IDF to hesder yeshivas: Take action or else
Army's Personnel Directorate head Avi Zamir gives Hesder Yeshivas Union one week to openly denounce disobedience in military, following two incidents in which soldiers carried signs against settlement evacuation. If union fails to do so, military may call off agreement with yeshivas
Two anti "expulsion signs", highly publicized conference in support of the "faithful soldiers" and a tailwind from the rabbis, have all pushed the IDF too far, and the highest ranks of the military are now speaking out in favor of canceling the agreement with the yeshivas which combine advances religious studies with military service.
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Ynet has learned that in talks between Major General Avi Zamir, head of the IDF's Personnel Directorate and the rabbis of the Hesder Yeshivas Union, Zamir gave an ultimatum, saying if they do not take more comprehensive and outward action against the disobedience in the Kfir Brigade by next week, the military will realize its threats, and begin canceling the existing agreement with the yeshivas. Zamir demanded "clear answers."
After receiving the sharp message, the union decided to summon the relevant yeshiva heads whose students carried the signs in protest of the evacuation of illegal structures in settlements. The heads were called for a hearing, during which they will be required to denounce their students' actions and express their objection to any political demonstration by soldiers in uniform.
Following the conversation, which took place on Tuesday, a letter was sent Wednesday from Zamir's office to the union's administration, which was defined as "blunt and cannot be misunderstood." In addition, a meeting was set for next Thursday between the five rabbis on the board of the union and Zamir, where he will demand they denounce the insubordination.
Elon Moreh, Har Bracha at centerThe IDF identify two main yeshivas – and their rabbis – as supporters of the disobedience: The Elon Moreh Yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, and the Har Bracha Yeshiva, headed by Rabbi Eliezer Melamed.
The union has already published a statement denouncing the political protest last night, following the meeting with Zamir, but the military wishes to pressure rabbis Levanon and Melamed specifically by applying pressure on the union.
The union's statement published Tuesday read:
"The Hesder Yeshivas Union objects to political demonstrations within the military and considers this a violation of the military's discipline and its foundations, and of the social unity within the army. However, the union demands that such isolated incidents do not stain an entire public of thousands of dedicate men who join the army's combat units with high motivation in order to take part in the important fight against the enemy and to defend the people and the land. The Hesder Yeshivas Union calls for a deep dialogue within the Israeli society over the use of the military for missions of a policing and law enforcement nature."
'Penalties will deepend phenomenon'
A source from the union told Ynet that the rabbis object to imposing sanctions on the yeshivas whose students carried the protest signs. They believe such a penalty will only deepen the phenomenon and cause relatively moderate rabbis to express their support of these yeshivas.
In addition, the union's administration wishes to draw a clear distinction between the isolated insubordination of single soldiers and a protest. According to some of the prominent rabbis, the union does not have a clear-cut position on refusal to carry out an order for ideological reasons, and each rabbi gives his own opinion in the matter.
However, a public protest is unacceptable in any case. "It's exactly like how the IDF chief of staff votes in elections, but is forbidden to express his opinions," one of the sources said.
The hesder is a special track, which combines periods of military service and periods of religious studies. In recent years, and in particular following the Disengagement from the Gaza Strip, there have been calls from within the ranks of the military to reconsider the existence of this track.
IDF examining further steps
Meanwhile, the IDF is examining other channels through which it can tackle insubordination, including using harsher penalties. So far, soldiers involved in such incidents have been put on disciplinary trial.
In the future, the prosecution may order anything from an investigation by the military police and a trial in the military court for conduct unbecoming an officer and shameful conduct, which are considered light charges which do not carry a criminal record to charges of mutiny, which are considered more serious, and anyone found guilty may be slapped with a criminal record for many years.
Such proceedings in a military tribunal may end in penalties much heavier than the disciplinary court.
Military sources said that the matter is being examined, but that along with its advantages there is also concern that criminal prosecution may turn the matter into a media affair, which is against the military's interests.
"It is clear to us that we must take a firm hand against those that carry signs of this kind and incite to refusing orders," said a military source, "We must prepare for the possibility that the phenomenon may deepen, both in its scope and in its natures, and we therefore must stress that we cannot just brush such behavior off."
Hanan Greenberg and Daniel Edelson contributed to this report