Photo: Motti Kimchi
Avigdor Liberman
Photo: Motti Kimchi
Liberman: Military preparation schools are turning into religious militias
Former defense minister says 'ultra-orthodox and nationalist zealots' are taking over religious Zionism,' adds he will oppose inclusion of Haredi parties in coalition since 'they have been involved for too long'
Yisrael Beytenu chairman and former defense minister Avigdor Liberman on Tuesday criticized what he called the radicalization taking place in religious Zionist circles.



"What is happening with religious Zionism is a Greek tragedy," he said. "There is no connection between the old National Religious Party and the current Jewish Home Party, or between Zevulun Hammer (former member of Knesset and minister from the National Religious Party) and Bezalel Smotrich (current religious politician and Minister of Transportation)."


Avigdor Liberman (Photo: Motti Kimchi)
Avigdor Liberman (Photo: Motti Kimchi)


Liberman contends that there is a "small group that is taking over. They are ultra-orthodox and nationalist zealots, and in many ways, this group represents the hypocrisy of Israeli politics, that is trying to take over all aspects of religious Zionism. I hope that it will come to an end, and that we will once again see religious Zionism. I want to see religious Zionism and not ultra-orthodox nationalism."


Liberman made the comments while talking to Yedioth Ahronoth journalist Shimon Shiffer at the annual Herzliya Conference, taking place at the IDC College.


Liberman added, "Something really wrong is happening to the religious military preparation schools. I was part of establishing these programs in 1997... The religious military preparation schools have trained a long list of good and courageous soldiers, and I hope they will continue to do so. But what is happening today is that they are turning into private, religious militias."


Liberman went on to say that when he was minister of defense, and even afterwards, he recognized a trend where "soldiers are being taught that they are not subordinate to their direct ranking officer but rather to spiritual authority, to the rabbi. This is dangerous, we can't allow it."


Liberman directed his ire at certain rabbis in particular, like at the flagship program of Bnei David in the Eli settlement in the West Bank. "Rabbi (Yigal) Levinstein (of Bnei David) talked about women's military service to his students: 'What if a woman is a platoon commander? They drove our girls crazy. They enter service Jewish, and they won't be Jewish by the end.' That's shocking."


Liberman stated that "in the next government we will demand the separation of the religious military preparation schools from the Ministry of Education," adding that the problem has worsened "now that Rabbi (Rafi) Peretz is the minster."


The Bnei David army prep-school in the Eli settlement in the West Bank (Photo: Bnei David prep school in the Eli settlement)
The Bnei David army prep-school in the Eli settlement in the West Bank (Photo: Bnei David prep school in the Eli settlement)


Liberman said further that, "We will oppose the inclusion of the ultra-orthodox parties in the government. They have been involved for too long. The extremism is not only about the (Ultra-Orthodox) Conscription Law .


Liberman then enumerated several times that ultra-orthodox parties have sought to impose Shabbat closures on workplaces: "I see the closing of corner stores on Shabbat, the problem with working on Yehudit Bridge (over the busy Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv), the ultra-orthodox boycott of the Phoenicia glass factory (which functioned on Shabbat) .


"The ultra-orthodox have been getting more extreme, and it would be a good for them to sit in opposition a while," he said.


After Liberman's harsh words, Peretz responded on Twitter: "There has been no other program that has contributed as much to the army and to the state as the military preparation schools... I say to Liberman: Your time is over, leave us alone. These are last gasps of a career. When society needs unity and healing, you only inflame and increase the polarization."


Smotrich also replied on Twitter: "Nice job, little Avigdor, you got your daily dose of attention already this morning. We can continue with our day. Have a great day everyone."


פרסום ראשון: 07.02.19, 19:30
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