The most astonishing and frightening thing of all is that the state of denial continues, with people as blind as ever. Even after 67 soldiers have fallen – may Hashem avenge their blood – and Israel’s deterrence has been crushed, we keep repeating that “we have no business in Gaza,” and that our entire “hope” is that terrorist-in-chief Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will rule Gaza and the West Bank. We continue to rely on technological inventions to protect our cities, and still seek a political solution with our enemies, or rather our supposed “friends.” Israel’s demand to demilitarize Gaza long ago became a joke.
Amid all the arguments and justifications that have arisen in the wake of Operation Protective Edge, it seems that there is one thing that everyone agrees upon, even if not everyone is ready to admit it: Israel’s great shock in the face of the growing strength of Hamas and other terrorist organizations.
Whereas previously, it was common for Israelis to easily dismiss and laugh away the hateful propaganda and threats of terrorist organizations, which predicted Israel’s destruction, because of their meager capabilities, suddenly, before our very eyes, we discover that they have grown into a monster of tremendous proportions.
From tunnels, hospitals and kindergartens throughout Gaza, Hamas and other terrorist organizations shelled Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa, forcing the IDF to utilize its most advanced capabilities to stop the attacks, though not with overwhelming success.
Even after all the aerial bombardments, adding up to hundreds of tons of explosives in the month-long battle, Hamas not only survived, but claimed victory. Hamas pointed to its success in flooding Israel with rockets, kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers, tunnel attacks, drone attacks and sniper attacks.
Many admit that it was only a last-minute miracle that brought Israel to its senses – recognizing the danger inherent in the tunnels, a kind of danger which the state has never faced before. It is true that we had been warned many times about the danger of disengaging from the Gaza Strip.
One does not have to be a military genius to realize that the settlements around Gaza would one day become the enemy’s front line, and that Ashkelon would fall within missile range. The chief of staff at the time, Moshe Ya’alon, who is today serving as defense minister, warned correctly that “the disengagement will give terror a tailwind.”
However, did anyone imagine that the security situation would deteriorate to a point where the majority of Israeli citizens would have to run daily to bomb shelters and have their daily agenda dictated by terrorists? Actually, there is one national-security doctrine that did foretell these events. It was presented in detailed documents hundreds of times over the past two decades to the current prime minister and his ministers, and to those who preceded them. And it was publicized in large two-page adds placed in the major Israeli newspapers, as well as on billboards across the country, by the Rabbinic Congress for Peace.
The name of this doctrine is “The Torah that God gave Israel” – based on halacha in the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim, chapter 329) – and simply and clearly states that any withdrawal from Jewish-controlled areas on the borders with our enemies creates an existential danger for all citizens, even those living far from the border area.
The Shulchan Aruch states: “Because, from there, the land will be easy for them to conquer.” This is true even if the enemy across the border does not express any desire to further attack after taking border communities.
The halacha is expressing a simple and logical understanding: Every inch of the Land of Israel that is not under Jewish control is a security risk and a source of strength for the enemy. The enemy will become seven times more strong upon receiving Israeli land and increase its desire to conquer even more territory.
Even right-wing politicians took issue with this stance. “True,” they said, “it is possible that the disengagement might strengthen terror; however, will the land really ‘be easy for them to conquer’? Do they imagine that they can challenge the IDF militarily and conquer all of Israel?” Yet, after the miraculous discovery of numerous attack tunnels many in the political and military echelons have come to admit that broader goal of the tunnels is, simply stated, the conquest of vast areas of populated land.
With my own ears, I heard a minister in the government exclaim that without the “lucky” discovery of Hamas’s tunnels, our enemies would have “brought Israel to its knees, to the same degree of existential threat that existed at the beginning of the Yom Kippur War.” And here is the point: those tunnels were dug in the very area Israel withdrew from in the Gaza disengagement.
Our organization, consisting of hundreds of Israeli rabbis who put their signature to the Torah ruling above, have publicized this halacha time after time, for the past 22 years, in every possible format. We have run after each minister and parliamentary member who is willing to listen to us about the Torah’s warning, and borne the slander of the media, who have described us as “inciters” seeking to disrupt the rule of law and devalue the power of the IDF. We have even been met with government threats to cut off official rabbinic salaries as a penalty for “mixing into politics.”
As the chairman of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, I was interviewed numerous times in the periods of peace talks and disengagement, and I repeatedly cited the Torah’s position, that exactly predicted the great danger and the huge enemy arms buildup that would result from the disengagement.
Public opinion makers would scornfully chuckle when I told them that the area which we were leaving would be turned into a military base that would be used against us. We were told, “Do you rabbis think that you understand the security situation better than the government decision makers that sit in the cabinet?” Senior statesmen to whom we protested against the disengagement only smiled.
“You rabbis underestimate the strength of the army... if Gaza dares to shoot even a single missile, or to carry out a single terrorist attack, we will finish them off in minutes.”
The Torah, the eternal guidebook for Jewish life, in whose merit the nation of Israel has survived every threat and hardship for millennia, rules that the only solution to protecting the lives of the citizens of Israel from Hamas is full Israeli control of all lands necessary for our security, without placing our trust in any foreign force or political agreements, which themselves only increase the danger.
Another IDF bombing of an empty building or another rocket launcher will not restore Israeli deterrence – only the unyielding declaration that Israel will no longer discuss withdrawals of any kind could do so. And that from now on, Israel will defend itself with unflinching strength. We need to adopt the Torah’s doctrine for peace and security, and write chapter 329 of the Shulchan Aruch into the defense policy of the country. Only through this will we merit the blessing, “I will grant peace in the land... and you shall dwell in security in your land” (Leviticus 26).The author is rabbi of Central Tel Aviv and chairman of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace.