Israeli rabbi stokes pullout tensions

A senior rabbi has said he sympathises with Jewish colonists who are willing to lay down their lives rather than submit to Israel's plan to withdraw from the occupied Gaza Strip.

    Illegal settlement building in the West Bank continues apace

    President of the council of rabbis for the illegal settlements in the West Bank, Rabbi Dov Lior told Israel's second TV channel on Monday that "you can understand those who say they want to sacrifice themselves".

    "If they abandon [Israel] and hand over to these terrorists … all that is contrary to the Torah."

    Lior has also given his backing to cries from radical settlers declaring: "Better to sacrifice yourself than accept separation." 
    One strand of thought in Judaism stipulates that a Jew should be ready for self-sacrifice rather than contravene fundamental religious laws.
    While some rabbis living in West Bank settlements agree with Lior, others do not, according to the privately owned television station. 

    Pullout problems
    Domestic opposition to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's intention to pull all soldiers and settlers out of the occupied Gaza Strip and four isolated enclaves in the northern West Bank by the end of 2005 has stepped up in recent months.
    Various petitions have urged soldiers to disobey orders for the evacuation - a campaign also backed by Lior's council of rabbis.
    But Sharon is determined to see his plan through.

    "Those who are calling for orders to [be] disobeyed are destroying the thing that is most sacred to Israeli society. It is a crime against all of us," he said earlier this month. 



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