In About Face, Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Party now Opposes Territorial Withdrawals

And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have assigned the land to you to possess Numbers 33:53 (The Israel Bible™)

Since its inception, the party representing the ultra-orthodox sector in Israel has voted in favor of giving away parts of Israel’s land in hopes of ‘peace’. But the rabbi who now dictates the party’s policies made a complete 180 and has instructed the party to oppose any future withdrawals.

The ultra-religious United Torah Judaism (UTJ) party was embroiled in a dispute regarding their position on domestic political policy reports Kikar. That’s because, following an agreement signed with segments of the religious Zionist movement, which stated that the party didn’t support the withdrawal from parts of Israel, MK Uri Maklev (UTJ) clarified that the agreement was only speaking of territorial withdrawals retroactively.

But the party’s spiritual leader, Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky expressed his opposition to Maklev’s assertion. Rabbi Kanievsky is a posek, which means that he is among the few who can interpret Torah commandments for the present and is among Israel’s most highly respected rabbis. He is also considered a leading authority in Haredi Jewish society

One week ago, UTJ signed an agreement with Rabbi David Hai Cohen, a senior Haredi/Religious Zionist rabbi, to support the party under certain conditions. Among those conditions were: ‘UTJ does not support and has no intention of, God forbid, giving away any part of the land of Israel and according to the council of Israel’s great sages, this policy will continue’ the clause stated.

The clause may seem rather obvious and insignificant at first glance but it is actually an almost 180-degree shift in the outlook of the UTJ party who represents Israel’s ultra-orthodox sector. That’s because the movement’s original founder, Rav Shach z”l who was a proponent of ‘land for peace’.

This compelled Rabbi Gershon Edelstein, the party’s current head, to review the entire agreement, including the clause in question. Only after his careful revisions did the parties sign off on the agreement.

Since they signed, UTJ Knesset members have been asked about their policy positions vis-a-vis land withdrawals. Each one has replied in their own words that there was no significant change.

But on Tuesday, in an interview on the ‘Heritage’ radio station, MK Uri Maklev said: “We never announce what the future holds. Our decisions are always determined by the Great Torah Councils. We never have the authority to say future things. ”

But shortly after that interview aired, panic struck the party who was worried that Maklev’s words would be interpreted by Rabbi Hai Cohen as a violation of their agreement.

So MK Maklev’s colleague, MK Yitzhak Pindros consulted with Rabbi Kanievsky, saying: “If America exerts pressure (on Israel), should UTJ will support conceding the Land of Israel?”

To which the rabbi replied: “Tell them that the Arabs will surrender.” After he was asked again the Rabinnical sage said: “the party will not agree to concessions on territories in Judea and Samaria, No!”

After getting that reply, the party’s chairman, Deputy Health Minister Ya’akov Litzman, issued a statement: ‘DEspite rumors that have been surfacing lately, the agreement we signed with segments of Religious Zionism will be honored as is.UTJ has vowed to continue its position against any territorial withdrawals from the land of Israel under the terms of the agreement: Article 2: ‘UTJ does not support and has no intention of, God forbid, giving away any part of the land of Israel and according to the council of Israel’s great sages, this policy will continue’