R. Amar: Better a Disengagement Than a Civil War
Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi of Israel, said Sunday that he was “very opposed” to the prospect of IDF soldiers disobeying the orders of their commanders – even at the cost of Jewish communities being destroyed by order of the government. “There can be no doubt that a civil war is the worst thing possible,” Rabbi Amar said on a visit to the Gush Katif and Northern Samaria Heritage Center in Nitzan in southern Israel.
The Heritage Center is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Jewish communities in Gaza and northern Samaria that were evacuated and destroyed in the 2005 disengagement plan. Many rabbinical leaders opposed the plan, as did much of the public, and a fierce debate broke out over the question of whether or not IDF soldiers should obey orders to evict Jews from their homes, considering that soldiers had signed up and agreed to serve in the IDF against Israel's Arab enemies.
Rabbi Amar said that, at the time, he had advocated against disobeying orders, even though it was a very unpopular position among many members of the observant public. “Many people were angry with me. I consulted with my rabbis, as I was afraid we were headed for a civil war,” Rabbi Amar said. “That would be the worst thing possible, even worse than the destruction of Gush Katif. I don't think there can be any doubt about that.
“There were a number of great rabbis who at the time called on soldiers to disobey orders and not participate in the disengagement, but many of them changed their minds on the matter afterwards,” Rabbi Amar continued. “I wrote and spoke against the idea of disobeying orders during that period, even though I know I was drawing a great deal of criticism, but I stand by what I did.”
The issue of disobeying orders again came to the fore this weekend after comments by Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett that were interpreted in the media as support for refusing orders to evict Jews from their homes. On Saturday night, Bennett explained that he had not called for soldiers to refuse orders, but that he was expressing the moral difficulty soldiers would have in evicting anyone – Jewish or Arab – from their homes.