A leading West Bank settlement rabbi is calling on settlers not to resist when the day comes for them to leave their homes under the disengagement plan.
"On the day of the evacuation, we will get up and leave our homes without using force," Rabbi Shlomo Aviner told Ynetnews. "Only a popular
Aviner's statement is significant because to date it is an unprecedented one for religous Zionist figures. Aviner, who is rabbi for the Beit El settlement, located north of Jerusalem, and head of the "Atarat Cohanim" Yeshiva in the Muslim quarter of the Old City, is even asking settlers not to use passive resistence, such as blocking roads, because at that stage it harms the public.
While Aviner is a leading figure in the religious Zionist movement, he is a controversial one in Israel. Two-and-a-half years ago he published an essay justifying the killing Israel Defense Forces soldiers who refuse to serve in the territories.
"A military leader has the right to execute a refuser of an order, if an essential need exists to do so," he wrote.
About a year later Aviner declared at a mass gathering held to call on the United States to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard: "If we had the power, we would take up arms, capture America and free him."
Btu the rabbi's comments on the disengagement plan are surprising. He is declaring that there should be no clashes with the soldiers and police carrying out the evacuation.
His interview with Ynetnews puts Aviner in a minority among the spiritual leaders of the religious Zionist movement by calling on settlers to protest peacefully and to cooperate with the evacuation if it is implemented as planned.
'Everything is legal, everything is gentle'
When asked what forms of popular protest are acceptable, Aviner said, "Just protest and expressing opinion. That means everything is legal, everything is gentle.
"No blocking roads, no annoying citizens, no making a noise or mess - just express a popular protest. Because at the end of the day, the nation is in charge - not the Knesset and not the government."
Aviner still holds out hope that a national referendum on disengagement could be held and foil the plan to evacuate all Gaza Strip settlements and some in northern Samaria - this in despite of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's declaration that a referendum will not be held and polls indicating nearly two-thirds of Israelis support the plan.
"I remember when we asked former Prime Minister Ehud Barak - why are you embarking on a process so significant with a minority government? and he replied: 'There are no demonstrations.' He felt the support of the people, so he didn’t care. Therefore, first of all there needs to be a popular protest against the disengagement, or at least a popular protest so intense that a national referendum will be held."