Jerusalem Police on Tuesday arrested firebrand Rabbi Yisrael Ariel, a right-wing leader and former rabbi of Yamit, on suspicion of threats and incitement to violence concerning a halachic ruling that he allegedly issued early this year against OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh.
According to police, in January, Ariel and a group of rabbis issued a halachic opinion implying that OC Central Command Maj.-Gen. Yair Naveh deserved to be killed.
The rabbis, all connected with a movement to resurrect the Sanhedrin, the ancient Jewish governing body, said in their halachic ruling that Naveh was guilty of being a "moser" - a Hebrew word that can be roughly translated as an informant or traitor - for imposing restraining orders on right-wing activists. Literally, "moser" means someone who transfers another's property or person to enemy authorities.
As such, the ruling stated, according to the opinion of Maimonides, anyone who came forward to kill him would be justified.
Maimonides ruled in his Mishne Torah: "It is permitted to kill a Jewish moser anywhere, even today when rabbinic courts are not permitted to decide on capital punishment matters."
Prof. Hillel Weiss, a member of the rabbinic court that issued the halachic decision, said the detention was an attempt to intimidate his court.
"We refuse to change the way the court makes its decision," said Weiss. "All of our rulings are based on the Torah. I stand behind the president of the rabbinic court [Ariel] even if it means we will be the next Pollards and sit in prison for years."
The rabbis see Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's government as the equivalent of a gentile enemy that "evilly and violently expels and causes mental and physical damage to Jews."
In the halachic decision, which was personally addressed to Naveh, who is Orthodox, the rabbis accused him of transgressing the prohibition against "passively standing by while your brother is killed."
Ariel, head of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem and a former reservist rabbi in the IDF's Northern Front, signed the decision together with Rabbis Reuven Hass, Yehuda Edri, Ido Elbo and Weiss, a professor of Hebrew literature at Bar-Ilan University.
This is not the first time Ariel has been detained by police. During the Yamit pullout, he allegedly instructed soldiers to disregard orders, a statement for which he was arrested under suspicion of incitement to rebellion.
In December, Ariel was grilled for his part in a halachic ruling against an IDF officer. Ariel and other rabbis called on synagogue members to publicly ostracize religious IDF officer Harel Weinberg because he issued restraining orders against settlement activists.
Ariel directed the synagogue leaders of Ma'aleh Michmash not to call Weinberg, an officer in the IDF's legal division, to the Torah, in protest against Weinberg's willingness to sign off on military restraining orders against settlement activists.
One month later, a criminal investigation was opened against Ariel concerning the allegations related to the Naveh incident.
Tuesday's arrest came just a day before a conference organized by Ariel, Weiss and others connected with the reinstitution of the Sanhedrin.
Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, the president of the Sanhedrin-in-the-making, is slated to be the keynote speaker at the conference.