Zionist Union Chairman Avi Gabbay attacked religious-Zionist rabbis Tuesday morning for what he perceived to be impropriety in their conduct regarding issues on the public agenda, including co-ed service in the IDF, with Gabbay claiming the rabbis maintaining their silence constituted division and incitement.
Gabbay, who spoke during a conference organized by the B'Sheva newspaper—a religious publication—in Jerusalem, said, "Your silence echoed in the days of (the Oslo peace accords), and reached its zenith in the days before (former prime minister Yitzhak) Rabin's murder."
"You have may have had a public self examination then, but it passed the moment you returned to power," Gabbay said. "When the head of a pre-military preparatory program accuses the army of conscripting young women and turning them against Judaism, you remain silent.
"When that same rabbi degrades the LGBT community, you remain silent. When the rabbi of a city, so brazenly calls for the dismissal of the army's chief of staff in light of the creation of co-ed units, you remain silent. When that same rabbi calls on his adherents to avoid renting apartments out to Arabs, you remain silent."
"Even when the prime minister and other ministers incite against half of the Jewish people and say they're traitors and enemies, you remain silent.
"When millions of Conservative and Reform Jews find themselves excluded from the Kotel's plaza, and become second class Jews under the auspices of the Israeli government, you not only remain silent but play an active role in that extremism, which is not backed by any religious edict. After all, both the Western Wall rabbi and (Attorney General) Avichai Mandelblit recommended the aforementioned agreement."
"Good Lord, when will you stop remaining silent?" Gabbay exhorted the rabbis. "When have you given up on the people of Israel? I know the criticism levied here is harsh, but I also know that many in this hall—as well as others listening right now—agree with it. There may be moderate voices within your own camp, but they are hardly ever heard."
Concluding his remarks, Gabbay said, "I'm taking advantage of this pulpit to tell you, those moderate voices: in your silence, you legitimize these grave statements, thereby deepening and expanding the split within the people of Israel.
"You, the rabbis, may have a central role in turning Israeli society into an exemplary one, a prosperous society with equality between all people at its center. Take this role. It's yours."
Gabbay was soundly bashed for his statements by the National Union party's chairman Ofir Sofer, who said, "Gabbay had better deal with his fellow party members Merav Michaeli, who supports dismantling the family, Zouheir Bahloul, who refuses to deem someone who tries killing Jews a terrorist, and his other party members who air extremist views that may lead to the country's destruction."