Effi Eitam

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Effi Eitam
Date of birth (1952-07-25) 25 July 1952 (age 71)
Place of birth Ein Gev, Israel
Knessets 16, 17
Faction represented in Knesset
2003–2005 National Religious Party
2005–2006 Renewed National Religious Zionist Party
2006–2008 National Union
2008–2009 Ahi
Ministerial roles
2002 Minister without Portfolio
2002–2003 Minister of National Infrastructure
2003–2004 Minister of Housing and Construction

Efraim "Effi" (Fine) Eitam (Hebrew: אפרים "אפי" איתם‎, born 25 July 1952)[1] is an Israeli politician and former military commander. A former leader of the National Religious Party, he later led a breakaway faction, Ahi, which merged into Likud in 2009. He served as a member of the Knesset between 2003 and 2009. He advocates expelling the vast majority of Israeli Arabs from Israel, calling them a "cancer" undermining the democratic state of Israel.[2]


A Hardal Israeli, he was born in kibbutz Ein Gev and received a secular education. When he was old enough, Eitam joined the Israeli Defense Forces. Eitam has M.A. in Political Science and in International Relations. He is also a former student of the Mercaz HaRav yeshiva and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He is married and has eight children and lives in the Israeli settlement and moshav of Nov in the Golan Heights.

Military career

Eitam is a Brigadier General (reserves) in the Israel Defense Forces, and is considered a war hero by the State of Israel, having earned Israel's Medal of Distinguished Service in the Yom Kippur War for acting with his sergeant to stop Syrian tanks from penetrating the Golan Heights's Nafah base, using 3 Bazooka bombs and a heavy machine gun, and later rescued the wounded from Nafah. He also participated in Operation Entebbe, in which he commanded the Sayeret Golani. He also commanded an infantry battalion in Operation Litani, and an officers' school battalion during the 1982 Lebanon War. During the first Intifada he commanded the Givati Brigade. In 1988, Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered the Israeli Army to beat Palestinian rioters. Eitam was heard over a radio telling his troops to beat and break the bones of a 21-year-old Palestinian prisoner named Ayyad Aqel. They beat him to death.[3] An IDF court-martial convicted four of his soldiers, who testified against him. The Military Advocate General severely reprimanded Eitam and recommended that he never be promoted. He quit the Army in December 2000.[4]

Political career

After his retirement from military service, Eitam entered politics, joining the National Religious Party. Despite not being a member of the Knesset, he was appointed a Minister without Portfolio on 8 April 2002, serving until 18 September that year, when he became Minister of National Infrastructure.

In 2002, Eitam called for Yasser Arafat to be killed. Of Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, then being investigated by Israel, he said, "Take him out to an orchard and shoot him in the head."[5] He was first elected to the Knesset in January 2003, and was appointed Minister of Housing and Construction in March 2003.

Disengagement plan and NRP split

On 10 June 2004 Eitam and Yitzhak Levy quit the government to protest the disengagement plan. However, the National Religious Party refused to leave the coalition. Eventually, Eitam and Levi left the NRP too and formed the Renewed Religious National Zionist Party, later renamed Ahi, which would later join the National Union - a Knesset list of right-wing parties.

In a harsh speech delivered on 11 January 2005, Eitam called Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "refuser of democracy" ("סרבן דמוקרטיה") and attacked him for refusing to conduct a national poll on the plan. Eitam claimed Sharon was promoting the disengagement plan by threatening and firing objectors and by making corrupt deals. Eitam also claimed that the left was running an incitement campaign against the settlers, which include provocations and calls to spill their blood, in order to delegitimize that right-wing campaign against the disengagement plan. Despite the harsh criticism, Eitam denounced military refusal and violence. He concluded that in the end of struggle "If you don't listen to the call to bring back the decision to the healthy and strong people, we shall send you home, and it will be painful and shameful, that will erase the achievements of your manhood."

In March 2005, after the Israeli Southern Command issued a decree forbidding relocation to the Gaza Strip, Eitam announced his intention to go and live in Gush Katif in order to reinforce the settlers and help prevent their eviction. Eventually, over Passover, Eitam moved to Netzer Hazani. Left-wing members of the Knesset denounced Eitam's move but the speaker of the house, Reuven Rivlin, said that the move fell under the immunity members of the Knesset have. After the evacuation of Netzer Hazani, Eitam moved to Netzarim and accompanied them during their evacuation.

Because of his objection to military refusal and violence, Eitam used as a negotiator between the opposers to the plan and Israeli security forces. He arranged a massive weapons recall in all the settlement due to be removed, in order to prevent any chance of bullets being fired by accident or the heat of the moment.[6] He declared that the settlers would not use violence against Israeli security officers. Eitam also insisted that the removal forces would be unarmed. He explained his actions:

"It is about the expulsion of thousands of people from their homes. It is important to reach negotiation and discussion, it is important to shape the rules of the struggle in such a way that it will be conducted with determination, and on the other hand won't pull Israel to the abyss from which there is no return. It is not about acceptance with the disengagement [plan] but on the contrary, it is a struggle of multitude of people who will struggle with responsibility."[7]

In July 2005 Eitam initiated a "struggle treaty" and got members of the Knesset and rabbis to sign it. The treaty set the rules of struggle against the disengagement [plan] and the red lines. The treaty declared on rejection of any kind of violence.

"Our struggle will be innocent of any form of violence. No one shall use physical or verbal violence against Israel Defense Forces soldier, Israeli Police officers and security forces members."

In addition, it was decided that the protest will be done unarmed, in order to prevent blood spilling or use of firearms. The treaty was distributed in thousands of copies to the ten of thousands participants of the "joining march" to Kfar Maimon.

On 25 August 2005, Eitam was quoted as explaining that the reason there was no violence was not the security forces but the settlers' own restraint and decision not to use violence.[8] Eitam rebuked those who said that the settlers didn't use violence because they were afraid from the multitude of officers and said "We were not afraid from the multitude of cops and horses, it is ridiculous to think that our people, with swift boys, war-though men and its wives and men are scorned by mortar shells, explosive charges and graves, will be afraid of physical confrontation with the cops. This shallow and evil claim miss the main thing, and therefore so dangerous.[9]

Prior to the 2009 elections Ahi merged into Likud allowing Eitam to pass his election financing to the party. Eitam decided to not run in this election.


On 2 February 2006 Eitam was injured when Israeli police tried to disperse a protest of thousands of Israeli settlers who were blocking the demolition of nine homes in the Israeli settlement of Amona in the West Bank. The protest became violent, and Eitam, who was one of three Israeli nationalist MKs amongst the crowds, was knocked down. Eitam was hospitalized with minor injuries.[citation needed]

Advocacy of expulsion of Israeli Arabs in 2006

After being re-elected on the joint National Union-National Religious Party list, Eitam caused controversy during a memorial ceremony for a fallen Israeli soldier on 10 September 2006, saying "we'll have to expel the overwhelming majority of West Bank Arabs from here and remove Israeli Arabs from political system," and "We have raised a fifth column, a group of traitors."[10] Attorney-General Menachem Mazuz warned Eitam at the time that criminal charges could be brought against him, if he repeated the statements.[11]


Eitam has called Israeli Arabs a "cancer": "[T]he Israeli Arabs are in large measure the ticking bomb beneath the whole democratic Israeli order inside the [1967] Green Line. Even today, in the Galilee and the Negev, a de facto autonomy of theirs is being created, which could in practice turn Israel into the bubble of Metropolitan Tel Aviv .… Therefore, I say that the State of Israel today faces an existential threat that is characterized by being an elusive threat, and elusive threats by their nature resemble cancer. Cancer is a type of illness in which most of the people who die from it die because they were diagnosed too late. By the time you grasp the size of the threat, it is already too late to deal with it.".[12] Commenting on this, the veteran Israeli journalist, Akiva Eldar, wrote in Haaretz, "The fact that the Nazis were especially fond of this [cancer] metaphor is probably not lost on the general." [13]

In 2004, Eitam called the Palestinians "dark forces" and said "We will have to kill them all... I don’t mean all the Palestinians, but the ones with evil in their heads." [14] In 2002, the Israeli Army used Nidal Abu Muihsein as a human shield, causing his death; Eitam called this “very moral.”[15] In October 2005, Eitam opposed a Supreme Court of Israel ruling that banned the IDF from using Palestinians as human shields, stating that "Supreme court judges demonstrated today that their pity for the cruel will prove cruel to the merciful and will expose Israeli soldiers to more danger".[16] In November 2006, he called for an expulsion of most Palestinians from the West Bank: "Expel most of the Judea and Samaria Arabs from here. We cannot be with all these Arabs and we cannot give up the land."[17] In March 2008, he called for the expulsion of Israeli Arab members of the Knesset, "One day we will expel you to Gaza from this house and from the national home of the Jewish people."[18]

Eitam has called on the U.S. to attack Iran and destroy its suspected nuclear weapons program, adding that Israel was well-prepared to take such action alone, as "a nuclear Iran is not an option for Israel."[19] In February 2007 he stated that in three to four years Iran would "have a [nuclear] bomb and the missile to deliver it.”[20]

In December 2008, Eitam and his Ahi political party merged with Likud.[21][22] In 2009-2010, he visited a series of US campuses as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "Special Emissary" to the "Caravan for Democracy" program of the Jewish National Fund.[23][24]


  1. Effi Eitam biography Knesset website
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  3. Ian Black (2 November 1990). "Soldier jailed for intifada killing will sue Rabin." The Guardian.
  4. Arieh O'Sullivan (27 December 2000). "Eitam quits IDF; seen heading for politics." The Jerusalem Post.
  5. (2002-07-05). "NRP leader Eitam: Arafat, Barghouti should be killed" The Jerusalem Post.
  6. MK Effi Eitam (HaTzionut HaDatit) Maariv, 25 August 2005 (Hebrew)
  7. Ezra: Whoever participates in the evacuation will not be armed Yedioth Ahronoth, 31 March 2005 (Hebrew)
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  14. Jeffrey Goldberg (31 May 2004). "A Reporter at Large: Among The Settlers." The New Yorker.
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  17. Eitam: Expel Palestinians, dismiss Arab MKs Ynetnews, 9 November 2006
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  20. Israeli Rightist Warns That Bush’s Iraq Policy Could Hurt Effort To Combat Iran
  21. Eitam’s Party Makes Deal With Likud
  22. The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment
  23. E. B. Solomont (20 November 2009). Effie Eitam’s US campus speaking tour draws plaudits... and protests. The Jerusalem Post.
  24. The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment

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