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Hard-line Religious Rhetoric Raises Red Flags

JERUSALEM — The Knesset will hold a special meeting of its Constitution, Law and Justice Committee next week to discuss recent rulings and declarations by prominent right-wing rabbis who have rejected the government’s authority to cede land to the Palestinians under a future peace deal.

The meeting was called by Labor lawmaker and former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg, who attacked the rabbis’ rulings as an “invitation to assassination,” a reference to the religious rulings said to have foreshadowed the 1995 slaying of then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Israel’s attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, will attend the discussion at Burg’s request.

Burg’s comments followed a Monday meeting at which some 500 hard-line rabbis denounced the American-backed “road map” to Middle East peace. Speakers at the meeting urged Prime Minister Sharon not to hand over biblical land in the West Bank and Gaza for a Palestinian state, calling such a step a violation of Jewish religious law.

“No one in the world, from drawers of water and hewers of stone to prime ministers, has the right to give up one grain of the land of Israel,” said former Sephardic chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu. “The Holy One, blessed be He, gave us the land of Israel. There is holiness in every single grain.”

The Monday meeting was convened by the Rabbis’ Association for the People and Land of Israel, formed in 1993 to oppose the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord signed that year.

Burg, son of the late National Religious Party chief Yosef Burg and himself Orthodox, called on Rubinstein to “immediately stop turning a blind eye to the rabbis’ activities, which are liable to make the blood of soldiers and political leaders free game, as has already happened in the past.”

Labor whip Dalia Itzik called on Rubinstein to indict any rabbis on the public payroll who are part of the right-wing forum.

The group reflects the growing rancor on the Israeli right as the army has begun dismantling unauthorized settler outposts in the West Bank as required by the American-backed road map to peace, which Sharon affirmed at a June 4 summit with the Palestinian Authority’s prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen.

Rabbis have urged settlers occupying the hilltop redoubts to resist passively. But there have been scuffles with security personnel as well as injuries — reminiscent to many of the infighting that took place in the weeks prior to the assassination of Rabin.

The Rabin assassination was also preceded by rabbinical rulings that suggested Rabin had committed a capital offense in his pursuit of a land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians.

In a declaration adopted at the Monday meeting, the rabbis declared that “no government has the authority to declare the establishment of an alien state or to abandon parts of the Land of Israel to aliens, and everything that is done to this end is null and void in the name of God, the Lord of Israel, who has sworn this and in the name of the entire people of Israel throughout the generations.” They also declared that “the government is prohibited by a clear and absolute Torah prohibition from evacuating an outpost or a settlement.”

The declaration added that “everyone who has in his power to prevent implementation of the road map agreement and does not prevent it transgresses the injunction, ‘Thou shalt not stand in thy fellow’s blood.’”

“However,” the rabbis said, “it is necessary to act with great caution and avoid any violence, physical or verbal, both toward our dear brethren, the soldiers and the members of the security forces, and toward our brethren the settlers.”

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