Leading rabbis and settlement leaders have rejected the idea that a rabbi's decision to support voluntary evacuation of homes in an unauthorized West Bank outpost set a precedent for additional concessions by settlers.
"Halacha says that the Land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people," Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel said on Sunday.
"But that does not mean it is never prohibited to evacuate [some of it]. Sometimes it is advantageous to evacuate in one place and build in another place according to needs and strategic reasons," he said.
Pinchas Wallerstein, director-general of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, also rejected the idea that the rabbinic-backed move would serve as a precedent for further evacuations.
"Those modular homes were placed in Bnei Adam in recent months," Wallerstein said. "That can be seen as a type of provocation that we cannot afford right now."
Last week, Rabbi Haim Druckman, chairman of the Bnei Akiva Yeshivas, ruled that it was permitted according to Halacha to voluntarily evacuate three modular homes at the unauthorized Bnei Adam outpost, outside Jerusalem.
The evacuation of the homes, worth about NIS 100,000 each, would save them from destruction by the IDF. The portable homes could later be used in another settlement in Judea or Samaria.
After much deliberation, Bnei Adam's residents accepted Druckman's decision.
The ruling by Druckman, considered moderate in his stand on settlements and in favor of compromise and pragmatism, was not unexpected.
More surprising was the fact that former Chief Sephardi Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, who was originally consulted by the residents at Bnei Adam, had recommended that Druckman rule on the question.
Eliyahu, considered the most respected living halachic authority for the Orthodox Zionist community, was approached by Bnei Adam residents after a dispute broke out on whether it was permitted according to Halacha to voluntarily dismantle homes in the Land of Israel.
Some settlers argued that there was a religious prohibition against compromising on any piece of the Land of Israel. Assisting the government in evacuation was tantamount to committing a sin.
Others said it was preferable to voluntary dismantle the modular homes instead of letting the IDF destroy them.
Eliyahu was asked for his opinion. However, the 81-year-old rabbi, who was recently released from a prolonged hospitalization for heart troubles, said he could not rule on the issue. Instead, he referred the settlers to Druckman.
Eliyahu's son Shmuel, who is the chief rabbi of Safed, said his father chose Druckman, 75, because he was experienced.
Initially, a group of settlement activists led by former Kedumim mayor Daniella Weiss, who had come to Bnei Adam to reinforce opposition to a forced evacuation, rejected Druckman's ruling.
Weiss, together with members of Land of Israel Faithful and Land of Israel Youth, were unwilling to accept Druckman's ruling in part because of his track record of compromise.
For instance, he opposed insubordination in the IDF ranks when Orthodox soldiers asked whether they should obey orders to evacuate settlements during the 2005 disengagement in Gaza and north Samaria.
Weiss attempted to involve Rabbi Moshe Levinger, a veteran settlement leader known for his uncompromising stand on territorial compromise.
However, Levinger, one of the few rabbis respected by the more extreme settler youth, refused to get involved after Druckman had already ruled.
"We are religious people and religious people are obligated to listen to the rabbi," said Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, a leading Orthodox Zionist rabbi and head of the Ateret Yirushalyaim Yeshiva.
"Rabbi Druckman did not ask anyone to involve him in the issue of evacuating those buildings," said Aviner.
"But once you ask a rabbi a question, you have to accept the answer."
According to Immanuel Shiloh, editor-in-chief of B'Sheva, a weekly written by and for settlers and their supporters, there is a battle between two groups within the settler movement.
"There are those who are more pragmatic and are willing to give in one place in exchange for gains someplace else," Shiloh said. "But there are also people who believe that any compromise, no matter how small, sets in motion a domino effect that is liable to topple the entire settlement movement.
"And there are rabbis who split into these two camps. Some are more pragmatic, others are more principled. The question is whom you ask. You can almost know in advance what the different rabbis will answer. But once a decision is handed down, people usually listen."