Halevy to ride out storm after haredim, Iran comments

Knesset c'tee chair: Halevy's statement that haredim more dangerous than nuclear Iran constitutes incitement; Halevy issues apology.

Efraim Halevy 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Efraim Halevy 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy responded on Sunday to the growing storm surrounding comments he made last week that religious radicalization is a greater threat to Israel than Iran and [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad.
“The ‘haredization,’ the process of [religious] radicalization is bringing [societal] segregation and the deepening of a rift in Am Yisrael,” he said in an interview on Radio Kol Hai. “It is more serious and more dangerous than any external threat.
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Maybe my example of Iran was extreme and I’m sorry if people were offended. I’ll be happy to apologize if people will apologize for the path which they’re taking in order to change the army and the public sphere.”
At a reunion of military academy graduates on Thursday night, Halevy said that “ultra- Orthodox radicalization” was a more severe threat to Israel than the Iranian nuclear program and stressed that national unity is critical in countering external threats.
His comments have infuriated a number of haredi politicians and created a significant backlash.
On Sunday, Knesset Finance Committee chairman Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism) wrote to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to investigate Efraim Halevy on suspicion of incitement.
In his letter, Gafni wrote that Halevy’s words crossed a red line.
“We are not talking about a single lapse of Halevy’s. The man has put these things on his agenda and repeats them time after time.”
Construction and Housing Minister Ariel Attias said that the comments were shocking and divisive, and Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin said Halevy was guilty of committing the sin of “idiocy of the mouth.”
Deputy Health Minister Ya’acov Litzman called Halevy’s comments slanderous, adding “it’s frightening that someone who served in such a senior position should not flinch from disparaging and inciting against an entire sector of the population, creating division and argument among the people.”
But Halevy received some support from Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, head of the header yeshiva in Petah Tikva and a leading religious- Zionist figure.
“I partly agree with him,” he told The Jerusalem Post. “It’s very impressive that someone who was so senior within the security apparatus should point out that it will be the internal issues facing us which will determine the fate of the State of Israel.
“It's not fair, however,” Cherlow added “to throw everything on the haredim. All sectors of society need to clean house, haredim, religious-Zionists, secular people, to see if what they’re doing is helping or hindering am Yisrael.”
During his speech on Thursday night, Halevy referenced a number of recent examples of radicalizations such as gendersegregated bus lines and halachic rulings forbidding religious soldiers from listening to women sing, saying that it was not necessary for each generation to add more and more religious stringencies.
In the radio interview on Sunday, Halevy insisted that he didn’t mean to offend anyone, and spoke out specifically against radicalization, and not against haredim as a group or as individuals.