Petition asks High Court to discipline rabbi

Kiryat Motzkin allegedly violated obligation as civil servant not to publicly express political opinions.

The Israel Religious Action Center petitioned the High Court of Justice on Sunday to order the government to place the rabbi of Kiryat Motzkin before a disciplinary committee for allegedly violating his obligation as a civil servant not to publicly express political opinions. “The subject of the petition is the ongoing violation of the hedging law by state-paid rabbis who receive all or some of their salary from the state coffer and the government’s deliberate policy of not placing them before a disciplinary court for their involvement in political activity,” wrote IRAC attorneys Einat Horowitz and Gilad Kariv. The petitioners charged that instead of taking meaningful action to deter others from similar behavior, the government issued an ineffective warning every few months. The rabbis interpreted this conduct as a “license to go on doing the same thing in complete disregard for the law and the constraints of the positions they hold.” The petitioners singled out Kiryat Motzkin’s Rabbi Meir Drukman, whom, they charged, had been speaking out against government policy regarding the Israeli-Palestinian dispute since prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s government initiated the Oslo peace process. Drukman is head of the Pikuah Nefesh non-profit organization which was established in March 1995. The organization issued its first petition against the Oslo Accords and what they feared would be the withdrawal from settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. The petition was signed by state-paid city and neighborhood rabbis. In response, various organizations, including IRAC, complained about their involvement in a political controversy. In the period leading up to the disengagement, Drukman began speaking out against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s plan. He allegedly urged the public to move to Gush Katif to block disengagement “even at the cost of sitting in jail.” According to the petition, which quoted a report on Army Radio, Drukman charged that the disengagement was “corrupting the souls of our dear soldiers and policemen and forcing them to fight against their brethren in the service of the enemy. We shall do all we can in the battle of the Lord to prevent this expulsion and destruction.” During the lead-up to the disengagement, IRAC complained several times against Drukman to government authorities including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, who is empowered to place Drukman before a disciplinary committee. Livni has so far failed to make a decision on the matter, the petitioners complained.