GUSH EMUNIM ("The Bloc of the Faithful"), a spiritual-political movement established for the purpose of implementing its belief that the establishment of the State of Israel constitutes the "Beginning of the Redemption" which will lead to the ultimate complete Redemption by settling the entire area west of the Jordan. Although their program included Zionist education, political propaganda, aliyah, settlement, and social aims, in practice they confined themselves to the question of settlement in the areas liberated in the Six-Day War. Gush Emunim was formally founded in Kefar Etzyon at the beginning of 1974.
Its founders came from the *National Religious Party, the Land of Israel Movement, the religious settlements, the pupils of the Mercaz ha-Rav Yeshivah, the *Bnei Akiva yeshivot, and Orthodox academicians and the young Orthodox generation.
Their first practical step was taken in May 1974 to protest the intended return of Quneitra to Syria. They proceeded to establish a new settlement (Keshet) to serve as a barrier against withdrawal. During 1974 various attempts were made by the Elon Moreh group of Gush Emunim to establish a settlement in Samaria. At the first attempt, near the army camp at Ḥoron, Rabbi Ẓevi Judah Kook, whom they regard as their spiritual father, General Arik Sharon, and mks Zevulun Hammer, Judah Ben Meir, and Geulah Cohen participated, but on the orders of the prime minister they were forcibly removed by the army. The same fate met six subsequent attempts. An eighth attempt to settle at the old railway station of Sebaste on Hanukkah of 1975 was attended by thousands of sympathizers who remained there for eight days. As a result of negotiations they were permitted to settle in the military camp at Kaddum near Sebaste.
At the same time, settlements were established at Ophra in May 1975 in an abandoned Jordanian military camp near Mt. Ba'al Ḥazor, which was declared a work camp, with the permission of the then Defense Minister Shimon Peres.
Immediately after his election victory in May 1977, Menaḥem Begin announced that henceforth there would be "many Kaddums," and it was officially declared a settlement. As a result Gush Emunim urged that 12 new settlements in Judea and Samaria – which had been approved in principle by the previous government – be established simultaneously.
The prime minister, however, postponed implementation of the plan after his visit with President Carter, and when on his return permission was not granted, Gush Emunim decided to act on their own on Sukkot 1977. As a result tension developed between the Gush and the new government. An agreement was subsequently reached whereby two sites would be established immediately and the other ten within five months, and from then until 1981, over 20 settlements were established by them. Some were established without government permission. The establishment of a settlement in the vicinity of Shechem was the subject of an appeal to the Supreme Court by Arabs as owners of the land and they won the case. The settlers were ordered to vacate the site. After heated discussions Gush Emunim decided to comply with the order and the settlement moved to Mt. Kabir, northeast of Shechem.
In order to further their aims the Gush established in 1980 an organization of all the settlements in Judea and Samaria, called Amanah.
During the visit of President Carter to Jerusalem in March 1979 the Gush mounted demonstrations and a number were arrested and held in detention until his departure.
Gush Emunim cooperated with the Teḥiyyah party founded in October 1979.
Developments in the 1980s and Early 1990s
Gush Emunim played a significant role in Israeli political life from 1977. Although the declared ideology of the movement continues to emphasize Zionist renewal in all spheres of life, in practice the Gush was concerned with the implementation of policies which will make impossible the return of any of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) as a result of future peace treaties or negotiations. The retention of Israeli (Jewish) control over this region was viewed as being divinely ordained, and thus not to be negated by human or democratic decision, even if it is the elected government of the State of Israel. This element of fundamentalist belief underlies all of Gush Emunim's activities. However the activities themselves – the creation of irreversible settlement facts – were implemented through the most pragmatic of means.
Following the coming to power of the Likud government in 1977, the Gush presented a short-term "emergency" settlement plan to the new government, the objective of which was the establishment of 12 new settlements throughout the West Bank at locations previously rejected by the Labor government. The majority of these locations were indeed settled during the subsequent 18 months. In October 1978, Gush Emunim presented a more comprehensive blueprint for settlement in the region. This plan focused on the establishment of a widespread network of both rural and urban settlements as a means through which Israeli sovereignty over the region could be emphasized. This plan was similar in nature to parallel blueprints proposed by the joint head of the Settlement Department of the Jewish Agency, Ḥerut appointee Matityahu Drobles, and the minister of agriculture, Ariel Sharon. Despite the lack of any formal government or cabinet decision in favor of these plans, public resources were nevertheless made available for their gradual implementation.
The implementation of Gush Emunim settlement policy was carried out by its operational arm, the Amanah settlement movement. Formal government recognition of this movement, enabling it to become the recipient of government aid and funds, together with the legalization of the two existing Gush settlements at Ofrah and Camp Kaddum afforded legitimization to the Gush Emunim settlement objectives. Amanah included well over 50 settlements, of which nearly all are located in the West Bank (the minority were in *Gush Katif). The majority of these settlements were of the yishuv kehillati (community settlement) type, these being largely dormitory settlements wherein the settlers commute to the Israeli metropolitan centers for their employment. Despite their lack of domestic economic base, these settlements maintained a closed social unit and new or potential candidates must be approved by general vote. They ranged in size from around 15 to 20 families in the smaller newer settlements to over 500 families in the larger, more veteran units such as Kedumim, Bet Aryeh, and Elkanah.
Gush Emunim as such did not have any formal membership and it was therefore difficult to estimate its size or actual support. While the settlers themselves constituted the grass roots of power of the movement, the Gush also succeeded in obtaining support from a variety of Knesset members in the right-of-center political parties. Although the Gush did not transform itself into a political party as such, many of its members and activists became leading figures in other parties. Knesset members of the Teḥiyyah Party from 1981 and of the Matzad faction (a breakaway from the National Religious Party) between 1984 and 1986 were Gush Emunim activists. Such personalities included Gush Emunim founder Hanan Porat of Kefar Etzyon, Rabbi Chaim Druckman – a leading figure in the Bnei Akiva national religious youth movement – and Rabbi Eliezer Waldman, a head of the Kiryat Arba yeshivah.
Other leading activists became the administrators of the regional councils set up to provide municipal services to the new settlements. These regional councils received their budgets through Ministry of Interior grants as well as by means of local taxes. Thus the administrators became, de facto, public service workers, in a position to advance their political objectives through the control and allocation of municipal funds. Additional organizations, such as the Council of Settlements in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza (Mo'eẓet Yesha) and the Sheva finance company, established to promote Jewish settlement activity in the West Bank, were largely manned by Gush Emunim personalities. This gradual process of institutionalization did not include the charismatic figure of Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who continued to propound the mystical fundamental tenets of the Gush Emunim ideology. His position as the unofficial leader of Gush Emunim received a setback in 1984, following the appointment of an official general secretary for the movement, Daniella Weiss – a resident of Kedumim.
The Gush attempted to promote a populist image by means of an annual Independence Day Rally and hike through the West Bank as well as through organizing occasional demonstrations. The most significant rallying of ranks took place in the wake of the Camp David Accords and the subsequent withdrawal from Sinai. Gush Emunim and its leaders provided a focus for the Movement to Stop the Withdrawal from Sinai. Gush Emunim viewed the withdrawal from Sinai in general, and the destruction of Jewish settlements in particular, as a dangerous precedent for the West Bank. Many of their supporters remained in Yamit as a final protest before being forcibly removed by the Israeli army.
The discovery of a Jewish underground in the West Bank and its terrorist activities in 1984, and the subsequent arrest, trial, and imprisonment of 20 Jewish settlers, three of them for life terms, caused an ideological crisis amongst the Gush Emunim ranks. Their supporters were split into two, with one camp openly denouncing the underground activity as being outside the legitimate field of play, the other camp supporting the actions as being legitimate in the face of what they saw as non-action on the part of the Israeli government to safeguard their interests. The former viewpoint was put forward by many of the Gush Emunim founders and focused around the personality of Yoel Bin-Nun from the Ofrah settlement. In time, these two camps became largely reconciled around the question of clemency for the Jewish prisoners.
Opposition to Gush Emunim and their ideology remained intense, in both secular and religious sectors of the population. The *Peace Now Movement continued to protest against the establishment of settlements in the West Bank, which it viewed as obstacles in the achievement of any peace agreement between Israel and Palestinians. Religious opposition groups, Oz Ve Shalom and Netivot Shalom, which stress religious values of peace and the need for interethnic mutual respect, rather than the territorialism and nationalism preached by the Gush, have remained small and without influence, owing to the general identification of the religious population with the Gush Emunim viewpoint. The Gush derided the opposition movements as "speakers" only and points to their "doing" as proof of their commitment to their cause. Opponents tended to be labeled as "yefei nefesh" ("genteel souls") and as traitors to the cause of "Greater Israel."
The Gush Emunim ideology is expounded in the monthly magazine Nekudah (and its occasional English version, Counterpoint), published by Mo'eẓet Yesha. Recent years have witnessed a surprising amount of academic research into Gush Emunim, focusing on the group's origins, ideological viewpoints, and the functioning of the settlement network.
The change in government in 1992 had a major impact on the West Bank settler population. On the one hand, much of the Gush Emunim political lobby was lost when the Tehiyyah party failed to gain any seats in the new Knesset.
The Teḥiyyah failure was attributed, by many, to the decision of Rabbi Levinger and Daniela Weiss to run as a separate party list. This resulted in a split in the traditional Gush Emunim vote, with neither party obtaining any seats.
With the intensification of the peace talks under the Rabin government, new groups were established among the West Bank settlers to replace the now defunct Gush Emunim. These included the "Emunim" movement, supposed to represent the next generation of ideologically inspired settlers, but free of the traditional Gush leadership. In addition, national-religious rabbis of the West Bank settlements formed their own organization, aimed at providing "halakhically" inspired answers to the new political dilemmas facing the settlers. Their basic message was uncompromising, returning to the traditional national-religious argument that the Divine Right to the Land of Israel cannot be voted away by government. They provided religious backing for opposition to the Rabin government peace initiatives.
By 1992, the West Bank settler population (excluding East Jerusalem) had increased to beyond 100,000. Most of these continued to live in the communities and townships of Western Samaria, close to the metropolitan center of Israel. Particular emphasis was placed along the new west-east highway connecting Tel Aviv to the Jordan Valley. Along this route lies the expanding town of Ariel, as well as the ultra Orthodox township of Emanuel. The *Gush Etzyon region, to the south of Jerusalem, also underwent internal growth, centered around the township of Efrat. The West Bank settlement network itself was greatly affected by the change in government. The new planning priorities redirected resources out of the Administered Territories and back into Israel itself – especially into the Negev and Galilee. Settlers who had previously been beneficiaries of tax concessions, easy-term mortgages, low-priced land, by virtue of their living beyond the green line, now found themselves facing conditions equal to any other region in the country. In the Gaza Strip, *Gush Katif formed a network of settlements that would become the focus of Israel's disengagement in 2005.
For subsequent political events, see *Israel, State of: Historical Survey.
M. Kohn, Who Is Afraid of Gush Emunim? (1976); M. Aronoff, in: Political Anthropology, 3 (1985); E. Don-Yihya, in: Middle Eastern Studies, 24 (1988), 215–34; G. Goldberg and E. Ben-Zadok, in: Middle Eastern Studies, 22 (1986), 52–73; D. Newman, "The Role of Gush Emunim and the Yishuv Kehillati in the West Bank" (Ph. D. diss., University of Durham; 1981); idem, in: Jerusalem Quarterly, 39 (1986); D. Newman (ed.), The Impact of Gush Emunim (1985); idem, in: Middle Eastern Studies, 28 (1992), 509–30; Z. Ra'anan, Gush Emunim (Hebrew; 1980); E. Sprinzak, in: Jerusalem Quarterly, 21 (1981), 28–47; L. Weissbrod, in: Middle Eastern Studies, 18 (1982), 265–75.
LEADERS: Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook; Rabbi Moshe Levinger
The Gush Emunim, which translates literally from Hebrew as "the bloc of the faithful," represents the right to extreme right in Israeli politics and society. The group most often is identified with settler groups and the mentality that territory that has fallen under Israeli control must never be seized because the land is sacred and had been given to the Jewish people by God.
Through this overriding philosophy, adherents of the Gush Emunim have been involved with settling land seized by Israel over the nation's numerous wars. Principally in the wake of the Six Day War in 1967, followers of the Gush Emunim settled in the area known as the West Bank, a region that remains hotly contested between Israel and the Palestinians and has been the site of many violent clashes between the Israeli army and local Palestinians.
The ideology of the Gush Emunim finds its roots in the teachings of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook (1891–1982). The Kook family, reflecting a lineage of rabbinic figures, is directly associated with the advancement of religious Zionism in Palestine as well as in Israel after the state's independence in 1948. Religious Zionism refers to the movement to return Jews to their ancestral homeland out of the belief that they are religiously mandated to do so.
Even prior to the victory of Israeli forces over several Arab armies in June 1967, referred to as the Six Day War, Kook had been the leader in the movement to instill within Israeli society a sense that the state's creation was divinely inspired and it was the responsibility of its citizens to embrace that understanding. In the Six Day War, Israel took control over areas extending alongside the west bank of the Jordan River, commonly referred to as the West Bank or the "territories." Kook espoused that those areas, as part of the ancestral and religious homeland of the Jewish people, must be settled and to consider returning the lands following their capture by Jewish forces would be a violation of Jewish law.
In 1973, Israel was attacked on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar of Yom Kippur, leading to a Yom Kippur War, where Israel was very nearly destroyed. The religious right that adhered to the teachings of Rabbi Kook began to organize itself, leading to the creation of the Gush Emunim.
From its inception, the primary practical goal of Gush Emunim was to expand the number of Jewish settlements in the West Bank. In the summer of 1974, Shimon Peres ascended to the position of defense minister and assumed control over these areas. With the encouragement of Gush Emunim, he began to supervise the settlements of the areas. The group was extremely successful in this venture and garnered the support of large segments of Israel's population, both religious and secular, as well as some key government and military officials. These settlements grew in number quickly and some remain flourishing today, albeit under difficult security arrangements.
PHILOSOPHY AND TACTICS
The underlying goals of the Gush Emunim are to expand the number of Jewish settlements in the area recognized as the territories by the international community. While dispute exists outside of Israel in regard to the Jewish state's legal claims to these areas, the position of adherents of the Gush Emunim has always been that these lands belong to the Jewish people as a result of their tradition and therefore can never be relinquished through diplomatic or any other means.
With governmental support for the settlement of these areas, the Gush Emunim movement gained considerable popularity in its early years with tens of thousands of Israelis joining the settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. In addition to their successes in the realm of populating these new areas, the Gush Emunim movement has made considerable inroads in the political arena. With their strong backing of the National Religious Party beginning in the early 1980s, the result was that the settlements began to receive increased funding.
The central philosophy that controls all activities of the Gush Emunim relies upon their belief that the modern land of Israel and her Jewish inhabitants are decedents of the ancient kingdoms of Israel where the Jewish people were brought following their exodus from Egypt, as is written in the Bible. The movement contends that modern Israel is a land that continues to maintain an unparalleled degree of holiness and that situation is incumbent upon the land remaining whole and not ceding any of its territories to any non-Jewish authorities. A further philosophical tenet espoused by the Gush Emunim is that the state needs to be linked to the Jewish tradition in all of its manifestations.
Consequently, adherents of the movement are opposed to any secularization of governmental institutions and they believe that Israel needed to distinguish itself from other Western democracies by presenting itself first as a Jewish state. While other Zionist entities in Israel looked at Israel as a state with a Jewish identity, the philosophy of the Gush Emunim required that religious observance and not just identification with Judaism be the motivating force behind all state laws and traditions.
The movement contends that the return of a large Jewish presence to Israel serves as an indication of the imminent arrival of the Messiah and that the Jews, through divine assistance, will triumph over their non-Jewish adversaries. With this belief in mind, the Gush Emunim believe that all political and social decisions made by the Israeli government have the ability to either hasten the coming of the Messiah, or cause it to be postponed. The followers of the movement closely adhered to the teachings of the spiritual founder of the movement, Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, who taught that all segments of the Jewish population are imbued with a level of sanctity. All citizens of Israel, whether observant of Jewish law or not, were to be recognized as emissaries of God in bringing about the coming of the Messiah.
With the Israeli victory in the Six Day War in June 1967, and the acquisition of new territories, the Gush Emunim taught that in order for the redemption to take place, these lands that had been promised to the Jewish people by Abraham four millennia earlier needed to be settled. Any loss of land would further delay the coming of the Messiah.
The relationship of the Gush Emunim with the primarily secular Israeli government has largely been one of accommodation and mutual respect, yet they have always preferred Jewish law and tradition over democratically reached decisions. When Israeli governments reached decisions perceived by the Gush Emunim as opposing the Jewish character of the state, they displayed their displeasure but primarily through legal means.
RABBI TZVI YEHU DA KOOK
Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook remained the leader of the Gush Emunim movement until his death in 1981. Recognized by many as the leading rabbinical figure in the modern Zionist movement, his teachings continue to serve as the philosophical basis for the Gush Emunim. As the head of the Mizrachi movement, which is the organizational center of religious Zionism with various entities and representations around the world, Rabbi Kook's leadership established him as one of the preeminent religious figures in the growth of the state of Israel. An institute of higher learning founded by Rabbi Kook, which continues to exist in Jerusalem by the name of Merkaz Harav (Center of the Rabbi), produces students who adhere closely to the philosophies of the Gush Emunim and serve as the core of the inhabitants of the settlements in the territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
RABBI MOS HELEVINGER
The leading figure in the movement has been Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who was one of the original founders of the movement and is among the heads of the settlement of Kiryat Arba, located just outside of the city of Hebron. Levinger has been arrested several times for his pro-settlement activity and is regarded as one of the preeminent spiritual and activist leaders in the Jewish settlements located in the West Bank.
The movement, while remaining largely an ideological entity and less of a structured organization, appointed an executive secretary in 1984 as well as a spokesperson.
The central forces behind the movement are largely characterized as law-abiding citizens of Israel and, while protests and disobedience have been utilized as forms of expression by people associating with the Gush Emunim, violence is a rarity and is not the preferred mode of action for the movement. At the same time, there have been fringe elements associated with the movement that have carried out acts of terrorism within Israeli society. Most notably was the creation of a Jewish Underground group that, in the wake of the Camp David peace accords signed in 1979, attempted to blow up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, one of Islam's holiest sites.
In the global context, because of their fundamentalist views, the Gush Emunim movement is often perceived as a militant or even terrorist agency. Despite the actions of some fringe members of the movement, the Gush Emunim even by its critics is largely understood as a peaceful group that was neither created to foster violence nor does it thrive upon violence.
Within Israeli society, the group's most fierce opposition comes from the opposing left-wing political elements that view the actions of the Gush Emunim as serving as obstacles to the peace process. For those who believe that in order for Israel to secure a lasting peace with the Palestinians, it will require Israel to hand over lands that it acquired in previous wars. The Gush Emunim's stance serves as counterproductive to achieving a lasting peace settlement.
Because of the traditionalist beliefs of the Gush Emunim as they apply to the land, the group stands in direct opposition to the effort for Palestinian statehood. Palestinians who live in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip see the settlement activity as an occupying element, and this position has led to a great deal of violence, particularly in the period of Palestinian uprisings, or intifada, which took place between 1987 and 1990, and then broke out again in September 2000.
Despite the large amounts of criticism that has been directed towards Gush Emunim both from within Israel and the perception around the world that the movement is made up of militants, the group has had a strong impact upon Israeli society. Through the efforts of the movement, religion has become an increasingly central aspect of the Israeli society and has introduced important institutions into the nation's political, social, and educational environments.
In the area of settling the territories, the movement has been most successful and has lobbied the Israeli government both to allow these efforts to continue and to receive funding. Even as political and security conflicts continue to surround these areas, the movement has grown in recent years and are generally perceived within the broader Israeli society as an integral part of the State.
The Gush Emunim operates in a largely legal framework with the exception of some fringe elements that have been known to be involved with acts of violence against the Palestinian population, as well as in a small number of other acts of violent protest against the government of Israel. The movement has strong links to the political infrastructure and its accomplishments are attributed to those relationships.
- The Israeli Defense Forces defeated the Arab armies of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria in Six Days and took control over large amounts of new territory.
- Gush Emunim movement was established.
- Gush Emunim oversaw the creation of the Yesha Council that represents Jewish communities in the West Bank areas of Judea and Samaria as well as the communities in the Gaza Strip region. This council has acted to offer a social and political voice for the communities in these regions.
The movement's philosophies are most evident in times of social and political discord surrounding the issue of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The Gush Emunim and its adherents stood at the center of the debate over the Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai desert following the Camp David peace accords. When the Israeli government announced a withdrawal plan of approximately 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the Gush Emunim faced one of its most serious challenges and stood at the forefront of a bitter public campaign in opposition to the plan. Israel completed their disengagement from Gaza in 2005. The settlements of the West Bank today house more than 200,000 people and continue to play an important role in all decisions made by the Israeli government, pointing to the ongoing impact of the Gush Emunim. Israel plans to extend the disengagement process, evacuating to several large West Bank settlements in 2005 and 2006.
Sprinzak, Ehud. Brother Against Brother: Violence and Extremism in Israeli Politics from Altalena to the Rabin Assassination. New York: The Free Press, 1999.
The Jerusalem Quarterly. "Gush Emunim; The Tip of the Iceberg." 〈http://www.geocities.com/alabasters_archive/gush_iceberg.html〉. (accessed October 18, 2005).
The Media Monitors Network. "Gush Emunim; The Twilight of Zionism?" 〈http://www.mediamonitors.net/cantarow1.html〉. (accessed October 18, 2005).
Gush Emunim (Bloc of the Faithful) has played a significant role in Israeli political life since its inception in the mid-1970s. The movement is concerned with establishing and strengthening Jewish settlement throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which its members believe belong to the Jewish people and the State of Israel by divine promise. Gush members are opposed to any territorial compromise or Israeli withdrawal from these regions, even as part of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The movement was formed in 1974 by a group of national religious activists associated with the Young Guard of the National Religious Party (now Mafdal). They opposed the minimalist policies of the Allon settlement plan and, in the light of the limited withdrawal on the Golan Heights after the October 1973 war, set out to create the conditions that would prevent any similar withdrawals taking place in the West Bank and Gaza.
Opposed by the Labor Party governments of the time, Gush Emunim underwent a process of legitimization following the election of the right-wing Likud Party of Menachem Begin in 1977. It created a settlement movement, known as Amanah, that undertook the logistics of establishing settlements throughout the region. Its settlement blueprint envisaged no less than 2 million Jews throughout the West Bank and Gaza by the year 2000, but this translated into a more realistic policy aimed at creating twelve new settlements in the first year of the Begin administration, thus laying the foundations for future settlement activities.
The ideology of the movement stems from its belief that God promised Abraham the whole of the land of Israel (from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River and even further east) for the Jewish people as their exclusive territory, as stated in the Old Testament. Gush Emunim draws much of its support from the ranks of the Bnei Akiva youth movement, whose slogan is, "The land of Israel, for the people of Israel, according to the Torah of Israel." They view Eretz Yisrael (the land of Israel) as holy territory, parts of which were liberated (not occupied) by divine intervention in the June 1967 war and which is never to be relinquished by any human decision, not even by a democratically elected government of the state of Israel.
In the early 1980s, Gush activists were implicated in the Jewish underground movement Terror-Neged-Terror (Terror against Terror), which undertook attacks against Palestinians in revenge for Palestinian killings of Jewish settlers. Its targets included mayors Bassam Shakʿa (Nablus), Karim Khalif (Ramallah), and Ibrahim Tawil (al-Bira), and the Islamic College in Hebron. Plots to blow up Arab buses in Jerusalem and, more sensationally, the Dome of the Rock, were thwarted by Israeli intelligence.
During its first almost twenty-eight years of existence, Gush Emunim transformed itself from a grassroots extra-parliamentary movement to one that provided the ideological underpinnings for a number of political parties, municipal organizations, and settlements (villages and townships) throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Its representatives have been active in right-wing political parties in successive Israeli governments since 1977, in some cases achieving cabinet positions. Two leading ministers in Ariel Sharon's government of January 2003, Infrastructure Minister Rafael Eitan (National Religious Party) and Tourism Minister Benny Elon (National Israel Party), were staunch supporters of the Gush and the West Bank settlements.
Gush Emunim does not have any formal membership; it is difficult to estimate its size or support, but it has become the most visible ideological force for active and, in some cases violent, opposition to all attempts to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians involving any form of territorial withdrawal.
Leading Gush Emunim activists have also become administrators of the regional and local councils set up to administer the settlement network and provide a conduit for the transfer of public resources from the central government to the settlements. The major political lobby for the West Bank settlement network, the Yesha (an acronym for Yehuda ve-Shomron, Judaea, and Samaria) Council, is made up of leading Gush personalities. This organization also serves as an umbrella group for West Bank municipal councils in the face of political threats to remove any settlements.
The original leaders of the Gush Emunim movement, notably Rabbis Moshe Levinger of Hebron and Hanan Porat from Gush Etzion, have stepped aside to make way for a younger generation of leaders, although none of the new generation has achieved their prominence. Some of the younger activists have attempted to set up new settlement outposts not approved by the government and have been called "the hilltop youth." They are perceived by many as constituting the contemporary equivalent of the earlier Gush activists of the mid-1970s, who attempted to establish the first settlements despite government opposition of the time.
Gush Emunim's Greater Israel and prosettlement ideology has had a major impact on Israeli society in general and on the peace process in particular. Its opposition to any form of territorial withdrawal or settlement evacuation added to the obstacles that faced the post-Oslo negotiation process.
See also arab–israel war (1967); arab–israel war (1973); begin, menachem; gaza strip; levinger, moshe; oslo accord (1993); sharon, ariel; west bank.
Lustick, Ian S. For the Land and the Lord: Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel. New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 1988.
Newman, David, ed. The Impact of Gush Emunim: Politics and Settlement in the West Bank. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1985.
Newman, David, and Hermann, Tamar. "Extra-Parliamentarism in Israel: A Comparative Study of Peace Now and Gush Emunim." Middle Eastern Studies 28, no. 3, (1992): 509–530.
Segal, Haggai. Dear Brothers: The West Bank Jewish Underground. Woodmere, NY: Beit Shamai Publications, 1988.