Anger continued to be voiced from within the mainstream haredi leadership on Tuesday, following the publication of comments gleaned from secret recordings made inside the house of Rabbi Ahron Leib Shteinman, the leader of the haredi, non-hassidic, world.
Recordings of a senior adviser to Shteinman, Rabbi Yogal Rozen, relating details of conversations between a senior officer in the IDF’s Manpower Directorate and the haredi leadership were published by Haaretz on Tuesday.
The recordings themselves were posted online but were later taken down.
Representatives of Shteinman said a formal complaint to the police had been made over the illegal recordings.
Moshe Gafni , a senior haredi MK from UTJ, spoke out harshly on the incident, as did fellow UTJ MK Ya’acov Asher.
The widely read Yated Ne’eman newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Degel HaTorah party, which is part of the UTJ Knesset faction, published a stinging attack on Haaretz describing its article as “false manipulations.”
In its Tuesday editorial, Yated accused Haaretz of mixing opinion and fact, saying their headline, that the haredi leadership was conducting secret talks with the IDF on drafting haredi men into the army, was not substantiated by the content of the recordings.
It also emphasized numerous comments made by Shteinman against the drafting of haredi yeshiva students into national service.
But it reserved its strongest words for those the Degel HaTorah leadership believes was responsible for the recordings, the supporters and leading figures of the so-called Jerusalem Faction, a rebel haredi political grouping led by Rabbi Shmuel Auerbach, which opposes Shteinman’s leadership.
“These worthless people, who under the cloak of zealousness, do not shy away from criminal and deceitful methods to harm the rabbinic emissaries in the eyes of the community, as well as anyone else who does not identify with their political standpoint,” read the Yated editorial.
The Degel HaTorah leadership is increasingly worried by the unprecedented political split between the hassidic and the non-hassidic “Lithuanian” haredi community and its inability to quash the Jerusalem Faction’s new political party Bnei Torah, which won several seats on municipal councils in the recent local elections.
Like Yated’s editorial, Gafni was similarly incandescent with the fallout from the recordings.
He said claims that there was a change in policy over drafting haredi men were false and disconnected from reality. He said there would not be any compromise regarding Torah students.
Gafni added that haredi representatives had held contacts with the Defense Ministry and the army to preserve the exemption of haredi men from national service, implying the conversations revealed on Monday were simply a routine continuation of these contacts.
“Anyone who wants to publicize anything different about the haredi public, its rabbis and representatives for narrow political interests commits an unpardonable injustice to the Torah world,” he said, in reference to the Jerusalem Faction.
Gafni’s claim, echoed by Yated and other officials connected to Degel HaTorah, is that the recordings and the publication of them was done to bolster the political strength and appeal of Bnei Torah, by painting Degel HaTorah as willing to compromise on the most sacred aspect of haredi life.
Benny Rabinowitz, Shteinman’s personal spokesman, made similar comments to The Jerusalem Post, denying the haredi leader would agree to drafting yeshiva students.
He said, however, that it was not legitimate for someone to claim the protection of fulltime Torah study if they don’t fulfill their yeshiva obligations.
He added, however, that what such a person does is “a private matter” and not one that Shteinman will respond to, adding that it was up to a person’s parents, rabbi or other adviser to guide them.
Gafni and other haredi MKs have said several times during the committee process over current legislation that if the terms of the bill do not criminalize anyone who refuses to serve, then haredi opposition to the legislation may be more muted.