Settler rabbi backs Palestinian move

September 15, 2011
Froman: supports Palestinian UN bid

Froman: supports Palestinian UN bid

The Chief Rabbi of Tekoa, Menachem Froman, made his declaration of support in person to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the end of last month, when he visited his office in Ramallah.

Rabbi Froman, former Israeli army paratrooper and one of the founders of the settlement movement, told Mr Abbas that he regarded the declaration as a "present" for the Muslim holiday of Eid, when gifts are traditionally given. Mr Abbas gave an unexpected response.

"He said 'you have given me a gift so I must give you something also of a high level'. He then spontaneously gave me his prayer beads."

Rabbi Froman said that before making his declaration, he reflected on the two common assessments of what the statehood bid could mean for Israel - that it could be a step towards peace and that it could present a serious threat. "My view is that both assessments are right," he said. "The question is the way that the Palestinian state will be born."

He believes that if welcomed by Israel it could prove a friendly ally, but if resisted it will be antagonistic.

I am a citizen of the state of God and my president is God

Rabbi Froman's worldview is a rare combination of settler ideology and dovish idealism. He loves the Biblical Land of Israel, and says that nothing will cause him to leave his home. But unlike most settlers, this even goes for a Palestinian state, and he says that he will happily live under Palestinian rule. "I am a citizen of the state of God and my president is God, so who my political leader is isn't so important to me," he commented.

His out-of-the-box religious thinking has also caused him to become an activist for peace over several decades. He has met everyone who is anyone in Palestinian politics. He spent dozens of hours in the company of Mr Abbas's predecessor, Yassir Arafat. In 1996 he even convinced Israeli authorities to let him visit Hamas founder and spiritual leader Ahmad Yassin in prison, and between then and his assassination by Israel in 2004, the two met several times.

Rabbi Froman's determination to meet Sheikh Yassin stemmed from his belief that if the emphasis of peacemaking is placed on the monotheistic beliefs of both sides rather than political agendas, there will be results. "I think that the reasons that so many efforts to make peace are in vain is because we forgot the natural way to peace in the Holy Land - holy peace."

His belief that better understanding of religious groups can avoid conflict runs so deep that he believes it could have averted 9/11 attacks and the Second Intifada.

He claims proof that his idea is not just wishful thinking. Three years ago he drafted an Israel-Hamas ceasefire agreement with Khaled Amayreh, a journalist close to Hamas. Though the Israel government never responded to it, the two reported that it had the backing of Hamas leader Khaled Meshal. And Rabbi Froman says that Sheikh Yassin told him repeatedly: "With you we could make peace in five minutes." Rabbi Froman cites a religious as well as political imperative for his recent declaration in Ramallah. Judaism stresses the commandment to loves one's neighbour as oneself "and because the Palestinians are my neighbours, I have to honour this principle of my religion and give them what I have from God - freedom and an independent state."

Last updated: 12:42pm, September 15 2011