Hundreds of Rabbis Oppose Ceding Israeli Land

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Hundreds of Israeli rabbis gathered this week in Jerusalem to declare their opposition to giving away land and establishing a Palestinian state on it.

The Union of Rabbis for the Jewish People and the Land of Israel was created 10 years ago in response to the signing of the Oslo Accords by then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn, Rabbi Sholom Gold told

Ten years later, the group gathered again to express its opposition to the U.S. sponsored "road map." The group comprises some 500 rabbis from around the country, only about 30 of whom are from the disputed territories.

The "road map" they said, is against the Torah (the Jewish law found in the first five books of the Bible), and they declared, "No Israeli government has the authority to give away a portion of Israel."

"The Holy Land is ours. It was given to us by God," said Gold. "[Israeli officials] don't have the right to cede the land. It belongs to the Jewish people, past, present and future."

According to various references in the Jewish and Christian Bible, God promised the Land of Israel, including Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and the Gaza Strip as an eternal inheritance to the Jewish people.

"Arafat is a world-class terrorist," Gold said. "[He] did not fulfill what he agreed to in the Oslo accords."

According to Gold, the rabbis pleaded with the government 10 years ago not to give arms to the Palestinians and told the government those areas would become an arsenal of weapons and a staging ground for terror attacks against Israelis.

"Nobody learned a thing from the past," he said.

As part of the agreement in the Oslo Accords, Israel gave the PA weapons and allowed them to assemble a police force that would maintain civil order.

But the "police force" was developed into a small army, with far more arms than the agreement called for. Israel says that many Palestinian officers have fought against Israel during the last three years.

As for the "road map," Gold said it was absurd to think that PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas would kill his fellow Arabs in order to protect Jewish lives. Abbas is supposed to be collecting illegal weapons and dismantling the terrorist infrastructure.

Gold said the rabbis also are opposed to removing Jews from their homes, especially in what was the heartland of the Jewish people in Judea and Samaria.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has pledged to dismantle unauthorized outposts built in the last three years in the disputed territories, but many Israelis fear that Israel will be required to dismantle settlements with much larger populations as a result of some sort of final agreement with the Palestinians.

The Palestinians want all 200,000-plus Israeli Jews who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to leave, so they can establish a state in those territories.

Although Gold said the rabbis are "not interested in ruling over Arabs, they certainly don't deserve a state."

There are 22 Arab nations, he noted. "This land is ours, not theirs."

Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former deputy foreign minister and a member of the Meimad party (which partners with the opposition Labor party responsible for the Oslo Accords), disagrees with the rabbis.

According to Melchior, the rabbis should not be using the Bible to legitimize what he called their "political position."

"Even if those rabbis don't [intend] to encourage violence in their expressions, there might be elements that could be interpreted by their students as de-legitimizing the government which was elected in a democratic process," Melchior said in response to a query from

Melchior referred to the assassination of the late Prime Minister Rabin, who was killed by a religious man who objected to Rabin's concessions to the Palestinians.

At the time, some rabbis were accused of encouraging the assassination of Rabin by calling him a traitor. No charges were ever brought against any rabbis in the case.

But Gold said that people expect rabbis to express their views, especially about a situation that could be a "life-and-death issue."

"It's practical to express our opinion [about] the 'liberated' territories in Judea and Samaria," Gold said. But the rabbis would never promote violence, he added.

"If, God forbid, the Jews are forced to move out, they'll leave as we did out of Anatevka," he said of the Russian village named in Fiddler on the Roof, symbolic of Jews being forced from their homes for generations.

Nevertheless, he said, one thing is certain. "Without any doubt we're going to come back because God promised it [the land] to us.""