Avraham Shmuel Lewin - Jewish Press (NY) - January 4, 2002
On January 4, 2002, the Jewish Press ran an article by Rabbi Simcha Green castigating the Jewish leaders, rabbis and the Jewish Press for ignoring the massive injustice that Jonathan Pollard continues to endure. In the same issue, the article below was the front page lead story. In it the Jewish Press reports that Prime Minister Sharon recently met with an important group of rabbis, The Pikuach Nefesh Committee, to discuss a broad range of subjects. Among other things that came up at the meeting was an exultant exchange of notes on their respective recent meetings with President Bush. The Jewish Press fails to note that the plight of Jonathan Pollard and the urgent Mitzvah of Pidyan shvuyim, was not one of the subjects that was brought up by any rabbi in the meetings with Bush neither was it brought up at all with Sharon at this meeting. Justice4JP notes the irony in the name of the rabbinical group: Pikuach Nefesh Committee. [Life-In-Danger Committee].
Sharon on Bush, the Pope, Peres and Peace Now
JERUSALEM - In an exclusive interview with The Jewish Press last week, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon spoke candidly and openly on a variety of subjects including U.S. President George Bush, Pope John Paul II, Chief Rabbi Israel M. Lau and Peace Now.
"I believe I am the only Israeli prime minister who has made it a point at every meeting with a foreign leader to declare openly that I am a Jew who represents the Jewish state, the eternal capital of which is Jerusalem," Sharon said.
He then described a meeting he had with Pope John Paul II when the pontiff visited Israel last year.
"When we met, the pope started speaking about the holy sites in Israel," Sharon recalled. "He then told me that while in one sense Israel belongs to Jews, Muslims and Christians, everyone must be aware that it was promised only to the Jewish people."
The Jewish Press was the only media outlet present at the closed-door meeting between the prime minister and rabbis representing the Pikuach Nefesh Committee, a group comprised of more than 300 prominent rabbis in Israel and abroad who have ruled that Jews are forbidden to give up any of the Land of Israel to their enemies, based on the concept of pikuach nefesh (threat to life).
Those present included Rabbi Moshe Landau, chief rabbi of Bnei Brak; Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba-Hebron; Rabbi Yosef Toledano, chief rabbi of Givat Ze'ev; Rabbi David Drukman, chief rabbi of Kiryat Motzkin and Rabbi Yosef Gerlitzky, rabbi of Central Tel Aviv and chairman of the Pikuach Nefesh Committee.
The rabbis told the prime minister that until recently Israelis murdered by terrorists were called "victims of Oslo." However, since Israel is no longer obligated to uphold the agreement due to the Palestinians' blatant violations of its terms, those killed in recent months can only be described as 'victims of the Sharon government.'
The rabbis also told Sharon that his habit of declaring that any agreements negotiated by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres are invalid, and then stating that Peres had been operating with his knowledge, only confuses the public and weakens its resolve.
The same holds true for the prime minister's declarations in favor of a Palestinian state. "We know you don't mean it and would place a hundred and one obstacles in its way, but your verbal declaration gives legitimacy to this cause and weakens the public opposition to it tremendously," the rabbis said.
The rabbis recommended that the prime minister in his public pronouncements and government statements emphasize the biblical and Divine bond that Jews have with Israel.
"There is no reason for Israeli leaders to feel embarrassed to quote the Bible in their meetings with international leaders," the rabbis told Sharon. "On the contrary, this will only strengthen Israel's position and will gain it respect."
To buttress their point, the rabbis told Sharon of the meeting that President George W. Bush had with American Jewish leaders on Chanukah. For 30 minutes the president spoke forcefully about his war against terror and about the terror perpetrated against Israel.
After the president finished speaking, Rabbi Abraham Shemtov, chairman of the executive committee of Agudas Chassidei Chabad-Lubavitch and the movement's longtime envoy to the White House, told the president that "our prayers are constantly with you that, just as Almighty G-d has given you strength and wisdom to guide your - our - government and the entire world to successful achievements until now, you be blessed to continue your mission to its completion, eradicating the world of evil and darkness."
Rabbi Shemtov then related how as a child he attended an underground Hebrew school in the city of Tashkent, in Uzbekistan, where he learned about how G-d created the world and assigned the Holy Land to our ancestors and their descendants, the Jewish people, forever.
"Mr. President," he concluded, "we look toward you to do your best to assure that G-d's will continues to be fulfilled."
Rabbi Shemtov's straightforward words clearly found their way to the president's heart; when Bush saw the rabbi at the White House Chanukah party several hours later, he gave him a warm embrace.
Sharon listened attentively to the story and noted that in his own meetings with Bush he found the president to be deeply sympathetic to Israel and keenly aware of the Jewish state's security and
The prime minister also reiterated the emphasis he places on Jewish history and destiny when speaking with world leaders.
At one point in the conversation he told the guard at the door to call in his military secretary, Ami Kaplinsky, and his spokesman Ra'anan Gissin. "I want them to also hear divrei Torah from the rabbis," Sharon said.
When his secretary came in and informed him that Finance Minister Silvan Shalom had arrived for an important budget meeting, the prime minister responded, "He can wait, I am drawing inspiration from the rabbis now."
Sharon then turned to the rabbis and said, "We are now sitting in the security cabinet room where all fateful decisions of the state are made. I hope that your presence here will later inspire us to make the right decisions."
When the rabbis praised him for resisting international pressure to allow Yasir Arafat to attend holiday mass in Bethlehem last week, the prime minister laughed.
"What pressure? No leader called me or spoke to me about it. Not President Bush, no leader from Europe or from the Vatican. They knew that I would turn them down. Whatever pressure I got was from Jews inside Israel. Israelis themselves were the ones who pressured me, even Orthodox Jews," said Sharon.
The rabbis expressed their shock when Sharon told them, "Even Chief Rabbi Israel Lau asked that I allow Arafat to go to Bethlehem. I found this simply unbelievable."
The prime minister agreed with the rabbis that the Oslo accords were a disaster and that Peres's philosophy leaves much to be desired. "So far, though, I have not conceded an inch. We are facing very difficult battles on various fronts. I was not tempted by those who demanded of me to just go in and wipe them all out. That could cause a rift in our relations with the U.S. Right now U.S.-Israel relations have never been better.
"Currently we are doing the job the Palestinian Authority is supposed to be doing - arresting terrorists. They have not really arrested one terrorist, not one. So we are doing it for them and believe me, they don't have a night of rest."
Sharon said that while he realizes "we will never reach a peace agreement with the PA, to recapture those areas that were given to them after the Oslo accords is not realistic."
Referring to recent attempts by left-wing groups to publicize ongoing housing construction in Judea and Samaria as a way of portraying Sharon as an obstacle to peace, the prime minister chuckled and said, "I truly thank them for that. Otherwise I would have to hire special inspectors to see if the contractors are doing the job there. Like this I have Peace Now and all the Left saving me money
on hiring inspectors. I couldn't get a better report from anyone."
Asked why he doesn't officially declare the Oslo agreement null and void, Sharon responded, "Look, de facto everybody knows it's null and void, but if the government declares so officially then Labor will immediately leave the government and then I will be left with pressure from the Right to do things which are unrealistic in my view."
Sharon said Peres's recently disclosed agreement with the PA "is in absolute contradiction to what I have declared to the government - that before there is any discussion about a Palestinian state, it will be brought to a debate. It was not brought to debate and so it is not authorized. When the day comes, if it is relevant, it will be brought before the government."
Sharon said his position on negotiations remains as it always has been - so long as there is terrorism, there will be no political talks. Peres's talks with the Palestinians are meant to bring about a cease-fire and an end to terrorism and incitement. Sharon said if political negotiations are renewed, he will be running them, in cooperation with Peres.
Addressing the question of why Arafat is not proclaiming a Palestinian state right now, Sharon told the rabbis, "Look, Arafat knows that the minute he declares a Palestinian state we will immediately annex large portions of Judea and Samaria."
Contrary to recent reports in Ma'ariv and Yediot Ahronot, Sharon made it clear to the rabbis that his government has decided that it will not conduct diplomatic negotiations unless the following conditions are met: