AG: Lieberman has no authority on Levinstein issue
The Minister of Defense presented the head of the Eli preparatory yeshiva with an ultimatum, demanding his resignation following his verbal assault on women serving in the IDF, but Mandelblit has now made it clear that it is not within Lieberman’s authority to impose sanctions on him.
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit has determined Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman does not have the authority to hold a hearing for Rabbi Yigal Levinstein over his abusive remarks towards women or to halt Defense Ministry recognition of the rabbi's army preparatory yeshiva in Eli.
After deliberations between Mandelblit and senior officials in his office, Deputy Attorney General Dina Zilber submitted an opinion to the defense minister stating that he has no authority to remove the Bnei David yeshiva in Eli from the list of recognized Hesder yeshivas (a program that combines advanced Talmudic studies with military service in the IDF, usually within a Religious Zionist framework), since the sanction far exceeds the reasonable scope for administrative measures in this case.
Zilber also stated that the defense minister cannot revoke the recognition of the pre-military preparatory yeshiva since this authority is vested in the Ministry of Education.
That said, the defense minister can stop the favorable discrimination of the Eli yeshiva vis-à-vis the quota of IDF service postponements for its graduates.
Despite the decision, Zilber also noted in her letter that "Rabbi Levinstein’s words are extremely offensive. These are painful insults that only serve to damage and denigrate the already fragile fabric of Israeli cohesion in the context of the IDF, while undermining the dignity of certain sectors of society and causing their humiliation.”
The controversy around Rabbi Levinstein began after he sharply attacked women's service in the IDF. "They drove our girls crazy," he said, among other things, “we shouldn’t allow it.” He continued adding insult to injury by wondering: “who would marry them?"
Following the crass remarks, which also roused ire in the national religious sector, where the percentage of enlisting women has been on the rise, Levinstein was summoned for a hearing in the Defense Ministry.
Minister Lieberman clarified that if Levinstein does not take personal responsibility for his words and resigns, he will impose sanctions against the yeshiva headed by Levinstein.
The summons incurred criticism from rabbis who claimed this motion is an affront to the freedom of speech, as well as a political polemic between Lieberman and Bayit Yehudi leader, Naftali Bennett.
(Translated and edited by N. Elias)