The Commandment to Settle the Land
The commandment to settle the land of Israel requires that we conquer
the land. It is thus written, “Possess the land and settle it, for I
have given you the land in order that you take possession of
it” (Numbers 33:53), and our Sages explain the expression “possess” to
imply the conquest and establishment of Israeli sovereignty in the
land. Moreover, this commandment remains binding upon us in all
generations (Ramban, Hosefot LeMitzvat Aseh 4). Shulchan Arukh concurs
with this position (Even HaEzer 75), and Pitchei Teshuva (ad locum, 6)
adds that all authorities are in agreement upon this law.
It is true that for many generations we have not merited the privilege
of fulfilling this precept because we have lacked the military
capacity needed to conquer and defend the land. Yet, as soon as such a
capacity is achieved we are obliged to occupy the land. Hence, it goes
without saying that it is prohibited to relinquish any part of the
land to another people.
It is clear that the commandment to settle the land overrides the
possibility of any life-threatening danger to individual lives, for we
are enjoined by the Torah to conquer the land – and war, by its very
nature, involves loss of life. It follows that regarding the
obligation to settle the land of Israel any posed threat to individual
Jewish lives is not considered a deterrent (Minchat Chinnukh, 425).
“Do not allow them to reside in your land”
In addition to the more general Torah commandment to take possession
of the land of Israel, the Torah warns: “Do not allow them to reside
in your land” (Exodus 23:33). The Rambam (Hilkhot Avoda Zara 10:6)
explains that when we have the power it is forbidden to allow any non-
Jew to reside in our land (with the exception of a “Ger Toshav” – a
resident alien who has accepted some of the laws of Judaism).
Torah authorities, though, are divided over the question: To whom does
this prohibition apply? Some hold that only a non-Jew who, before a
court, professes faith in the God of Israel and takes upon himself to
observe the seven commandments of Noah’s descendants, is considered a
Ger Toshav who is permitted to live in Israel. Others are of the
opinion that even if one does not accept these responsibilities before
a court, so long as he does not worship idols and upholds the seven
Noahide laws, he is not prohibited from living in Israel.
According to the latter opinion, good and amiable Muslims are
permitted to live in Israel, because Islam does not embrace idolatry.
Arabs, though, who are hostile towards us clearly do not fulfill the
seven Noahide laws, for they fail to recognize the God of Israel who
has given us the land of Israel. In addition, such Arabs support
terrorists, thereby violating the Noahide prohibition against murder;
and they also refrain from establishing courts of law which will try
these terrorists, which is also one of the seven Noahide commandments.
While it is true that some early authorities are of the opinion that
the biblical injunction, “Do not allow them to reside in your land”
applies exclusively to the “seven nations” (Hittites, Girgashites,
Amorites, Canaanites, Perizites, Hivites, and Yebusites), the majority
take it to apply to any gentile who fails to uphold the seven laws of
Noah’s descendants. This being the case, according to the two main
opinions brought above, it is forbidden for a ruling Jewish government
to allow Arabs who refuse to accept Jewish sovereignty to live in
Israel, and it goes without saying that it is forbidden to present
them with land where they will be able to increase the number of non-
Jews who do not uphold the Noahide laws.
The Torah also exhorts: “…do not give them any
consideration” (Deuteronomy 7:2), and the Sages interpret this to mean
that it is forbidden to provide non-Jews with any sort of foothold
upon the soil of the land of Israel (Avodah Zara 20a). This
prohibition compliments the previously dealt-with proscription against
allowing them “to reside in your land”: it is the obligation of the
entire Jewish people to uphold the “residence“ prohibition; the
“foothold” prohibition, on the other hand, warns each and every
individual Jew not to sell a house or lot of land to any non-Jew who
is not a Ger Toshav. It follows that it is forbidden to give any
portion whatsoever to Arabs who do not uphold the seven Noahide laws.
Regarding this interdiction there is consensus among authorities that
it applies to all non-Jews and not just to the “seven nations,” and if
it is forbidden to sell them a single house, how much more so to give
them large portions of the land of Israel.