Hundreds of right-wing activists attempted to storm the Supreme Court yesterday to protest the detention of Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior earlier in the day.
Protesters also blocked the entrance to Jerusalem and other streets in the capital.
Investigations division head Maj. Gen. Yoav Segalovitch ordered Lior detained after the rabbi refused previous summons for questioning.
Lior was wanted for questioning after he endorsed the controversial book "Torat Hamelech," which justifies the killing of non-Jews.
In an unusual step, Israel's two chief rabbis, Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar, yesterday released a joint statement decrying "the severe damage to the dignity of an important rabbi and rabbinic judge, one of Israel's greatest rabbis." However, they also called on people not to protest the police's questioning of Lior.
Police launched their incitement investigation after "Torat Hamelech" was published. The book's author, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, was detained, questioned and released. An endorsement by three more senior rabbis was appended to it, which is a standard procedure for Torah-related books by young rabbis.
One of the other rabbis who endorsed the book, Rabbi Yosef Ginsburg, was investigated a year ago. Lior and the third rabbi, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, refused to come in for questioning.
Police said yesterday they would not need to question Lior again, and they would complete their investigation after they questioned Yosef.
An arrest warrant has been issued against Yosef.
The police will pass Lior's file on to the State Prosecutor's Office, which will recommend whether to indict the rabbis. Considering the sensitive nature of the issue, the final decision would be made by Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein.
According to a report on Channel 2 yesterday, the police are inclined to recommend indicting the rabbis and the book's author for incitement to racism or violence.
Police said they stopped Lior's car near the tunnel at the southern entrance to Jerusalem. A policeman replaced Lior's driver and drove the rabbi to the offices of the Serious and International Crimes Division in Lod, where he was questioned for about an hour in an amicable atmosphere.
Yesterday's protest in front of the Supreme Court was organized by the Yesha Council of settlements and other groups that usually are not on good terms with each other.
About 300 protesters also blocked the entrance to Nablus at the Hawara roadblock.
Seventeen protesters were arrested in Jerusalem, two of whom were attempting to break into the home of deputy state prosecutor Shai Nitzan.
Nitzan, who is currently abroad, has been given special police protection after he was threatened by right-wing extremists.
The director of the right-wing Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, Nachi Eyal, called the arrest an "eclipse in the Justice Ministry" and "unwise." He said rabbis should have the same freedom of speech as university lecturers.
The chairman of the National Union Knesset faction, MK Yaakov Katz, yesterday called on all yeshiva heads to have their students demonstrate at the Jerusalem police station at the Russian Compound.
The legal adviser to the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Dan Yakir, said police were within their rights to "bring in a suspect for questioning at a police station after he repeatedly refused to appear for questioning." However, Yakir also said extreme care must be taken in launching an investigation against a person for an "offense of expression." Nevertheless, if there was suspicion of incitement to violence or racism, such an investigation was justified, Yakir said.