Ya'alon Confident in IDF Chief Rabbi

Jerusalem Post - December 30, 2004

IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Moshe Ya'alon appears to have accepted army's Chief Rabbi Brigadier General Yisrael Weiss elucidation justifying comments he made intimating an anti-disengagement stance Thursday night during an interview on Channel 1 TV, which sparked widespread condemnation.

"If former chief rabbi Avraham Shapira (who opposes the disengagement plan) told me to remove my uniform and quit the army, apparently you would be interviewing someone else," IDF Brig.-Gen. Weiss said during the interview.

This past October right-wing settler rabbi Avraham Shapira, head of the Mercaz Harav Kook Yeshiva in Kiryat Moshe and a leading posek (religious arbiter) of the religious Zionist camp, called for soldiers to refuse orders to evacuate settlers from their homes.

A day later, noting the fuming reaction to his words, Weiss appeared on an explanatory interview on Israel Radio and emphasized that his statement was "hypothetical, in response to a hypothetical question."

Weiss acknowledged that "it was extraneous" and need not have been said, but added that his comment was taken out of context.

He recounted the actual conversation he had with Rabbi Shapira:

"Your honor, you said these [anti-disengagement] things, but there are important rabbis in the Jewish nation who say the polar opposite of what you say. Do you expect me to remove my uniform, in this context?" Weiss, then relayed Shapira's reply, "Rabbi Shapira said he expects me to continue in my role as Chief Rabbi of the IDF."

In attempt to deflect the conflagration over Weiss' words, Ya'alon issued a response declaring his full faith in Weiss.

Ya'alon's statement noted that he is confident in the army rabbi's position against refusing orders, adding that he trusts him completely.

However, fuming Leftists were not pacified. Peace Now and other groups on the left of the political spectrum called on Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to dismiss Weiss.

MK Yossi Sarid responded to Weiss, criticizing the rabbi for avoiding a direct answer. "It wasn't a slip of the tongue. Maybe it was a slip of the heart, or of the mind," Sarid said in an interview with Israel Radio Friday morning.

He added that it is necessary to understand what lay behind Weiss's comment.

"What he's saying is that the chief military rabbi has a source of authority outside of the army. You can't take your paycheck from the army and your orders from somewhere else," Sarid said.

MK Effi Eitam remarked on the situation in a subsequent interview. After stating that any senior officer in the Israeli army can quit when he chooses, he lamented the current state of democracy in the country.

"Where did the freedom of expression go? Where is the freedom of thought?" he asked.

Eitam added, "I think this situation where people are persecuted for their opinions or statements, in the context of a hypothetical discussion about values is terrible."

Weiss's comments come at a time when the IDF and the government are gearing up for disengagement and are increasingly concerned about soldiers refusing orders to evacuate settlements.

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