Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett exchanged blows on Thursday over Lieberman's call for Rabbi Yigal Levinstein to step down after the rabbi made disparaging remarks about women in the IDF.
Lieberman set an ultimatum to Rabbi Levinstein, threatening to stop the Defense Ministry's recognition of the rabbi's Bnei David pre-army preparatory yeshiva in Eli, leading to an exchange of accusations and insults between the two on social media.
On Thursday, Bennett to call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to interfere. "In the moment of truth, you have abandoned Religious Zionism," Bennett charged against Netanyahu, adding that in his conspicuous silence on the issue, the prime minister "forgot to take care of one of country's most glorious institutions (the yeshiva), whose contributions serve all of Israel."
While Bennett made sure to say that Levinstein's comments about women and gays are extremely serious and that he categorically rejects them, he did clarify that "there is no place for silence or restraint in the matter of closing a pre-military yeshiva, and he (Netanyahu) should step in immediately to prevent it."
Bennett also took a sarcastic swipe at Netanyahu during Thursday's cabinet meeting. After Netanyahu reiterated his intent to stand behind his commitment to build former residents of Amona a new community, Bennet wryly remarked, "We didn't think otherwise for a minute."
Responding to the latest provocation, Lieberman wrote on Facebook that "those who truly want the yeshiva and pre-army prep school to continue succeeding understand that this cannot happen if Rabbi Levinstein remains at its head."
The defense minister accused Bennett of "sacrificing the yeshiva and prep school in Eli on the alter of the primaries at Bayit Yehudi," the education minister's party. "All of this for a man who already had to apologize twice after having offended entire sectors of people and has now once again offended in a blatant and disgraceful manner the IDF's female soldiers and the women of Israel."
Lieberman went on to say that he was "sorry to see that instead of joining me in this demand (for Levinstein's resignation), Naftali Bennett chose to support Rabbi Levinstein due to petty political considerations."
The clash between Bennett and Lieberman broke out on Wednesday, when the education minister dismissed the defense minister’s ultimatum as yet more political nonsense, “just like (when he) supported annexation of Judea and Samaria, opposed annexation of Judea and Samaria, (spoke about) revoking citizenship of Arab Israelis, taking out (Ismail) Haniyeh within 48 hours of becoming defense minister.”
Lieberman hit back on Twitter, stepping up the level of the invective as he accused Bennett of “protecting someone who is trying to turn Israel into Iran. But we won’t allow that, In Israel, women are equal to men and military service is for everyone,” he said.
Bennett countered on his Twitter page, accusing Lieberman of playing politics at the expense of IDF soldiers. "Lieberman, don't play politics on the backs of IDF fighters. The academy in Eli will not close down."