Group seeks autonomy for settlers

'Judean Initiative' seeks to stop future pullouts from Judea and Samaria.

settlement 88 (photo credit: )
settlement 88
(photo credit: )
The path to an autonomous Judean state is riddled with obstacles, but Yekutiel Ben-Ya'acov, a marketing consultant from Kfar Tapuah, is not daunted. Ben-Ya'acov, 41, who sees himself as a student of Rabbi Meir Kahane, together with hundreds of right-wing activists who share Ben-Ya'acov's vision, will gather at Yeshivat Hakotel in Jerusalem's Old City on Wednesday to stop future unilateral territorial compromises patterned after the Gaza pullout. "Our proposition, called the Judean Initiative, is a rejection of the Geneva initiative," said Ben-Ya'acov. "We want to be granted Jewish autonomy in all areas in Judea and Samaria populated by Jews. "Instead of handing control over to Arab terrorists we propose something identical to the present situation in the Gaza Strip - autonomy without statehood - except we want it for Jews. We would be a vital buffer zone for the State of Israel." On Monday police raided buildings and institutions connected with Ben-Ya'acov's organization called The Jewish Legion, a paramilitary group that helps the IDF guard settlements in Judea and Samaria. Police closed the Legion's Jerusalem-based Internet caf , thought to be a meeting place for extreme right-wing activists, its headquarters in Kfar Tapuah and a kennel where the legion trains dogs for paramilitary operations. "Thanks to the Bolshevik [Israeli] government we are getting positive feedback for Wednesday's conference," said Ben-Ya'acov, hinting that the raid only increased the legion's popularity in the eyes of settlers and helped publicize the Judean Initiative conference. "The government is doing its best to stop our meeting. They took all our phones, fax machines and computers. They locked us out of our houses. I guess it scares the living daylights out of them to allow Jews to remain here. "We are going to do everything in our power to stop the road map to Auschwitz," Ben-Ya'acov said. In a related incident Yeshivat Hakotel, which is headed by Rabbi Mordechai Elon, the popular and relatively moderate religious Zionist leader, tried to renege on its contract with the Judean Initiative to rent out its hall this Wednesday. Yeshivat Hakotel's backtracking was seen as an attempt to distance itself from the Judean Initiative. According to Baruch Ben-Yosef, the attorney representing the Judean Initiative, Yeshivat Hakotel would be forced to pay damages of upwards of NIS 60,000. "We asked the court for a restraining order against the yeshiva," said Ben-Yosef. "We are still waiting to receive an answer." Ben-Yosef said that if the yeshiva refused to allow access to its hall the conference would take place outside. Meteorologists are expecting rain on Wednesday. What precisely is the Judean Initiative? Would the autonomous region be a cluster of cantons? Would it have its own health services? Who would be responsible for security? Would residents of Judea have the right to vote in Israel? Ben-Ya'acov, who immigrated to Israel from New York in 1982, has not yet hammered out all the practical details. But he is convinced secular and left-wing Israelis will support the idea of a Jewish autonomy - but for different reasons from his own. "They want to get rid of us. They want to minimize our influence. So the best solution is an autonomous Judea. We will separate ourselves from them." Ben-Ya'acov said he invited Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz to attend the conference, but was turned down. Peretz's spokesman said he had "no intention of responding to those extremists or to their acts." But regardless of Peretz's no-show Ben-Ya'acov is optimistic. "For the first time we will be able to reach out to religious Jews who feel that they never had their religious rights honored. If Palestinians can ask to fulfill national aspirations so can Jews." But isn't there already a Jewish state? "It is clear by now that Israel is not the answer," said Ben-Ya'acov. "We want to live according to the law of the Torah. We want a government accord to the Torah. Instead we have a Supreme Court that tramples Torah laws. When there is a contradiction between secular and Torah law, the secular law takes precedence." An autonomous Judea would also prevent the inevitable bloodshed resulting from attempts by the IDF and police to forcibly evacuate settlements in Judea and Samaria, said Ben-Ya'acov. Is that a threat? "I am much more concerned that a trigger-happy soldier or policeman will open fire on us. It happened in Tapuah and in Mitzpe Yitzhar."