Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered Tuesday night that Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, head of the Har Bracha yeshiva, appear before him or his deputy within 48 hours for a hearing to explain his stand on insubordination in the IDF.
"The Defense Minister wants to hear the rabbi's opinions, outlook and philosophy regarding military service, and after the meeting a decision will be made," said a Defense Ministry spokeswoman.
Barak met in his office in the Kirya with heads of the Union of Hesder Yeshivot and listened to their opinions about recent incidents in which soldiers from the Kfir Brigade waved banners declaring that they would refuse orders to evacuate Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.
According to the Defense ministry spokeswoman the rabbis expressed their opposition to the banner waving.
Nevertheless, the rabbis asked Barak not to take disciplinary action against Melamed, for fear that this would strengthen the more extreme elements among religious Zionist students and rabbis.
Rabbi David Stav, spokesman for the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, said that the meeting was conducted in a good atmosphere.
"The minister and his deputy listened carefully to all we had to say and we had a very open conversation," said Stav.
Melamed was singled out for comments that he wrote in a book entitled Revivim, a compilation of columns that he wrote for the settler weekly B'Sheva.
In his writings Melamed sharply criticizes IDF officers for introducing personal career considerations into their decision making and accuses them of lacking true loyalty to the Jewish state. He also voices support for insubordination in cases where the IDF is used to evacuate Jewish settlements.
It is unclear whether or not Barak is still considering expelling Melamed's yeshiva from the hesder framework or whether the hearing is meant as a way of defusing the situation.
Immanuel Shiloh, editor-in-chief of B'Sheva, said that Melamed's support for refusing orders is strictly a personal opinion.
"Many rabbis have ruled this way, including Rabbi Avraham Shapira [former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi], Rabbi Shlomo Goren [former Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi] and many others," said Shiloh.
"By focusing on Rabbi Melamed the IDF and the Defense Ministry are trying to use a divide and conquer strategy. Although there are other rabbis who share Rabbi Melamed's views, they have singled him out because his opinions are in his book and are easily accessible.
"Also, Rabbi Melamed leveled criticism directly at IDF officers and that made them angry."
Shiloh said that there were many educational institutions such as universities and colleges that work with the IDF in educating soldiers and officers.
"But while it is all right for lecturers in these secular institutions to express extreme left-wing, anti-Zionist positions, rabbis are being censured for exercising freedom of speech, expression and academic inquiry."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai wrote a letter to Barak asking him not to break the ties between the hesder yeshivot and the IDF.
"As the head of Israel's defenses you have the obligation not to cut down the bridge to some of the nation's best soldiers, whose aspiration is to continue to give to the State of Israel and work for reducing all the disputes via dialogue between the IDF and the rabbis."