Barak Orders IDF to Cut Ties With Far-right Yeshiva

Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of Har Bracha yeshiva, urged troops to refuse orders to evacuate settlements.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the Israel Defense Forces on Sunday to cut ties with a religious seminary in the West Bank whose rabbi urged his pupils who serve in the army to refuse orders relating to freezing or evacuating settlements.

The move came after Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, who runs the Har Bracha yeshiva in the West Bank, refused to appear for a meeting with Barak to discuss his statements in support of resisting army orders.

The Har Bracha yeshiva is part of the yeshiva hesder arrangement whereby students split time between army service and Torah study.

The army's removal of the yeshiva is considered a punitive step against the far-right's campaign against the government's decision to institute a 10-month freeze on construction in Israeli settlements in the territories.

According to an official statement released by Barak's bureau, the defense minister resolved "to remove the yeshiva from its arrangement within a reasonable period of time so as to enable the students of Har Bracha to choose and matriculate into a different yeshiva hesder."

"The defense minister views with considerable gravity any instance of insubordination and he is not ready to accept any deviation from what he views as a red line," the statement read.

"The actions and statements of Rabbi Melamed undermine the foundations of Israeli democracy, actions which incited some of his students to refuse orders, take part in demonstrations, and harm the spirit of the IDF, [actions] which have no place in a properly functioning country."

"One must make an effort to keep the IDF out of a political dispute," Barak's statement said.

Military commentators said Barak's announcement marked the first time such an agreement with a seminary had been broken.

The ministry statement added that pupils who wanted to find an alternative place of learning that would allow them to continue studying and carry out their military service would be given time to do so.

News of Barak's decision prompted an angry response from National Union MK Michael Ben Ari.

"Barak, in his belligerent manner, is harming the security of the state of Israel," Ben Ari said. "Canceling the arrangement with the heroes of the Har Bracha yeshiva is a heavy-handed move that is meant to inflate the ego of a politician who is at the end of his road."

"Those who will be harmed [by the move] are the IDF and the state of Israel," the MK said.