The Jewish Underground — Worst Than Rabin’s Murder

The Jewish Underground (HaMakhteret HaYehudit), a documentary series by Shai Gal currently being aired on TV, recreates the activities of the Jewish Underground in the 1980s, bringing out of the shadows events that have remained critical to the future of the State of Israel. In retrospect, three main events can be noted, which to this day affect the weakness, and often the helplessness of the country’s leaders. The first event was the Yom Kippur War, the second, the activities of the underground in the 1980s, and the third, the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

It is important to understand that the violent crimes committed by the underground activists were more distressing than the murder of Rabin, since they ultimately catalyzed his assassination. The ideology behind the dozens of members of the underground and their activities, which did not meet with an appropriate state response, led to unrest, revolt and eventually Rabin’s assassination in the 1990s. Events that many of us would like to delete from history books In the 1980s, I was chairman of the Golan Settlements Committee, and when the members of the Jewish Underground were exposed, I was shocked, along with many others, to discover their identity. They were not an extreme fringe group but rather came from the leadership of the Golan Heights settlements. One of them was my friend and colleague, who observed the sabbath and was far from extreme in his views. Our joint community engagement was on behalf of all members of the kibbutzim and moshavim from all parties and factions. That is actually what distinguishes the Golan Heights settlements from the settlements of Judea and Samaria — they were established by the Labor Party government in a broad Jewish consensus and represented a different religious Zionism.

So, upon learning that someone who had grown up in my milieu was affiliated with this poison, I experienced a major personal crisis, and it signaled a gaping rift in Israeli society. As a result of the violent crimes carried out by the underground, two Palestinian mayors were critically injured and maimed for life, and a Border Police officer lost his sight. In another violent incident at a college in Hebron, three students were killed and another 30 wounded. The vigilantes planned to seize the Temple Mount and blow up the Al-Aqsa Mosque, with the goal — which as far as they were concerned sanctified the means — of building the Temple in its place. The grave crime of planting explosive devices on dozens of buses at the Jerusalem Central Bus Station in order to injure and kill dozens or perhaps hundreds of Palestinians was fortunately thwarted. But this paved the way for an additional evil, when the crimes of the underground were backed by a number of religious Zionist rabbis, which ostensibly ‘institutionalized’ the vigilante activity.

A similar incident occurred years later, when religious observers and the political community influenced a large number of people who were willing to pull the trigger and shoot the prime minister. In both cases, the State of Israel, the national leadership, the State Attorney’s Office and the legal system, all failed, thereby seriously damaging Israeli statehood. The members of the underground were pardoned by politicians and legal advisers, thus establishing a new standard in national humiliation, by which people who murder and damage statehood gain recognition and later influence the government in Israel. Yigal Amir’s pistol was just a pistol The events themselves and the validation the underground activists received are tantamount to a moral national rift, behind which lies an attempt to establish new state laws that will overshadow state laws and determine the future of the state. This formed the basis of an ideology that gave rabbis a ‘license’ to determine that Rabin was not a legitimate prime minister, and therefore it was permissible to assassinate him.

Today, we all understand that Yigal Amir’s pistol was nothing more than a pistol. But Amir’s act of murder expressed the views of many settlers in Judea and Samaria and of the Religious Zionist movement. The planted seed has grown into a toxic branch In 1987, when I was the defense minister’s personal aide, I did not know what we all know today. Back then I scoffed at what the mayor of Kiryat Arba told me, and I did not believe that behind his words hid a dangerous trend that would become part of the history of the State of Israel. He turned to me after he heard that the Labor Party was planning to promote Rabin’s candidacy for prime minister and asked me to stop the process.

He explained that Rabin had a good chance of being elected because he was more consensual than other candidates. He concluded by saying that since Rabin was honest and sincere, there was a good chance that he would advance the political process, and if that happened he would be in danger of being assassinated. This story is the expression of a trend that allows the public to do whatever it wants, and whose members are not subject to the rule and the laws of the state. One of the current ministers of the government surpassed himself, when a few years ago he said to me—we will conquer you in the end. A subject that must return to public debate The series places this important issue on the public agenda once again, an issue that unfortunately is becoming far removed from the younger generation that is unfamiliar with the events and how terrible they were.

Nor is it aware that the actions of the underground actually planted the seed for the assassination of the prime minister and established the standard that it is permissible to murder a prime minister. The Jewish Underground has had a destructive effect on the fate of the state to this day, because for years the Israeli government has been controlled by these same vigilantes, who are the main proponents of a “sit and do nothing” policy; a policy that is delaying the peace process, hinders progress in negotiations with the Palestinians and strengthens the existence of a single binational state with no attempt to seek a solution. By turning a blind eye, the current government maintains the continuity of the Jewish Underground to this day.

About the Author
Shimon Sheves was General Director of the Prime Minister's office under the late Yizhak Rabin. He is currently the Founder and Chairman of HolistiCyber, which provides nation-state level cyber security solution.
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