The radical rabbis residing at the heart of Samaria just sustained a blow to their well-cushioned stomachs; the same group that for years had been doing whatever it wants in this country, certain that no member of the secular political establishment would dare touch it.
For the first time, the defense minister made it clear to them: Gentlemen, the party is over.
You can no longer have it all – study, serve only half of the military service term, enjoy the prestige of military service and the national-patriotic honor you seek, enjoy all the rights that discharged soldiers have, receive financial support for hesder yeshivas, and spit in our face.
Rabbi Melamed simply crossed all the red lines and forces the defense establishment to cause an earthquake. Israel’s most prominent rabbis spoke with him, begged him, and asked the Defense Ministry to postpone the decision, yet he gave them the finger too. They ended up going back to the defense minister and telling him: Do whatever you see fit; this man is uncontrollable.
A hesder yeshiva like the one led by Rabbi Melamed will dry up without the army’s financial support. It’s also possible that the rabbi will now draw delusional characters from isolated communities and from the hills, turning into a yeshiva supported by donations.
Other rabbis who will condemn the defense minister’s decision do not want to face such situation themselves. Hence, we can assume that their protest will not cross the same red lines as Rabbi Melamed did. Meanwhile, the students of hesder yeshiva rabbis who serve in the army now understand that not everything is permitted, and that they won’t be forgiven for everything.
Stand firm, fear nothingRabbi Melamed had several opportunities to withdraw from this confrontation, yet what we saw was an embarrassing escalation by an arrogant rabbi who fails to understand where he lives, what is democracy, and who pays for the bread he eats for breakfast. It was the arrogance of a man who is certain he is above the law and who has no respect for the government; in fact, he has no respect for anything.
At one point, Deputy Defense Minister Vilnai traveled to Jerusalem, so the honorable rabbi would not have to travel to Tel Aviv, heaven forbid. Vilnai asked Rabbi Melamed to publish a document condemning insubordination. Yet on Friday, the rabbi’s secretary informed Vilnai’s secretary that the rabbi has no intention of issuing such document by the Sunday deadline. Moreover, Vilnai was invited to read the rabbi’s column Wednesday where he would be expressing his position on the issue.
When the secretary was asked what the honorable rabbi will be writing in his column, he responded: It’s a mystery. In other words: Mr. Deputy Defense Minister, you and Barak can go to hell.
At this time, the politician and defense establishments must stand firm and fear nothing. It must continue with this approach. It must file indictments against organizations that donate money to insubordinate soldiers, employ an iron fist against people who burn cars, and pulverize people who burn mosques.
And yes, we should be taking off our hats to the army chief and defense minister, who finally did what should have been done many years ago.