Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy on Thursday warned that growing religious extremism in Israel presents an existential threat to the nation, Israel Radio reported.
Speaking at a ceremony honoring fallen soldiers from military academies, Halevy called religious zealots a greater threat to Israel than Iran's nuclear program and the Islamic Republic's fiercely anti-Israel President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"We should worry about a nuclear Iran, but there is a difference between worrying and existential threat. The real existential threat to Israel comes from within, from religious extremism and fanaticism. These pose a greater danger to Israel than Ahmadinejad," Halevy said.
Get the Israel Hayom newsletter sent to your mailbox!
Halevy was prompted to elaborate by the former chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, Brig. Gen. (res) Avichai Rontzki. "I grew up in the [religious Zionist] Bnei Akiva movement," Halevy said. "I came to know religion and the faith of the enlightened. Religious extremism is a blight on our existence. When I was in Bnei Akiva there were both boys and girls. Were we not religious then? Were rabbis not religious then? Rabbi Goren knew that military bands were mixed gender; did he forbid this? What has happened to us? Did rabbis then not follow the Halachah [Jewish religious law]? ... Thousands of Israeli children were born to parents who moved to Israel and told them they were Jewish, and suddenly the religious authorities decided they were not. Thousands of children were born who are not considered Jewish. A whole generation has grown up and their status is in question.”
Halevy joins other high-ranking officials wary of continued radicalization among right-wing extremists, specifically settlers in Judea and Samaria and hilltop youth suspected of carrying out "price-tag" attacks against Palestinians and more recently the IDF.
Former commander of the IDF's Judea and Samaria Division Brig. Gen. Nitzan Alon, who clashed with right-wong settlers before stepping down from his post, last week leveled harsh criticism against religious extremists.
"Already today, an extremist minority that is marginal in number but not in influence could lead to a major escalation [in violence] with actions that are called 'price-tag' attacks but in truth amount to terrorism," Alon said. "These acts should be condemned not only for their injustice and foolishness, but they must also be prevented and those who perpetrate them must be arrested in a way that is more efficient than we have seen."
Like our newsletter? 'Like' our Facebook page!