Despite pressure from the Likud's right flank, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office announced on Monday that he would not interfere in the dispute between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Har Bracha Yeshiva head Rabbi Eliezer Melamed.
Likud ministers, MKs and activists tried on Monday to mediate between Melamed and the Prime Minister's Office in hopes of bypassing Barak and persuading Netanyahu to reverse the defense minister's decision to remove the Har Bracha Yeshiva from the hesder program.
"The prime minister's clear stance against insubordination is known to everyone," Netanyahu's office said. "The prime minister did not intervene in the matter. He supports the defense minister's decision but he hopes the matter can be solved through understanding."
The statement was issued in response to reports that Netanyahu's bureau chief, Natan Eshel, had contacted the Defense Ministry and offered to mediate between it and Har Bracha.
Netanyahu has said, when the issue of insubordination came up recently, that "the army is built on a hierarchy of accepting orders" that cannot be violated. Ministers close to Netanyahu said he could not intervene because there was a consensus in Israel against insubordination.
But hawks in the Likud faction said Netanyahu had a responsibility to rein in Barak, who they accused of taking action against settlers to boost his sagging popularity.
"The prime minister must intervene and not let Barak wreak havoc," MK Danny Danon said. "Rabbi Melamed has been talking this way for a long time, but Barak suddenly discovered it when he needed to take action for political reasons. He should be dealing with Hamas and not the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria."
MK Tzipi Hotovely added that "there cannot be a thought police against rabbis." Speaking at a Knesset event marking a year since Operation Cast Lead, she said Barak's decision harmed all of religious Zionism and not just Har Bracha's yeshiva.
"There is no comparison between Leftists who refuse to join the army and refusers on the Right, who are willing to sacrifice their lives but not to destroy houses," she said.
Even normally silent Likud MK Leah Ness issued a statement calling Barak's decision "unfortunate, political and improper."
Habayit Hayehudi chairman Science and Technology Minister Daniel Herschkowitz said that he intends to ask Barak to reconsider his decision.
"The lack of communication between the defense minister and Rabbi Melamed could lead to disaster. The decision turns Rabbi Melamed into a martyr and actually works to the advantage of those who support the dangerous phenomena of insubordination," Herschkowitz said.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.