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  the halachah

An Analysis of the Camp David Peace Process
Adapted from addresses by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
I. The Halachah
II. The Folly
III. Fallacy and Truth

 

Part I: The Halachah - Jewish Law

The Camp David accords, which so many Jews hoped would bring the peace so long awaited, are in reality the exact opposite. They constitute a grave danger to the security of Eretz Yisroel, and on the grounds of pikuach nefesh Halachah forbids the surrender of any territory necessary for security.

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When it is a city close to the border, then, even if they want to come only for the purpose of [taking] straw and stubble, we desecrate the Shabbos because of them; for [if we do not prevent their coming] they may conquer the city, and from there the [rest of the] land will be easy for them to conquer.
(Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 329:6)

The whole earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whom He pleased. Of His own will He gave it to them, and of His own will He took if from them and gave it to us.
(Rashi, Bereishis 1:1)

 

Rabbi Yitzchak said: The Torah [whose main object is to teach commandments] should have commenced from the verse (Shmos 12:2) ‘This month shall be unto you the first of the months,’ which is the first commandment given to Israel. Why then does it commence with [the account of] Bereishis? Because [of the concept expressed in the text] ‘He declared to His people the power of His works [i.e. He gave an account of the work of Creation] in order to give them the heritage of the nations.’ For should the nations of the world say to Israel, ‘You are robbers, because you took by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan,]’ Israel will reply to them ‘The whole earth belongs to the Holy One, Blessed be He; He created it and gave it to whom He pleased. Of His own will He gave it to them, and of His own will He took it from them and gave it to us’" (Rashi, Bereishis 1:1).

For more than thirty years now Eretz Yisroel has been in the hands of its rightful owners, the Jewish people. And even while exiled from our land we retained our ownership, an eternal heritage from the eternal G-d to His eternal people. No power on earth could change that.

The Arab people have, in recent years, been at war with the Jewish people, seeking to wrest possession of the land from us. They accuse us of robbery, of taking the land by force from the ‘Palestinians.’ The text quoted above is peculiarly apt for our times, is it not? For we are not robbers. The land has always been Eretz Yisroel. Palestine is a foreign name, imposed upon it by others. To us it has always been the Holy Land, given by G-d to His people.

Can There be Peace?

But while we may be determined to keep that which is ours, constant war has exacted a terrible toll. The Jewish people have had to mourn for their finest sons lost in battle over the past years. How much longer must we live in constant fear of war, unceasingly vigilant of our very lives? All Jews desperately yearn for peace, for a time when guns will not be necessary for our very survival.

And so, when several years ago the prospect of peace suddenly seemed a little less impossible, Jews world-wide began to hope and pray — maybe we would finally be able to live in peace. The visit of President Sadat of Egypt to Jerusalem opened up new, undreamed of, vistas. Were the Arabs really ready to abandon their unceasing hostility and recognize our title to our land?

Thus was born the Camp David peace process. The three major characters: An American President who needed peace and stability in the Middle East region, a Jewish Prime Minister who desperately wanted peace for his people and country, and an Egyptian President who wanted...what? Genuine peace? Or a political means of obtaining that which he could not win in battle? It doesn’t really matter, thought Jews. Peace is peace; and any peace is better than no peace.

But is it? The very word, peace, triggers deep emotions; and of all peoples, Jews, who have suffered so long and so much, yearn most for it. But because we long for it so desperately, we can easily be blinded to reality. To put it bluntly, the Camp David accords do not spell peace, not even a small step towards it. This agreement is an unmitigated disaster for Eretz Yisroel, and has placed over three million Jews in greater jeopardy than before.

Such a statement is not made lightly. But this is a matter which concerns the security of millions of Jews, and we cannot afford to close our eyes and hope for the best. The Camp David accords and their results must be examined closely, logically, and unclouded by emotion. Above all, we must see what Halachah, Jewish law, has to say. Jews govern their lives by the Torah, and first and foremost we must look to the Torah for direction.

Before analyzing the Camp David accords, let us first see exactly what are its terms. Eretz Yisroel will surrender the majority of the Sinai (in three phases, the first two already completed). This encompasses a) the land, b) the oilfields, c) the advanced air fields, d) evacuation of all Jewish settlements. In addition, the ‘Palestinians’ will be given some form of autonomy. In return, Egypt extends recognition to the Jews of Eretz Yisroel and signs a peace treaty, officially ending the state of war which has existed over the past years. This, briefly, constitutes the main point of the Camp David accords. We proceed now to the analysis.

Pikuach Nefesh is Preeminent

The critical issue here is pikuach nefesh, saving of life. The Torah tells us that pikuach nefesh assumes priority in almost every situation:* Shabbos is desecrated to save life, the laws of Kashrus are discarded to save a life, etc. Jews entered the Camp David peace process hoping it would lead to peace, and hence prevention of loss of life. Whether this goal is attained, however, is another matter.

No one can maintain that the ‘peace’ arrived at in Camp David is, or can be, assured. A treaty is only as good as the word of the man who signs it, and nothing on earth can guarantee its permanence. History is too full of instances where treaties were broken as casually as the tearing up of the paper on which they were written. In this case, there are several complications which further compound the uncertainty. No one can really be sure of Sadat’s intentions in signing the treaty. Did he really desire a lasting peace? Or was it just a way to obtain that which he could not gain through war? He could easily break off relations once everything is in Egypt’s possession. And even if Sadat was personally trustworthy, there is no guarantee that his successors will be. Moreover, Egypt is not a sound democracy. Who knows what upheaval will produce which type of leadership? Egypt is unstable, a fact demonstrated by Sadat’s assassination; and a new regime may not feel obligated to keep its predecessor’s commitments. We will have more to say about this later.

In short then, the peace is not an assured one, but merely a gamble for peace. Perhaps the peace will last — but perhaps it will not. That is the idea of taking a chance.

Conversely, the concessions made by the Jewish people are not mere verbal or written pronouncements, but very substantial indeed. So much so, that these concessions may put Eretz Yisroel into greater danger than before — as we shall shortly discuss. In other words, while the concessions were made to avoid danger to life, they result in the reverse: they themselves are a danger to the lives of the Jews in Eretz Yisroel. We have then the following dilemma before us: The peace process may avoid loss of life, but surrendering the lands constitutes a threat of life, G-d forbid. Both acts seemingly are for the purpose of pikuach nefesh. The crucial question is: which takes precedence?

What does the Halachah say?*

Torah is the Jew’s guide in all aspects of life, and we look to it for direction in all things. There is a halachah in Shulchan Aruch, the Jewish Code of Law, which gives a clear directive in just such a case as ours. In the Laws of Shabbos, Orach Chaim, Ch. 329. paragraph 6, it states: "When non-Jews besiege Jewish cities, if they came for money purposes, we do not desecrate the Shabbos because of them [by warring against them]. But if they came [with the intention] to take lives, or even if they came with no announced purpose and there is reason to suspect that perhaps they came to take lives; then, even if they have as yet not come, but are making preparations to come, we go forth against them with weapons and desecrate the Shabbos because of them. When it is a city close to the border, then, even if they want to come only for the purpose of [taking] straw and stubble, we desecrate the Shabbos because of them; for [if we do not prevent their coming] they may conquer the city, and from there the [rest of the] land will be easy for them to conquer [since it is a city on the border]."

From this halachah we learn the following: Even if the entire purpose and intention of the enemy is only to take ‘straw and stubble,’ and not to kill; and should we succumb to the enemy’s demands and give him the straw and stubble there will be ‘peace’ and no need for war; nevertheless, Torah tells us that the very threat of non-Jews taking over a city close to the border constitutes a state of pikuach nefesh — and the Shabbos must be desecrated to prevent its occurrence. For since the non-Jews would then be in a strategic position to conquer the land itself, the security of the country is in jeopardy. Hence, although it is only a possibility in the future, Torah bids us, because of pikuach nefesh, to undertake all measures, including actual warfare if necessary, to prevent such a situation from developing. Or in other words: the mere possibility that the security of the country’s borders will, in the future, be weakened by the enemy’s actions now, is deemed by Torah to be a situation of immediate pikuach nefesh — and must be prevented now.

The Situation in Eretz Yisroel Today

This is the clear halachah in Shulchan Aruch. Even a cursory look at the situation today in Eretz Yisroel will reveal the startling similarity to this halachah. The essence of the above halachah is the prohibition against allowing non-Jews to take control of a city next to the border for fear it will imperil the security of the country itself. This is exactly the situation today. Every inch of territory in Eretz Yisroel today contributes to its security; and to give it to non-Jews endangers that security. The unanimous opinion of military experts is that the lands are essential to Eretz Yisroel’s security, and to relinquish them poses a military danger to its very existence. The reason is simple. Strategic depth is vital to its security, as was so clearly demonstrated in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. We can only imagine what would have happened, G-d forbid, had Egypt been in possession of the Sinai; the Egyptian army could have easily penetrated to the very core of Eretz Yisroel. Yehudah and Shomron and the Golan Heights are even more vital for defensible borders; and to relinquish them outright, or in the form of autonomy which is the equivalent of giving them up, is endangering our security. All these lands are, in the words of Shulchan Aruch, "close to the border," meaning that giving possession of them to the enemy is leaving the rest of the land vulnerable to easy conquest.

Indeed, the situation today is, in several respects, more severe than that described in Shulchan Aruch. The Shulchan Aruch gives this directive 1) even when the non-Jews just want to come — and we cannot be sure they actually will come; 2) even if they come they only demand straw and stubble, and probably will be satisfied with that and depart; 3) even if they desire to actually conquer the city close to the border they may not be successful in their objective. Nevertheless, despite all these doubts, Torah tells us that since they may actually come; and since they may not be satisfied with just the straw and stubble; and since they may then conquer the city — and thus the rest of the land will be open for conquest — we must therefore take military steps to prevent this at the very beginning, when they are merely contemplating coming.

In today’s situation, the circumstances are not so doubtful. While Torah tells us we must keep the situation from even developing to the point that the enemy might be in a position to occupy a city close to the border, it is proposed that we actually give them these lands outright! Our strategic buffer zone will have been eliminated. The valuable extra time for our air defense to operate is gone. The Egyptian army will be positioned that much closer to the rest of Eretz Yisroel, and the densely populated inner core of the land is made infinitely more vulnerable to attack. Can there be greater danger to Jewish life than this?

Besides the actual lands, there are several other factors which also are a matter of pikuach nefesh, matters of life and death. In today’s times a nation’s military machine (and its economy) runs on oil. Without an adequate assured source of oil, no war can be fought for any reasonable length of time. In the Sinai, we had developed several important oilfields which were a major part of our oil supply. Without those oilfields Eretz Yisroel is dependent on foreign sources for 98% of its oil. Yet those oilfields are being given up as part of the Camp David process.

It must be emphasized that there is no substitute for Eretz Yisroel having its own sources of oil. The facilities are simply not there to store oil for any adequate length of time (as has been ascertained by numerous studies). Likewise, notwithstanding any assurances to the contrary, neither the U.S.A. nor any other country can be relied upon to supply us with oil. The U.S.A. has its own energy problems. It would be foolish and naive to think it will supply Eretz Yisroel with oil at a time when its own citizens may be angrily standing in long lines at the gas pumps.

The Sinai also contains the extremely valuable assets of Jewish settlements and airfields, developed by Jewish ingenuity at Jewish expense. Border settlements are our first line of defense against enemy armies and terrorists. To abandon these settlements means removing one of our strongest defenses and creating great danger to Jewish lives.

The airfields which we must relinquish under the terms of the treaty are among the most sophisticated in the world; and they will be handed over into Egyptian hands! This is a double jeopardy: we lose the airfields; and the enemy gains forward bases from which to menace the whole land.

Aside from the security aspect of the above, which, as explained, constitutes a clear case of pikuach nefesh, there are other, secondary matters involved. From the purely economic viewpoint, the results of the peace treaty are disastrous. At a time when every other country in the world is scrambling desperately to find ways to cut its energy costs, Eretz Yisroel is giving away its oilfields. Since giving up its oilfields, its energy bill has jumped by billions of dollars. And when the last oilfield is gone, it will have to import 98% of its oil — at tremendous cost. To rub salt into the wound, we are expected to be grateful to Egypt for graciously consenting to ‘allow’ us to buy oil from those self-same oilfields — which were developed by us in the first place!

To sum up: Shulchan Aruch instructs us that it is prohibited to allow lands which are necessary for secure borders to fall into enemy hands. It constitutes a danger to the entire land, and must be prevented even to the extent of desecrating the Shabbos because of it. All military experts agree that most of the Sinai, the Golan Heights, Yehudah and Shomron, are vital to the security of Eretz Yisroel. The halachah then must be that it is prohibited to give up these lands on the basis of such surrender being pikuach nefesh, a matter of preserving Jewish life.

Continue to Part II: "The Folly"

 
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Dedicated to educating the public regarding the current situation in Israel, based on Torah sources, with special emphasis on the opinion and teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


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