They Say, We Say: The Jewish People Are Obligated To Conquer All Of The Historic Land

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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God Wants the Jews to Have All the Land

They Say:

Based on the teachings of the Torah, we, the Jewish people, are obligated to conquer and take possession of all of the historic Land of Israel, and are forbidden to cede any of it to a non-Jew

We Say:

The Torah makes the case that having a right to something does not necessarily mean that right ought to be exercised under any and all circumstances. God's promise, God's gift, does not come with a requirement that we exercise our right to every inch of the land - for example, if doing so means constant conflict. The lesson of the Torah is that if pragmatic considerations of peace and justice require otherwise, such considerations prevail.

Turning to Genesis (13: 1-11), we learn that Abraham and Lot are finding themselves unable to get along and share the land. To resolve the conflict, Abraham offers Lot half of the available grazing land - an act whose righteousness is clear when God immediately blesses Abraham once more, and reconfirms his promise. Thus, the Torah makes clear that while God's promise of the land to the Jewish people is firm, that promise accommodates the shifting of boundaries. For the sake of good relations with our kin, we are indeed permitted to give them land, even if they are not directly included in the covenant.

Likewise, many important rabbis state unequivocally that Pikuach Nefesh - the saving of lives - overrides the imperative of holding on to the land. The late Rabbi Ovadia Yosef of Shas, the former Sephardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, has written a famous tshuva (legal response) citing many sources that show that trading land for peace is permissible if one can make a case that it will save lives. The main points of the case are this: The Talmud rules that the saving of a life takes precedence over all other mitzvot, positive or negative, except idolatry, murder and sexual violations. This is reinforced by numerous other commentators and texts. There are many secular sources making a good case that land for peace will indeed save lives; if that case can indeed be made, we should do so. "Great is peace, for it is equal to everything." (Sifre Numbers, 42)