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Is an “Outposts Agreement” Permissible?

Forfeitures based on practical considerations are not new to the Land of Israel. Those who today take an active role in reaching such agreements are not the first to be offered such an option. Let us not to be swept into the whirlpool of practicality.


Various Rabbis

Sivan 5768
In recent years, every time the government feels weak, it proves its "strength" by dismantling one of the settlement outposts. There is also an option of reaching an "Outposts Agreement" ("Heskem Maachazim"). A government is considered especially "strong" when an outpost is evicted through "agreement." Therefore, there are those who entreat settlers to dismantle outposts "acquiescently," on the condition that other existing settlements be allowed to expand.

At present, in light of the fact that the Israeli High Court of Justice has set a deadline for the expulsion of Jews from the Migron outpost, a hot debate has arisen in the settlement community: Should we fight to maintain the outposts at all costs, or should we seek out gains in other areas? We asked a number of rabbis if it is even permissible to endorse an outposts agreement.

Accessories to the Sin
Rabbi David Chai HaKohen
The question of negotiations with non-observant Jews over settlement outposts is part of the larger question of preference for one commandment over another. At first glance, we can find two approaches to this matter in our sources:

On the one hand, the Talmud (at the end of tractate Sotah) declares that if it is possible to prevent a severe offense by convincing the wrongdoer to perform a lesser offense, we must do so in order to minimize the transgression. Prominent rabbis adopt this approach with the newly-religious, advising them to substitute severe sins with less severe sins.

On the other hand, the Mishnah (Temurot 8:11-12) and Rambam (Yesodei HaTorah 5) rule that if non-Jews say to Jews, "Hand over one of your brethren so that we can kill him, for if you do not we will kill all of you," it is better that they all give their lives before handing over a single Jew. In other words, the very act of agreeing to hand over a Jew to non-Jews who will take his life is more severe than the loss of many Jewish lives.

It is forbidden to give terumah (tithe removed from produce) to non-Jews who will defile it, even if in response to such noncompliance the non-Jews will defile many terumot. We find, then, that not only where human life is concerned but also regarding other prohibitions, it is forbidden for us to carry out an offense with our own hands, even if many offenses will be committed as a consequence.

As stated, at first glance there appear to be two disparate approaches here. However, if we look deeper we will find that there is no disagreement; rather, these sources address two different situations.

The source in Sotah is permitting because it deals with guiding individuals on a personal level, without involving ourselves in their conduct. Conversely, the source in Temurot prohibits such compliance because it addresses a case in which one transgresses with his own hands. Therefore, because handing over portions of the Land of Israel to those who will concede them to non-Jews is utterly prohibited, negotiating such a step is forbidden.

We have learned a rule: It is forbidden to tell someone to ‘perform a sin so that your friend will benefit,’ and we are not responsible for the transgressors. This was how Rabbi Kook conducted himself when he stood as firm at a rock and refused to sign a document stating that the Temple Mount belongs to non-Jews, even though he was warned that his refusal was liable to endanger Jewish lives.

Rabbi Kook refused because relinquishing the Land of Israel, or parts of it, or even just professing non-Jewish rights to the land, is an interminable sin. Indeed, Rabbi Charlop writes that agreeing to divide up the land is tantamount to the "He did not proclaim it his land" sin, for which even Moses was punished, despite all of his greatness and merits. It therefore goes without saying that it is forbidden to negotiate away the Land of Israel.

Unassuming Faith in the Torah and the Land
Rabbi Michael Hershkowitz
The Talmud tells us that when R’ Zera made his way to the Land of Israel, filled with anticipation and yearning, he came to a river. Seeing that there was no bridge, he took hold of a rope that hung over the water and made his way across with the help of a wooden plank.

A Sadducee saw the way R’ Zera endangered himself and shouted to him, "You are an impetuous nation! At Mount Sinai you said ‘We will fulfill it!’ before you said, ‘We will hear it!’ And you are still as impetuous as ever!" R’ Zera replied, "Moses and Aaron did not have the good fortune of entering the land; who says, then, that I will be so fortunate!" (Ketubot 112).

It would appear that what R’ Zera meant was this: Moses and Aaron did not merit entering the land because they lacked pure, simple faith regarding the Land of Israel, as it is written, "Because you did not have faith in Me"(Numbers 20); I therefore must act with purity and simplicity of faith if I wish to enter the land.

When the question of the Partition Plan arose, a plan by which non-Jews sought to force us to divide our ancestral homeland with others who were then dwelling in our land, many of the most prominent rabbis announced that it was forbidden for us to accept such an arrangement. Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Charlop wrote that if it came down to having to sign such an agreement, it was "preferable that the signatories cut off their thumbs rather than cutting off [portions of the Land of Israel]" (Maayanei Hayeshua).

This position ran counter to the opinion of "realists" who placed their faith in their own understanding and preached that there was no choice but to accept the decree in order that we not lose everything. Today, too, there are similar "realists" – some of them in our own camp – who preach to the public regarding the "necessity" of accepting a new partition upon the soil of the holy land.

Such considerations are not grounded in realism but in a lack of sensitivity for the elevated status of our holy land, a healthy recognition that the land is not just a rational means for the material, or even spiritual, existence of the nation, but rather an "independent unit, bound with a living attachment with the nation, bound with unique inner qualities with the nation’s existence" (Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, Orot).

For those who are aware of the preeminence and sanctity of the Land of Israel, the harrowing thought of dividing it up evokes associations with King Solomon’s famous judgment in the case of the two women who claimed to be mother to the same child. Just as she who said "Cut him in two" proves that she is not the true mother of the child, so do those who say "Cut him in two" regarding our ancestral homeland prove that the true ascendancy and sanctity of our land is far-removed from their consciousness.

"A person of Israel whose personality is grounded in Torah, who is sound in mind, in consciousness, and in his sense of Jewishness…will not even consider such thoughts. He will not consider them because of Torah law, because of the necessity from a healthy Jewish perspective." (Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, Lintivot Yisrael).

This is especially true today, as non-Jews and Jews alike attempt to impose this offense upon us, for this is a great desecration of God’s name, and during periods of harsh decrees against the Jews we are obligated to lay down our lives rather than transgress (Sanhedrin 74); today, when, to our great chagrin, the most fundamental values of Zionism are being unabashedly jettisoned by confused leaders; today, when the worst of our enemies are raising their heads thanks to the encouragement of the nations of the world and of erring brethren

This is especially true today, as recent governments wantonly undermine the integrity of our territorial sovereignty, destabilize our security day by day and utterly demolish our national dignity; today, when even Israel’s legal system, recognized for its concern and defense of the Jewish nation in the Land of Israel, turns against its creator, nibbles away at its moral rights and its dignity, while showing exceptional concern for its enemies.

Today, all sorts of strange agreements relating to settlement outposts in our holy land are being formulated with the help of individuals who lack Torah authority on such matters (see Sotah 22). Such people act counter to the way of the Torah and are thus liable to remove the last dikes protecting the status of our nation and its security in the Land of Israel. This state of affairs also threatens to cause an educational catastrophe by destroying our true national consciousness, a consciousness steeped in the Torah of the Land of Israel. "But the humble shall inherit the land and delight themselves in the abundance of peace." (Psalms 37:11).

Outposts Agreement – A Desecration of God’s Name
Rabbi Uziyahu Sharbaf
Once again, the same disgraceful question arises: Is it permissible to relinquish portions of the Land of Israel in return for some practical gain? The very question is a desecration of God’s name. What a disgrace! What vanity! How can anybody even contemplate laying a single finger upon our holy land? Such outposts agreements are a desecration of God's name and a desecration of the honor of Israel.

Here is how Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook described the opinion of his father, Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook, when the nations of the world urged the people of Israel to relinquish their claim on the Wailing Wall (Lintivot Yisrael):

"Prominent Jewish leaders became anxious, deliberated, and made claims in defense of the welfare of the Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel as a whole, for the protection of the lives of many, many Jewish souls. Yet the High Priest, who would fight with great devotion for the sake of even a single Jewish soul, made his decisive opinion clear with supreme responsibility, like a high-ranking officer: ‘Not through a yielding weakness of spirit toward our holy site will we achieve the security of our peace and the protection of our lives. Not in this way will our adversaries submissively retreat. We cannot withdraw or stray from the position of our divinely-granted proprietorship."

From the above we learn that even if many Jewish souls are at stake, it is absolutely forbidden to negotiate away the Land of Israel. Disparagement of the Land of Israel is the fundamental cause of all hardships, particular and general, in our day. For the nations of the world recognize our irresolution with regard to the Land of Israel.

Forfeitures based on practical considerations are not new in the history of this lacerated land. And those who today take an active role in reaching such agreements are not the first to be offered such an option. We would do well not to be swept into the whirlpool of practicality when it comes to the question of dividing up the Land of Israel.

We must remember that Rabbi Charlop ruled that even the most practical of all things, to have a state, the dream of generations, must not be pursued if it will come at the expense of the territorial completeness of the Land of Israel. This is what he writes in "Maayanei Yeshua" (pg. 706):

"Clearly, if it were to come down to having to sign on an international agreement that called for forgoing some modicum of our rightful claim to the Land of Israel, it would be preferable for the signatories to cut off their thumbs rather than cutting off [portions of the Land of Israel], and even if such a concession were to save some Jewish souls from the heavy burden of the exile by virtue of the fact that they take hold of a portion and call it a Jewish state, there is no sanction for cutting up the heart of Israel."

In other words, it is forbidden to negotiate over portions of the Land of Israel, even if such bargaining will bring great national gains (a state!). Even where there is danger, and even life-threatening danger to many people, it is forbidden to tamper with the completeness of the Land of Israel. The Jewish people already erred once in the Sin of the Spies, and now the time has come to rectify this disgrace.

Now is the time to build and expand wherever possible, while completely and uncompromisingly preserving that which already exists. Let expansion be our response to destruction!
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