Haredi MK Gafni recalls party's historic support of evacuating settlements

The letter is dated April 18, 1978, when Begin was negotiating peace with Egypt, which involved returning Sinai to Egypt and evacuating Yamit.

August 9, 2017 14:39
2 minute read.
Moshe Gafni


Although haredi parties tend to be in rightwing governments, Rabbi Elazar Menachem Man Shach firmly supported evacuating settlements, United Torah Judaism MK Moshe Gafni reminded yeshiva students in an address this week.

Gafni showed Walla a copy of a letter to then-prime minister Menachem Begin from Shach, the former dean of the Ponevezh Yeshiva and the spiritual head of the non-hassidic haredi (“Lithuanian”) community and the Degel Hatorah Party, who died in 2001.

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The letter is dated April 18, 1978, when Begin was negotiating peace with Egypt, which involved returning Sinai to Egypt and evacuating Yamit.

“I want your honor to know that concessions made only for peace are not concessions, and when God will have mercy on us and the time comes, everything will be returned to us,” Shach wrote. “According to Halacha, there is nothing preventing concessions of parts of the Land of Israel for peace, and according to history, we suffered more from European countries than from Arab countries.”

Shach said he understood it is difficult to give up territory in opposition to what one feels, especially if the feeling is religious, “but it is the responsibility of a responsible main who makes decisions relating to life and death to rise above feelings and take actions only according to logic, and this is logic based on the view of the Torah.”

Shach made reference to this view in multiple speeches, but the letter is a rare case of him laying them out clearly. Still, he made apparent his opposition to the Israeli Left in his 1990 “hares and pigs” speech, in which he said of Labor’s predecessor: “The [Labor] Alignment disconnect the past from the Jewish people.

Today, we meet children who don’t know what Shabbat is. There are kibbutzim that don’t know what Yom Kippur is. No knowledge and they grow hares and pigs” – meaning non-kosher animals – “and this is called the Jewish people? Is the Alignment holy? They don’t have Shabbat or Yom Kippur.”

The rabbi also refused to have his party join the Alignment, then led by Shimon Peres, and Shas in toppling prime minister Yitzhak Shamir and the Right, in what is known as the “stinking maneuver” or “dirty trick,” which also took place in 1990.

Gafni, similarly, is considered to be on the Left of the hassidic MKs in United Torah Judaism on both economic and diplomatic issues, and has expressed discomfort with some of this government’s right-wing initiatives, but he told Haaretz recently that he wouldn’t be part of a coalition led by the Left because it cooperates with the Conservative and Reform movements.

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