A Courageous Decision

Barak's decision to expel Har Bracha yeshiva from the hesder arrangement with the IDF is a line in the sand at the refusal to serve in the army.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak made the correct decision in expelling the Har Bracha yeshiva from the hesder arrangement with the Israel Defense Forces, and this decision should have been made a long time ago. Barak's courageous action, with the full support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, sent a sharp and clear message both to Israeli society and the religious Zionist community - a group of which I am proud to be a member.

This message tells Israeli society that the government has decided to stop accepting, compromising and bowing to the nationalist-religious extremists and is drawing a line in the sand at the refusal to serve in the IDF. The message sent to the religious Zionist public is to get off the fence and decide what their true relationship is with the State of Israel and its institutions.

The claim that Barak acted out of political motives is completely baseless. After all, the defense minister did not act on his own initiative, but based on an explicit recommendation from the head of Central Command and the chief of staff. Did both Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi and Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi seek to curry favor with the Labor Party rebels? Is there any truth to the words of Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, the dean of Har Bracha, who accused the army's high command of political immorality and corruption for daring to carry out the duties assigned them by Israel's elected government and approved by the Knesset?

Any educational institution whose head, who is also its spiritual leader, openly preaches and encourages the refusal of orders cannot also expect to enjoy the special hesder agreement with the IDF. It is impossible to demand that the IDF provide more lenient conditions to students from an educational institution whose head supports - even if after the fact - soldiers who held a brazen political protest within the army and showed insubordination toward their commanders.

Soldiers educated at Melamed's feet - with his view that the state's authority does not have to be recognized and his belief that decisions by democratic institutions are subject to rabbis' opinions - bear the seeds of destruction that may rock the foundations of discipline within the IDF and its ability to carry out its mission. It can be assumed that such soldiers will fight mightily against the enemy, and we have no shortage of enemies, but on judgment day they are likely to become a strategic threat to both the unity of the IDF and the future of the State of Israel.

The majority of the religious Zionists and their institutions do not share Rabbi Melamed's opinions and path. The great majority of the national religious public is unconditionally faithful to the State of Israel. The vast majority of them also recognize the need to honor the will of the people in all public matters, even if it is diametrically opposed to their views - making the state's democratic character the sole basis for ensuring its existence and unity.

Barak and Netanyahu must not be frightened by the threats of the heads of the hesder yeshivas. They are empty. They can close down the hesder yeshivas, but they will not prevent the vast majority of the wonderful religious Zionist youth from serving in the IDF. If these youth do not enroll in the hesder yeshivas, they will enroll in pre-army colleges or new yeshivas established in place of the hesder ones.

Our nation's leaders are facing the same fateful decision David Ben-Gurion faced in the first days of the state. He knew how to act decisively and without compromise to guarantee that the IDF and all its soldiers and commanders would be under the sole authority of the elected government. It is enough to look at the horrible bloodletting and government anarchy among the Palestinians to understand how much we owe Ben-Gurion.