Settlers unite to fight convergence

Yesha Council asks leading rabbis to settle issues of settler-state relations.

wallerstein face 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
wallerstein face 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Hoping to unify religious Zionist ranks in advance of their anticipated fight against further territorial withdrawal, settler leaders are seeking spiritual advice from former Ashkenazi chief rabbi Avraham Shapira and 10 other prominent rabbis. The Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip met with Shapira on Tuesday and has sent 10 rabbis from the territories a list of halachic questions relating to the struggle to preserve the settlements, including the question of a soldier's refusal to follow orders and the relationship of the settlers to the army and the state in general. "It's important to let our public know that their leaders are not working alone," said council spokeswoman Emily Amrusy. While the council's platform of principles with respect to the struggle against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's convergence plan is still under debate among council leaders, some points are already clear. The council opposes the use of violence, Amrusy said. Binyamin Regional Council head Pinhas Wallerstein said the council was also opposed to "verbal violence, such as cursing." Still, he said, "we need to flesh out, with Shapira's help, exactly what is considered violence and what is legitimate opposition." On Monday, the council held a series of meetings to discuss its new platform and to consider strategy, including the idea of paralyzing civilian traffic through the use of roadblocks as was done in opposing disengagement. It also spoke of political lobbying, including renewing the fight for a national referendum. Political strategists, such as Eitan Dorshav of the Likud and Yuval Porat, who headed the failed national referendum campaign, attended the meeting. Among the many suggestions floated at the meeting was the possibility of negotiating an agreement with Olmert with respect to the outposts that he wants to remove, as was done with former prime minister Ehud Barak. The council seemed willing to weigh that option if, by doing so, it could prevent violence and save a number of the outposts, Amrusy said, but it took no decision on the matter. On Tuesday, the council presented Shapira with a draft of its plan. Shapira, who supported mass insubordination during the Gaza pullout, is emerging as the spiritual leader of a new right-wing coalition to fight Olmert's convergence plan. On Monday the Union of Rabbis for the Land of Israel consulted with Shapira on its own plan of action. Additional meetings are planned for after Shavuot. Rabbi Yehoshua Magnus, Shapira's close aide and student, said there had been several meetings between him and settler leaders. "We are mulling over the different options at our disposal," Magnus said. "No real decisions have been made yet. We are still in the discussion stage. But the idea is to strive for as much unity as possible in the struggle against the destruction of additional Jewish settlements." Placing the highly respected Shapira at the head of the renewed struggle for Greater Israel is seen as an attempt to unify religious Zionist ranks. However, Shapira's use of military insubordination as a legitimate form of protest puts him at odds with a large group of religious Zionist rabbis, including Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of Beit El. One senior rabbi said Shapira's camp did not represent the majority of religious Zionists. He estimated that attempts to use him as the ultimate spiritual leader of religious Zionism would only deepen disunity. The Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, however, turned to him out of recognition of the important role he plays as a teacher and spiritual guide to the religious community in the territories.