaries, personally sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe forty years ago (from 1976-1978) from New York to Israel, in order to strengthen and broaden the activities of Chabad in the Holy Land, also issued a sharp protest against Gafni’s statements.
“We strongly and painfully protest the insidious comments of Knesset member Moshe Gafni,” read the Lubavitcher statement, “who publicized this week the false and outdated “position” that “there is no need to take settlements into consideration [in peace talks]. Concessions made for peace are not concessions at all, and according to Jewish law, it is permitted to evacuate settlements and return them to the Arabs.” This view, even in its time, was solidly refuted and stood in stark contradiction to established halacha. How much more so is it irrelevant today, given the irrefutable evidence that every terror attack, rocket and mortar fire, shootings and knife attacks were directly caused by Israeli concessions and disengagements, until we have reached a situation in which the very territories delivered to our enemies as “concessions for peace” have become bases for terror attacks against Jews!
It is inconceivable that an ultra-Orthodox MK would issue an open call against an explicit halacha in the Shulchan Aruch, which even overrides the prohibitions of Shabbat, since this is a matter of saving lives, which takes priority over Shabbat observance itself!
Rabbi Joseph Gerlitzky, Chairman of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace and Rabbi of Central Tel Aviv, announced that in the coming days, his organization will increase its activities to explain to the Israeli public the true Torah position, which has been signed upon by four hundred leading Israeli rabbis, and in no way will he allow this attempt to create confusion and misrepresentation of clear halachic positions to be presented. “We have suffered enough from these unfortunate arguments that claim to speak in the name of halacha,” Rabbi Gerlitzky said. “The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim §329 predicted exactly what would happen if territories were given to our enemies, and it is inconceivable that we repeat the same, terrible mistake. Only a firm stance, based upon authentic Torah law, and a declaration that we will never deliver even an inch of Israeli territory – will guarantee security to the inhabitants of the land.”