Rabbis Denounce Sharon’s Plan for Disengagement

Published February 20, 2004, issue of February 20, 2004.
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Former Israeli chief rabbi Avraham Shapira warned Tuesday night that any politicians who even considered “evacuating a flourishing part of the land and expelling Jews from their homes [would] lose their seat and power.” Shapira made his statement as several hundred rabbis convened in Jerusalem to denounce Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s proposal to remove settlements from Gaza as part of a unilateral “disengagement” plan.

The “emergency conference” drew rabbis from the West Bank and Gaza, as well as from the rest of the country, under a banner calling them “Rabbis for the Unity of the Land of Israel.”

“If we do our part — bringing together the people of Israel — God will do his part,” said another former chief rabbi of Israel, Mordechai Eliahu.

Ze’ev Hever, the head of the settlement group Amana, took the podium at the meeting to explain that the rabbis and settlers should take Sharon seriously. Hever usually stays out of the limelight and has long worked closely with Sharon, serving as the chief operations officer for the establishment of the outposts in the West Bank at Sharon’s instigation. Explaining Sharon’s tactics, Hever said, “He throws a bomb. Sometimes it’s a Palestinian state, or evacuating outposts or evacuating settlements. He throws a bomb, retreats a little and then takes another two steps forward.”

“But this time it’s not media spin,” Hever continued, discussing the plan for withdrawal from Gaza, “because this step is not contingent on anyone. The government’s ministries are working on the plan very seriously. This is a unilateral step, not contingent on the Palestinians or any other factors. It is impossible to trust anyone in this matter. It must be taken very seriously.”

Rabbi David Hacohen, from Bat Yam, called “dismantling settlements a crime against the Jewish people” and said that “there shall be no forgiveness for it. Any agreement to evacuate a settlement is like the Munich agreement with the Nazis, may their names be erased.”

The rabbis decided that “nobody — from wood choppers and water-drawers to ministers and the prime minister” has any right to advance “this destructive plan and it is forbidden to participate or cooperate with it in any way.”

The rabbis called on Israel’s right-wing political parties to foil Sharon’s plan and to quit the government if it decides to adopt the disengagement plan and the evacuation from Gaza, “or if the prime minister goes to the U.S. to present the plan to President Bush without any government decision.”

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