KIBBUTZ NAHAL OZ, Israel – A group of prominent rabbis is calling on President Bush to refuse political and financial support for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s plan to evacuate most of Judea and Samaria, stating the withdrawal is against U.S. interests, and that it violates basic tenets of Jewish law.
“U.S. interests are being impacted by Israel’s proposed retreat from terrorist strongholds in Judea and Samaria. In addition, as rabbis our obligation is to teach, guide, and lead our congregations to conduct their daily lives in accordance with Jewish Law. This holds especially true in a matter of life or death threatening the residents of Israel,” stated a letter sent to Bush and signed by leaders of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, a coalition of over 1200 rabbinic leaders and pulpit rabbis.
Congress members include some of the most esteemed Orthodox rabbis in the Jewish world.
Olmert is attempting to push through a withdrawal from most of Judea and Samaria, mountainous territory that is within rocket firing range of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport. The territory is also commonly called the West Bank.
The rabbis point out in their letter to Bush that villages slated for withdrawal from Judea and Samaria are mentioned throughout the Torah.
They state a withdrawal from the area violates Jewish law because an evacuation will lead to massive violence.
“There is a clear definitive ruling in the Jewish Code of Law ‘Orach Chaim’ Chapter 329 which rules that it is strictly forbidden to give up even one inch of a Jewish border town to foreigners because it will lead to bloodshed. How much more so regarding retreating from holy land that enemies bent on your destruction have already stated will be used to launch attacks against Jews,” states the letter to Bush.
The rabbis wrote to Bush that Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza last summer has already impacted regional U.S. interests and that Olmert’s proposed Judea and Samaria evacuation will have “disastrous” consequences for the American-led war on terror.
“Israel’s 2005 retreat from Gaza has been perceived as a cave-in by the role-model of counter-terrorism. It paved the road to Hamas’ electoral victory and upgraded the posture of Islamic Jihad and al-Qaida, thus providing friendly platforms for Iran, Syria, Sudan, Yemen and the pro-Saddam elements. The Gaza retreat has established the largest terrorist base in the Middle East, threatening accelerated anti-U.S. terrorism.
“Bolstering the Palestinian profile by enforcing a withdrawal in Judea and Samaria constitutes a present and immediate lethal danger to pro-U.S. regimes in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf states and will establish an enormous terror sanctuary threatening US troops in the Gulf area. It would also undermine Israel’s posture of deterrence, which is critical to the enhancement of regional stability.”
The rabbis urged Bush against “morally or financially supporting Israel’s disastrous withdrawal plan.”
According to many reports the U.S. president has to date not enthusiastically supported the proposed Judea and Samaria withdrawal.
After a meeting last month in which Olmert formally presented his plan to Bush, the American leader expressed some reservations and refrained during a joint press conference from issuing an endorsement.
While giving Olmert credit for proposing “bold ideas” that “could be an important step” toward peace, Bush stressed the U.S.-led “Road Map” which offers a Palestinian state, and urged talks with Abbas. He stated a negotiated agreement “best serves Israelis and Palestinians and the cause of peace.”
A member of the Israeli delegation at the White House meeting described the U.S. attitude toward the Judea and Samaria withdrawal as “lukewarm,” explaining the White House raised a number of concerns, including the possibility a terror entity would be created in the areas evacuated, reservations expressed about the plan by Jordan and Egypt, and the effects of the plan on U.S. regional interests.
Political sources close to Olmert’s office told WND the Israeli prime minister has been pressed to convince the Bush administration he has the political clout necessary to carry out his Judea and Samaria withdrawal.
“The Bush administration does not have faith that Olmert has the parliamentary coalition needed to sustain the firestorm of political activity that is sure to surround the implementation of the withdrawal,” said a political source. “They do not see him as the strongman Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was to them.”
Olmert leads a slim governing coalition of 67 out of 120 Knesset seats. Typically, Israeli governments composed of ongoing coalitions with fewer than 70 seats tend to be unstable and short-lived.
Olmert’s government relies heavily on 12 seats from the Ultra-Orthodox Shas party, which traditionally opposes land concessions and which some analysts have predicted may bolt the government as the Judea and Samaria withdrawal plan gets closer to implementation. According to yesterday’s Haaretz poll, 83 percent of Shas voters oppose the evacuation.
If Shas bolts, Olmert may then be forced to bring Arab parties into his government or form a coalition with the Knesset’s right-wing bloc, which would likely only enter the government on condition a Judea and Samaria withdrawal is either canceled or postponed.
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