Photo Credit: Flash90
Israeli bus after suicide bombing.

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef reversed his famous “Land for Peace” ruling of 1993 after the Palestinian Authority literally exploded in Israel’s face a decade later with large-scale terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings.

The revelation of the letter, seen below, explains Rav Ovadia’s incredibly strong statements in recent sermons, such as one of the most famous ones three years ago when he said of the Palestinian Authority, “All these evil people should perish from this world. God should strike them with a plague, them and these Palestinians.”

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In 1993, when the prospect of peace turned into a mantra that mass media used to blind themselves and wishful-thinkers, the idea of Israel’s surrendering Judea, Gaza and Samaria for peace with Yasser Arafat was pushed by U.S. President Bill Clinton.

The Israeli government was split, and the Shas party, which obeyed whatever Rav Ovadia said, withstood arguments from nationalists and kept the Rabin-Peres coalition government alive with his famous ruling in favor of giving up “land for peace” because it is a matter of “pikuach nefesh,” saving the lives of Jews.

After Rav Ovadia died, Israel’s populist but rather ignorant media turned the funeral into a peace festival that obliterated the greatness of the rabbi, who wrote 50 books and who was cited all over the world as one of the greatest Torah sages ever.

The “expert analysts” on Israel radio and in the mass media explained that Rav Ovadia was a great man, but not because of  his brilliant mind that lived and breathed Torah and not because of the Shas party that he founded and turned into a kingmaker in Israeli politics.

“Land for peace” was the reason 800,000 Jews from all sects of Israeli society came to the funeral.

What they did not say is that 10 years after Oslo, during the Second Intifada that also is known as the Oslo War, Rav Ovadia ruled exactly the opposite.

Instead of “land for peace” being an issue to save the lives of Jews, it had become clear that it was a concept that endangered Jews.

Arafat’s “peace,” which murdered more than 1,000 Jews, wounded thousands others and which continues until today under the invisible hand of Mahmoud Abbas, is not the peace Rav Ovadia had in mind.

He wrote, “My dear brothers of Israel, residents of Judea and Samaria:

“It is my intention to make clear my position concerning Judea and Samaria. I have explained more than once since my Halachic ruling, that giving up land for peace has no validity in light of the current situation.

“I intended there be a true peace, in which Jerusalem and its surroundings will be secure in peace and quiet. But now, our eyes see that surrendering our holy land causes a danger to life.

“This is not the peace for which we prayed. Therefore, the Oslo Accords are null and void.”

Rav Ovadia then cited the verse form Psalms that states, “I speak peace and they speak war.”

Just as populist media falsified Rav Ovadia’s ruling, it has turned Jews in Israel and all over the world into victims of ignorant and slanderous reporting of Rav Ovadia’s Saturday night sermons. They took phrases out of contact and without any understanding that the rabbis was speaking the language his constituents understood, which is not the style of the pseudo-sophisticated Ashkenazi elite and certainly not that of the bleeding-heart media.

The Aish HaTorah website once quoted Rav Ovadia with comments that stated much clearer his idea of land for peace.

It quoted Rav Ovadia as saying, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef stated: “If the heads and commanders of the army, together with the government, state that saving of life is involved; that if areas of Israel are not given back, the danger exists of immediate war on the part of our Arab neighbors;

“And if the areas are returned to them, the danger of war will be averted; and that there is a chance of permanent peace; then it seems that according to all opinions it is permitted to return areas of Israel in order to achieve this aim, since nothing is more important than the saving of life.”

The Palestinian Authority war or terror on Israeli in the 1990s, after the Oslo Accords did not satisfy Arafat’s appetite to swallow up Israel, took a breather towards the end of the decade when the Barak government was on the verge of giving Arafat almost everything he wanted.

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Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu is a graduate in journalism and economics from The George Washington University. He has worked as a cub reporter in rural Virginia and as senior copy editor for major Canadian metropolitan dailies. Tzvi wrote for Arutz Sheva for several years before joining the Jewish Press.

21 COMMENTS

  1. it is not only the left wing who are angry about rav ovadia and oslo. also all the victims of oslo and do not tell me a rabbi who knows torah, does not know the verses that say you cannot make peace with the wicked. no he was wrong and people died. why should we rejoice because he said whoops mistake years later. the dead are still dead.

  2. This article is misleading. Rav Ovadia z”l ruled that, theoretically, it would be permissible to give up land to achieve peace if the military and political leadership truly believed that a peace agreement would enhance the security of the state and save lives in both the immediate and long term. He did not rule that the government must at that time sign the Oslo accords. His later statements indicate that he did not believe that the P.A. could be trusted and that he believed that the P.A. were enemies of the Jewish People and needed to be fought as an enemy. That does not contradict his original ruling that, in theory, land can be given up for peace. His original ruling was to counter a prevailing opinion in the National Religious camp that it is sinful to give up land under any circumstances and that it was ontologically impossible to achieve piece by giving up land. I believe that this article is both incorrect and irresponsible. It is not, in fact, “eye opening” at all.

  3. The land of Israel was NOT Rav Ovadya’s to give up to begin with.
    Did he stand higher than Hashem who decreed that all of the land of Israel belongs to the Jews and to no one else.

  4. it is not only the left wing who are angry about rav ovadia and oslo. also all the victims of oslo and do not tell me a rabbi who knows torah, does not know the verses that say you cannot make peace with the wicked. no he was wrong and people died. why should we rejoice because he said whoops mistake years later. the dead are still dead.

  5. This article is misleading. Rav Ovadia z"l ruled that, theoretically, it would be permissible to give up land to achieve peace if the military and political leadership truly believed that a peace agreement would enhance the security of the state and save lives in both the immediate and long term. He did not rule that the government must at that time sign the Oslo accords. His later statements indicate that he did not believe that the P.A. could be trusted and that he believed that the P.A. were enemies of the Jewish People and needed to be fought as an enemy. That does not contradict his original ruling that, in theory, land can be given up for peace. His original ruling was to counter a prevailing opinion in the National Religious camp that it is sinful to give up land under any circumstances and that it was ontologically impossible to achieve piece by giving up land. I believe that this article is both incorrect and irresponsible. It is not, in fact, "eye opening" at all.

  6. Rav Ovadia z”l did not believe ch”v that he “stood higher than G-d.” He believed that the halakha in our times does not prohibit forfeiting land for the sake of piece and he believed that this was what the Torah actually sanctioned. The fact that the prophets promise that ultimately there will be a return of the shvatim and the land will all be in our control does not, in the opinion of Rav Ovadia, mean that we are prohibited from surrendering land if we believe that a peace agreement will increase the security of the state. Later, Rav Ovadia expressed the opinion that peace with the Palestinians was not presently possible, but that does not mean he retracted his halakhic ruling. His halakhic ruling was not applicable to a situation where we believe that a territorial compromise would decrease security and lead to greater loss of life. His ruling applied only to situations where one believes that a territorial compromise would lead to increased security and would save lives. Whether a peace plan will work is a political question and not a halakhic question. Whether, in theory, one can give up land in certain scenarios is a halakhic question. One needs to separate halakhic rulings form political opinions. I believe if you would read his teshuva on this you would not ask such questions. Again this news article is entirely misleading and you appear to be among those misled by it.

  7. Rav Ovadia z"l did not believe ch"v that he "stood higher than G-d." He believed that the halakha in our times does not prohibit forfeiting land for the sake of piece and he believed that this was what the Torah actually sanctioned. The fact that the prophets promise that ultimately there will be a return of the shvatim and the land will all be in our control does not, in the opinion of Rav Ovadia, mean that we are prohibited from surrendering land if we believe that a peace agreement will increase the security of the state. Later, Rav Ovadia expressed the opinion that peace with the Palestinians was not presently possible, but that does not mean he retracted his halakhic ruling. His halakhic ruling was not applicable to a situation where we believe that a territorial compromise would decrease security and lead to greater loss of life. His ruling applied only to situations where one believes that a territorial compromise would lead to increased security and would save lives. Whether a peace plan will work is a political question and not a halakhic question. Whether, in theory, one can give up land in certain scenarios is a halakhic question. One needs to separate halakhic rulings form political opinions. I believe if you would read his teshuva on this you would not ask such questions. Again this news article is entirely misleading and you appear to be among those misled by it.

  8. What a load of crap this article is. We judge a man by his actions, not his words, and Ovadia Kesef was ready to support Oslo up to the day he died. In fact, he was ready to support the “Peace” process even after the most recent elections a couple of months ago, in return for Sha$ being in the government. In the end, Sha$ didn’t make it into the government, not because of anything having to do with the “Peace” process, but because Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party declared that he would not sit in the same government as any Haredi party, so Bibi chose Lapid over the Haredi parties. This is the same reason that Degel HaTorah is not in the government this time either.

  9. What a load of crap this article is. We judge a man by his actions not his words, and Ovadia Kesef was ready to support Oslo up to the day he died. In fact, he was ready to support the "Peace" process even after the most recent elections a couple of months ago, in return for Sha$ being in the government. In the end, Sha$ didn't make it into the government, not because of anything having to do with the "Peace" process, but because Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party declared that he would not sit in the same government as any Haredi party, so Bibi chose Lapid over the Haredi parties. This is the same reason that Degel HaTorah is not in the government this time either.

  10. What a load of crap this article is. We judge a man by his actions, not his words, and Ovadia Kesef was ready to support Oslo up to the day he died. In fact, he was ready to support the "Peace" process even after the most recent elections a couple of months ago, in return for Sha$ being in the government. In the end, Sha$ didn't make it into the government, not because of anything having to do with the "Peace" process, but because Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid party declared that he would not sit in the same government as any Haredi party, so Bibi chose Lapid over the Haredi parties. This is the same reason that Degel HaTorah is not in the government this time either.

  11. I have always been against the concept of land for peace. One of the reasons is Israel is a tiny country who has already given up land that was rightfully theirs religiously, politically, and morally. The other reason is, it simply does not work. Land for peace has never achieved peace, all it does is embolden the enemy to become even more violent and less rational. Land for peace is a form of appeasement and as history has shown on multiple occasions, appeasement fails miserably. This is the reason why I am also against other forms of appeasement like releasing Palestinian terrorists from prison, what did it achieve in the latest round of “peace talks.” Is Israel any closer to peace with the Palestinians now than they were before they released the terrorists from prison? Have the Palestinians reciprocated by making any concessions of their own? If anything, things have gotten worse because of increased violence against innocent Israelis. The same holds true with settlement freezes. It has become a popular cliché for the international community to claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace. If this is the case, why has there been no peace when Israel stopped settlement building in the past? The obstacle to peace has been the unwillingness of the Arabs to live as responsible, normal neighbors with Israel and no amount of appeasement will change this fact.

  12. I have always been against the concept of land for peace. One of the reasons is Israel is a tiny country who has already given up land that was rightfully theirs religiously, politically, and morally. The other reason is, it simply does not work. Land for peace has never achieved peace, all it does is embolden the enemy to become even more violent and less rational. Land for peace is a form of appeasement and as history has shown on multiple occasions, appeasement fails miserably. This is the reason why I am also against other forms of appeasement like releasing Palestinian terrorists from prison, what did it achieve in the latest round of “peace talks.” Is Israel any closer to peace with the Palestinians now than they were before they released the terrorists from prison? Have the Palestinians reciprocated by making any concessions of their own? If anything, things have gotten worse because of increased violence against innocent Israelis. The same holds true with settlement freezes. It has become a popular cliché for the international community to claim that settlements are the obstacle to peace. If this is the case, why has there been no peace when Israel stopped settlement building in the past? The obstacle to peace has been the unwillingness of the Arabs to live as responsible, normal neighbors with Israel and no amount of appeasement will change this fact.

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