A joint survey by Ynet and the Yesodot Center for Torah and Democracy revealed that the religious public supports the inclusion of rabbis in discussions on the legitimate price to be paid for captives. The survey was conducted by the Panels Research Institute and included 512 participants.
The first question participants were asked was, "The torah is filled with war commandments. Do you think the Israel Defense Forces should act according to the halacha during military operations?."
Approximately 39% claimed that it is not appropriate in 21st Century, 38% said that the army should be aware of halachic stance on relevant issues but should act according to international laws and the Geneva Conventions, whereas 29% believe that the IDF, as a Jewish army, should adhere to its people's guidelines alone.
In terms of the various religious sectors within the Israeli society, the survey revealed that the majority within the religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors supports instating IDF as a "halachic" army (76% and 82% respectively). Seculars, on the other hand reject any correlation between the military and the halacha (51%), while common belief among the conservative Jews is that the army should be aware of halachic rules but not be obligated to adhere to them (41%).
Some 46% believe that "War being war, one should act with full force against the enemy," whereas an additional 46% were of the opinion that moral standards must be upheld in time of war as well. The remaining 8% claimed that the Jewish religion is irrelevant to the discussion since it offers no ruling on the matter.
The survey's results also suggested that the ultra-Orthodox and conservative sectors interpret the Jewish religion's stance as advocating the use of full force against the enemy (61% and 62% respectively). Seculars were generally of the opinion that moral standards must be upheld during war (49%), leaving the religious sector divided on the issue (49% for two options).
Should rabbis decide on politics?
Recent footage of captive soldier Gilad Shalit and the negotiations for his release raised the controversial issue of the price Israel may have to pay to retrieve him. Should rabbis be included in military and political discussions determining whether to pardon hundreds of terrorists in his exchange?
Some 61% oppose the idea claiming that rabbis are not better qualified than cabinet ministers and army seniors, 26% would consider including the IDF chief rabbi, whereas 13% are in favor of acknowledging rabbinical establishment's moral and halachic point of view, since it may validate such a decision within the public.
Examining division of opinions within religious sectors, the survey revealed that seculars reject out of hand the inclusion of rabbis in such decisions (78%), the conservatives are divided to those who oppose such an option (43%) and those in support of including the IDF chief rabbi as a decision maker (41%), and the religious sector is in favor of incorporating the IDF chief rabbi (47%) or other rabbis (47%) in the decision-making process.
Common view among the ultra-Orthodox community is that that rabbinical establishment's stance should be taken into account (83%).
Yesodot Center General-Director Shoshi Becker commented on the survey's results: "The survey clearly indicates that the public views the IDF as the Jewish State's army which should be aware of the halacha, but that rabbis should not be afforded a main role in decision making."
Becker believes that this type of system would be obligating for both sides as the rabbinical establishment would be required to acquire general knowledge on each topic's various aspects.
"In order for the rabbinical establishment to be a part of decision making it has to voice its views on the moral issues. We rarely heard of flaming controversies within the rabbinical establishment regarding moral-political issues and perhaps should those have been voiced, the public would have been made aware of the Jewish moral point of view on the current dilemma Israel, as a Jewish and democratic State, is facing," she said.