JERUSALEM – A Jewish group’s headquarters were raided today by hundreds of security officials just days before the movement, led by residents of Judea and Samaria, was to present a plan calling for Jews of the area to secede from Israel and create their own autonomous Jewish entity.
The massive police raid came after a WorldNetDaily article this weekend broke the story regarding the Judea Initiative, which is seeking to gather signatures from Judea and Samaria’s nearly 200,000 Jews for a manifesto declaring the creation of a sovereign Jewish authority that would govern itself independently according to Jewish law and would provide its own security.
Security officials involved in today’s raid say the WND article was “read very closely.”
At the order of the Israeli Defense Forces, a joint taskforce consisting of 200-300 officers from the Israeli Police Authority and Shin Bet security services swooped down on the Kfar Tapuach settlement in northern Samaria and raided the offices of the initiative’s leader, northern Samaria resident Yekutel Ben Yaacov. Computers and documents were confiscated and a kennel started by Ben Yaacov several years ago to train dogs to protect area settlements was closed down.
Simultaneously, Jerusalem police and Shin Bet agents raided a Jerusalem Internet caf? and a nearby apartment owned by Ben Yaacov. Four computers and stacks of documents were confiscated and four caf? employees were taken in for questioning.
Ben Yaacov was not arrested in the raid.
On Wednesday, Ben Yaacov is set to deliver his Initiative at a conference in Jerusalem’s Old City. The plan aims to create the new Jewish authority in any part of Judea and Samaria, even a small settlement, in hopes of eventually ruling the entire territory, Ben Yaacov said.
Judea and Samaria are referred to by some as the West Bank, the name coined for the area by Jordan after it annexed the territories in 1948.
Ben Yaacov’s group, the Jewish Legion, was founded in 2001 to foster self-protection for Judea and Samaria communities plagued by terror attacks. His Judea Initiative is a new movement of the Legion not yet officially made public.
“We have been around for four years. Suddenly, they raid my offices three days before the conference to announce our initiative? The authorities are hysterical. They want to stop this initiative, but now they have succeeded in giving it a lot of publicity, so the conference, which doesn’t violate any law, will go on and probably draw even bigger crowds,” Ben Yaacov told WND.
Mikey Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Israeli Police Authority, had no comment about whether the raid was in response to the initiative conference.
A high-level source close to the raid told WND, “The raid was in the works for several weeks. It is the result of the movement’s activities and planned activities.”
The source said WND’s article breaking the story about Ben Yaacov’s plans to call for Jews to secede from Israel “was read very carefully and with interest.”
Ben Yaacov told WND in the article his initiative was prompted by talks of Israeli withdrawals from Judea and Samaria.
“We can’t sit around and wait until Israel sends the bulldozers to take down Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria before attempting to counter the next Israeli withdrawal. We are acting now so we can retain our rightful biblical heritage,” he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon withdrew Israel’s Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip last summer in spite of fierce opposition from members of his own Likud party. He recently announced he was leaving Likud to start his own “centrist” party, Kadima, prompting new elections currently scheduled for March. Since then, multiple Kadima members have told reporters the new party is looking to change Israel’s borders with possible withdrawals from Judea and Samaria. There have been talks of disengagements from parts of Jerusalem as well.
It’s unclear as yet how Sharon’s massive stroke this week and his inability to govern will affect the future politics of Israel.
Currently, Judea and Samaria is considered landlocked territory not officially recognized as part of any country. Israel calls the land “disputed.” The United Nations claims Judea and Samaria is “occupied” by Israel, which maintains overall control of most of the area while the Palestinian Authority has jurisdiction in about 40 percent. The Palestinians claim a population of roughly 2.4 million, but new demographic studies show the numbers are likely inflated. The actual Palestinian population could be up to 1 million less.
Judea and Samaria remained under Jordanian rule from 1948 until Israel captured the territory in 1967 after Jordan’s King Hussein ignored Israeli pleas for his country to stay out of the Six Day War. Most countries rejected Jordan’s initial claim on the area, which it formally renounced in 1988.
Ben Yaacov says his Judea Initiative takes advantage of Judea and Samaria’s murky legal status to argue for independent Jewish sovereignty.
“Legally it’s a no-man’s land. The Palestinians used that status to create their own authority, so there is absolutely no reason the Jews can’t do the same thing. The area is the site of a lot of the Bible and has had a Jewish population for centuries. We will not allow the Israeli government to kick us out.”
Many villages in the Judea and Samaria area, which Israelis commonly reefer to as the “biblical heartland,” are mentioned throughout the Old Testament.
The Book of Genesis says Abraham entered Israel at Shechem (Nablus) and received God’s promise of land for his offspring.
Jacob dreamed of angels on a stairway leading to heaven
The nearby town of Beit El, anciently called Bethel meaning “house of God,” is where Scripture says patriarch Jacob slept on a stone pillow and dreamed of angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven. In that dream, God spoke directly to Jacob and reaffirmed the promise of territory.
And in Exodus, the holy tabernacle rested in Shilo, which is believed to be the first area the ancient Israelites settled after fleeing Egypt.
Ben Yaacov said his new Jewish authority would be “governed by Jewish law. Non-Jews, including Palestinians, are more than welcome to live there as long as they accept Jewish sovereign and agree to abide by the Seven Noahide laws, the most basic of biblical dictates.”
He said the annexed territory would provide for its own security.
“A large contingent of Judea and Samaria residents served in the Israeli army. They currently defend their own settlements to a large extent. We would base ours on the same concept as Israeli security. Immediately after Israel was founded, it was attacked on all sides and it won every war because of the help of God and because of the same people we have with us.”
The initiative states there are three primary reasons to form a Jewish authority in Judea and Samaria:
* “The new Jewish authority will protect Israel from terror and enhance Israeli security. It is more advantageous to have Jewish autonomy in Judea and Samaria in place of complete Palestinian autonomy, which will give the Palestinian terrorist groups more land from which to fire Qassams and launch attacks. The Jews who remain in the area will be accepting a certain level of self-sacrifice by putting themselves in harm’s way.”
* “The creation of a Jewish authority will relieve tension and prevent bloodshed between Jew and fellow Jew by halting an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria. There are hundreds of thousands of Jews in the area, some of whom may use violent resistance in the face of any withdrawal. It will also alleviate some of the tension and rifts that would be created in Israeli society by any withdrawal.”
* “The new Jewish authority will offer appropriate self-determination to fulfil the national aspirations of many religious Jews in Israel. The area will be ruled by Torah law as opposed to the current anti-religious government.”
Ben Yaacov’s Judea Initiative is not the first major push for Jews to secede from Israel. In 1989, the late author and Knesset member Rabbi Meir Kahane, a mentor of Ben Yaacov, attempted to found the State of Judea, a Jewish state in Judea and Samaria. That effort eventually fell through.
“Ours is different in that we are starting small,” explained Ben Yaacov. “We are not talking about our own state, just an entity or authority, however small or large it will be.”
Reacting to the news of calls for Jews to create their own authority, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat told WorldNetDaily, “This is the chaos and lawlessness [the Palestinian Authority] has warned about. If the Israeli government does not get its act together concerning the settlers, who by the way are armed to the teeth and acting like a parallel authority, the price will be paid in Palestinian blood.”
Israeli government spokesmen Raanan Gissin and David Baker refused to comment on the issue.
Said Ben Yaacov, “There may be resistance at first, but eventually people will come to understand a lot of Jews in Judea and Samaria will not go along with any further withdrawals. Now those Jews will have a solution.”