A group of more than 350 prominent Israeli rabbis has sent a letter of support and encouragement to Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, after comments he made about US Secretary of State John Kerry triggered a diplomatic backlash.
The Rabbinical Congress for Peace (RCP) thanked Ya'alon "for his clear and fearless remarks that 'enough is enough'," referring to American pressure on Israel to cede land to the Palestinian Authority (PA).
"At long last there is a cabinet minister who demonstrated what true Jewish leadership is - a man who had the courage to advocate the truth that is stated in the Code of Jewish Law (Orach Chaim, Section 329), that any withdrawal from Jewish territory leads to bloodshed," the letter read.
"As Minister Ya'alon put it: 'Only our continued presence in Judea and Samaria and the Jordan Valley will ensure that Ben-Gurion Airport and [the northern city of] Netanya don't become targets for rockets from every direction," it continued. "This simple truth has been proved over and over again is recent decades. Any concession or withdrawal has led to bloodshed and instability and has made daily life miserable."
In a private conversation Tuesday, Defense Minister Ya'alon leveled scathing criticism of the US-sponsored "peace plan" between Israel and the PA, saying it did not adequately address Israel's security concerns over ceding the strategically-important Judea and Samaria region, and dismissing US security proposals as "not worth the paper it was written on."
More controversially, Ya'alon attacked Kerry personally, branding him "obsessive and messianic" over his relentless shuttle diplomacy and efforts to impose terms on Israel.
The comments quickly elicited criticism from the US as being "offensive and inappropriate," and in response an embattled Yaalon apologized on Tuesday for any offense caused - though notably he did not withdraw the comments nor deny saying them.
But a number of prominent Israelis have spoken up for him, including a senior military veteran. Likud MK and fellow coalition member Tzipi Hotoveli criticized Ya'alon's decision to apologize, saying that the White House's stance is disconnected from the reality of the situation in the Middle East.
Despite voicing staunch support for Ya'alon, RCP Executive Director Rabbi Avrohom Shmuel Lewin emphasized that ultimately, "Secretary of State John Kerry is not at fault."
"He took his cue from Israel’s continued weak-minded mottos, such as 'Israel is prepared for painful concessions,' and 'Israel supports a two-state solution.'
"If we already convinced him that he can gain from Israel’s continued painful concessions and withdrawals, why shouldn’t he continue to pressure Israel for even more concessions?" asked Rabbi Lewin. "The only course to take now is to make him face the reality as delineated in our Torah - that there never was and there will never be genuine peace and stability in the region through Israel’s compulsive withdrawals and concessions. This will not harm our relations with the U.S. because the U.S. has no interest in leading to more bloodshed and instability in the region."
Rabbi Joseph Gerlitzky, Chairman of the RCP, also praised Ya'alon, and simultaneously issued a veiled criticism of the way in which the Israeli media covered the passing of former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
"In contrast with the 'festival' of 'Jewish leadership' that the media has been portraying in the past few days, a true leader is one who is not fazed by the media," he said. "A true leader does not cave in to deceptive diplomacy."
This deceptively-named "Rabbinical Congress for Peace" has made a misquote from Shulchan Aruch (the Code of Jewish Law) the centerpiece of its ideology. According to them, it says that any withdrawal from Jewish territory leads to bloodshed.
The actual words of the Shulchan Aruch are, "If non-Jews lay siege to Jewish cities, if they are coming to steal money, we do not violate the Sabbath, but if they are coming to kill, or if we don't know their intentions, we go out against them with weapons and violate the Sabbath. If the city is near the border, then even if they are coming to steal straw, we violate the Sabbath. And this is true even if they have not yet come, but are planning to come."
Apparently these "rabbis" of RCP saw the words "Jewish cities" and the words "near the border" and thought the Shulchan Aruch was referring to a Jewish sovereign state. Nothing could be more ridiculous; the Shulchan Aruch was written about 500 years ago, and there has not been a Jewish sovereign state for about 2000 years.
Moreover, the Shulchan Aruch is merely copying a law that first appears in the Talmud, Tractate Eiruvin, page 45a. After stating the law, the Talmud comments that Nehardea, a city in the Jewish section of Babylonia, is considered a city near the border.
Babylonia in Talmudic times was not a Jewish sovereign state. It was ruled by the Sassanid Persian Empire. Clearly, the Talmud's intention is that if there is an attack on a predominantly Jewish area of a non-Jewish country, and the army of that country is not available to defend it, Jews are obligated to take up arms and defend their country against the marauders.
A Jewish sovereign state in the Holy Land is explicitly forbidden by the Talmud in Tractate Kesubos 111. There the Talmud says that Jews are foresworn not to ascend as a group to take over the Holy Land, not to fight against the nations and not to force the end of exile. Fighting to defend a state created in violation of this law is not a mitzvah; it is a grave sin.
Furthermore, the Talmud and Shulchan Aruch advocate defense against those coming to steal, not those coming to recover what was originally theirs. The gentile nations who fight the Zionists are coming to take back land stolen from them in the various wars of the past. Thus the rationale of Orach Chaim 329:6 does not apply.
To take quotes from Torah sources and misapply them to a state whose very existence is forbidden by the Torah is disingenuous and misleading.
AND TO MOSHE YAALON AND OTHER ISRAELI POLITICIANS WHO SHARE HIS VIEWS WE SAY: YOUR CHUTZPAH TOWARDS AMERICA, YOUR GREATEST SUPPORTER IN THE WORLD, HAS REACHED NEW HEIGHTS. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.