Liberman blasts conservative religious-Zionism as ‘idol worship’

Liberman said that the conservative religious-Zionist parties and the haredi parties had taken public policy on religion and state to previously unheard extremes.

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July 6, 2019 22:06
2 minute read.
Avigdor Liberman

Avigdor Liberman. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman has issued another broadside against the conservative wing of the religious-Zionist community, branding it “idol worship,” which has been taken over by “Messianics.”

Last week, Liberman stirred up a storm after he said that religious pre-military academies that prepare young religious men for life in the army were generating “religious private militias,” and branded the right-wing religious-Zionist parties “extremist.”

Speaking on Channel 12’s Meet the Press program on Saturday night, Liberman said that the conservative religious-Zionist parties and the haredi parties had taken public policy on religion and state to previously unheard extremes.

“What has happened with religious-Zionism is that a group of Messianics with [National Union chairman and Transportation Minister Betzalel] Smotrich took control of them and dictates everything that happens,” said Liberman.

“On the one hand you have [dean of the religious pre-military academy in Eli Bnei David] Rabbi [Yigal] Levenstein and on the other [dean of the Ateret Yerushalayim yeshiva] Rabbi [Shlomo] Aviner, and on the other you have all types of Babot [mystic Sephardi rabbis], it’s all idolatry, it’s not Judaism, it is truly idol worship,” continued the former defense minister.

Levenstein has become infamous for several highly controversial statements regarding gays and women, while Aviner is also renowned for his hardline positions, notably this week stating that women should not be involved in politics.

The conservative or hardline wing of the religious-Zionist community is thought to comprise about 15 percent of the total size of the community, and is characterized by a more stringent attitude to religion and state issues, a strong aversion to progressive Jewish groups, and strong, ideological support for maintaining Israeli control, and annexing, the Judea and Samaria regions and their settlements.

Although the conservative wing of the religious-Zionist community is only a small component of the overall religious-Zionist public, the leaders of both Bayit Yehudi and National Union, Rabbi Rafi Peretz and Smotrich, both hail from this sector.

The representatives of the far-right Otzmah Yehudit, the third party of the United Right Wing Parties which ran together in the last election, following the ideology of Rabbi Meir Kahana and equally as stringent on religion and state, and are generally even more extreme in their approach to Judea and Samaria and its Palestinian inhabitants. 

Several political commentators have stated that the mainstream religious-Zionist community, about 70 percent of the whole sector, lacks real representation in the current Knesset following the April elections.

During his Saturday night interview, Liberman went on to say that should New Right number two Ayelet Shaked express an interest in joining his party he would be willing to listen.

“I don’t force myself on anyone, if Ayelet Shaked gives me a telephone call we will speak. At the moment I don’t need [her], I have an excellent [electoral] list of good people,” said Liberman.


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