Secret recordings from the home of the leader of the haredi non-hassidic world, Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, seemingly point to ongoing, discreet contact between the haredi leadership and the IDF on the issue of haredi enlistment.
In the recordings, an adviser to Shteinman is reportedly heard discussing his contact with Brig.-Gen. Gadi Agmon, the head of the IDF’s Manpower Directorate.
The recordings were allegedly made clandestinely without the knowledge of Shteinman or his close associates and sent to Haaretz, which reported the story on Monday.
Shteinman’s adviser is reportedly heard discussing Agmon’s request that he help calm the haredi public regarding its unrest over the issue of legislation to draft haredim into the army and to transmit facts about the IDF’s positive attitude to the haredi leadership.
The issue of a planned IDF induction center for haredim was also reportedly raised, with some of those present in the meeting expressing the fear that the opening of such a center would prove that a mass draft of haredim was indeed being planned.
Shteinman’s adviser said that he would seek to delay the opening of the center until after the government legislation is passed.
It would seem that the attempt to expose the contact between Shteinman and his advisers to the IDF is part of an effort to discredit him by his opponents in the haredi world.
A bitter feud has been waged over the past year and a half between Shteinman and Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach and his supporters, who claim that Auerbach is the rightful inheritor of the mantle of the haredi leadership following the death of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv in July 2012.
Auerbach has taken an even more uncompromising stance on the issue of haredi enlistment than the mainstream rabbinic leadership and any cooperation with the state on this issue could be used to portray Shteinman as betraying the all-important value of Torah study over any other undertaking.
Benny Rabinowitz, a spokesman for Rabbi Shteinman, denied that there was any direct or indirect contact between the rabbi and his advisers and the IDF.
“It is the firm position of Rabbi Shteinman always and remains not to compromise on any condition and that all yeshiva students without exception will continue to toil in their [Torah] studies,” Rabinowitz said.
He claimed that the comments quoted by Haaretz were transmitted by Agmon to haredi members of Knesset in order to assist the deferral of service of yeshiva students, who remain without a legal framework for their deferral since the expiration of the Tal Law in July 2012.
Rabinowitz accused those who had made the recordings of seeking to inflame the haredi world and to cause unnecessary trouble, and to thereby justify their ongoing opposition to the leadership of Rabbi Shteinman. He added that an official complaint would be made to the police over the illegal recordings.