Rabbis outraged at haredi MK's support for concessions

Rabbis slam MK Gafni's claim that Torah supports evacuating Jews from their homes to surrender land to Arabs.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Moshe Gafni
Moshe Gafni
Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash 90

MK Moshe Gafni's (UTJ) stepped out of bounds, a number of haredi rabbis in Israel and the Diaspora say, arguing that by claiming that according to Jewish law "it is permitted to evacuate settlements," Gafni had gone far beyond his authority as a Member of Knesset.

Gafni recently claimed that the there is no religious prohibition to dismantle Jewish communities in Israel or to surrender land.

"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 position, Gafni argued, is based on the late Litvish Torah Sage Rabbi Shach's endorsement of territorial concessions. During the First Intifada, Rabbi Shach adivsed his followers not to visit Judea and Samaria at all.

In June, Gafni said that "the Palestinians were here before us," and that unless Israel becomes what he considers a Jewish state, it has no right to conduct any kind of negotiations.

In response, Tzfat Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, the son of former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, wrote that "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have been possible to argue this matter theoretically, thirty of forty years ago; however, to show up today waiving outdated responsa and old letters is an effrontery to the entire concept of Torah authority."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 halakhic (relating to Jewish law - ed.) 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 Israeli security.

"Who among the legal experts of our time was greater than former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, 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 negotiations in their entirety were fundamentally flawed, concluding that they were an instance of (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 communities and the handing over of territories, positions, weapons and responsibility to those haters of Israel, the partners of ISIS, in close proximity to Jewish homes, G-d forbid?!"

Rabbinical Congress for Peace leader and famous legal authority Rabbi Eliyahu Shlesinger also serves as rabbi of Jerusalem's Gilo and Mekor Chaim neighborhoods. In his words, "Gafni seems to have been asleep for the last twenty-five years! He is talking today about ‘removing Jewish communities in exchange for peace!"

"This is absolute nonsense! Today, you don’t need to be a Torah scholar or halakhic 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; in fact, the opposite is true. The true Torah position cannot be based on pipe-dreams."

Chief Rabbinical Judge of Paris and Rabbi of France's expatriate community in Israel Rabbi Yermiyahu Cohen said explained that Israel is only now realizing that all concessions bring terror and dangers.

"We have come to see that the famous law of the Shulkhan Aruch (code of Jewish Law - ed.), 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," Rabbi Cohen said.

Last week at the annual convention of the Chabad emissaries in Israel,participating rabbis issued a sharp protest against Gafni’s statements.

Most of these emissaries were 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.

"We strongly and painfully protest the insidious comments of Knesset member Moshe Gafni, who publicized this week the false and outdated 'position' that 'there is no need to take Jewish communities into consideration [in peace talks]. Concessions made for peace are not concessions at all, and according to Jewish law, it is permitted to evacuate communities and give them to the Arabs,'" the statement read.

"This view, even in its time, was solidly refuted and stood in stark contradiction to established halakha (Jewish law). 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 halakha in the Shulkhan Aruch, which even overrides the prohibitions of Shabbat, since this is a matter of saving lives, which takes priority over Shabbat observance itself!"

Rabbinical Congress for Peace Chairman and Central Tel Aviv Rabbi Joseph Gerlitzky said his organization will increase the number of activities intended to explain the Torah-true position on land concessions.

The statement, he said, has already been signed by 400 leading Israeli rabbis.

"We have suffered enough from these unfortunate arguments that claim to speak in the name of halakha," Rabbi Gerlitzky said. "The Shulkhan 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."