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Gush Emunim

Gush Emunim (translated as "Bloc of the Faithful") was an extra-parliamentary national-religious movement advocating Israeli sovereignty in the Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, Judea and Samaria by a massive civilian presence in these territories. For this purpose, the movement not only promoted settlement, but acted to promote education, social projects, immigrant absorption, and propaganda. Gush Emunim called for coexistence with the Arab population and negated the principle of transfer as advocated by Meir Kahane. Its ideological inspiration was derived from the teachings of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, according to which the purpose of the Jewish people is to gain physical and spiritual salvation through living in and developing Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel); the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael obligates seizing it after it was freed from foreign rulers, and therefore it must be settled even against governmental policy.

Gush Emunim was established in February 1974. Its two outstanding leaders at the time were Hanan Porat (later a Member of Knesset for Tehiya and the National Religious Party) and Rabbi Moshe Levinger. In its first months the movement was connected with the National Religious Party, but it soon disconnected itself from all political bodies. Gush Emunim was active first in attempts to establish Jewish settlements in areas outside the zones discussed in the "Allon Plan" (see Yigal Allon), from which the settlement policy of Yitzhak Rabin’s first government was derived. These attempts were often accompanied by mass rallies, demonstrations and physical seizure of the sites chosen for settlement, which was done sometimes while confronting the IDF. The group settling in Elon Moreh near old Sebastia was forcefully removed seven times before being permitted to temporarily move to the military camp "Kadom." They later moved to Mt. Kabir, east of Shechem (Nablus), and founded Kedumim. Minister of Defense Shimon Peres approved these moves.

Following the turnabout in the 1977 elections, Menahem Begin’s government was supportive of a settlement policy behind the "Green Line" (the 1949 Armistice lines). Gush Emunim was able to cooperate with the government, as well as with the World Zionist Organization, but it did object to the autonomy plan agreed upon in the Camp David Accords and to Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula. The formation of the National Unity Government in 1984 brought to an almost complete halt the building of new settlements, while Palestinian terrorist attacks and the First Intifada were increasing. The movement’s supporters demanded that the IDF work more efficiently, and that the government renew the building of settlements, especially in Hebron and Shechem.

At this time, Gush Emunim began experiencing internal difficulties. Many of the settlers in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip resided there not for ideological reasons and were reluctant to take part in political struggles. Furthermore, major differences arose between the extreme and moderate factions within the movement. The "Jewish Underground Movement," exposed in 1984, was comprised mostly of Gush Emunim members, causing great shock which was amplified when the Secretary General of Gush Emunim, Daniela Weiss, fought to release them from arrest. Moderate factions in the movement – including figures such as Rabbi Yoel Ben-Nun, Rabbi Menahem Frumann and Hanan Porat – sought to replace the militant leadership of Gush Emunim with Rabbi Levinger and Benny Katzover, but these attempts failed and led to the movement’s disintegration.

The leaders of Gush Emunim did not succeed in forming a united list towards the elections of the 13th Knesset (1992). Two lists identified with the movement were among the candidates – Tehiya and the Torah and Eretz List, established by Rabbi Levinger. Both lists did not pass the election threshold.



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