After he apologizes, court clears nomination of IDF chief rabbi
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After he apologizes, court clears nomination of IDF chief rabbi

Decision to unfreeze posting of Eyal Karim comes after he explains controversial statements and Meretz MKs withdraw objection; expected to be sworn in on Thursday

Rabbi Eyal Karim attends a State Control committee meeting, in the Israeli parliament, on September 13, 2010. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)
Rabbi Eyal Karim attends a State Control committee meeting, in the Israeli parliament, on September 13, 2010. (Lior Mizrahi/Flash90)

The High Court of Justice canceled a freeze on the appointment of the nominee for the IDF’s chief rabbi on Monday, after the petitioners withdrew their objection on Sunday.

MKs Zehava Galon, Michal Rozin and Tamar Zandberg of the Meretz party announced Sunday they were removing their petition against the appointment of Col. Eyal Karim after he issued an apology last Wednesday for remarks that were perceived as condoning the assault of non-Jewish women during wartime and keeping women out of the military.

The cancellation of the petition allows Karim to now assume the post of chief rabbi of the IDF after his nomination in July.

Karim, originally slated to be sworn in last week, will instead assume his position on Thursday, the Ynet news site reported.

His appointment was frozen after the court ruled that he must issue an affidavit explaining his earlier statements, including a statements that seemed to condone rape during wartime and a position against drafting women in the army, in response to a petition from the three Meretz lawmakers.

Miriam Naor, president of the Supreme Court, said in a statement that there was no reason to further delay Karim’s appointment after the Meretz MKs withdrew their petition and that his apology was “consistent with the values of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.”

Miriam Naor, President of the Supreme Court speaks during the ceremony for opening a new year of justice in Tel Aviv, on August 30, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Miriam Naor, president of the Supreme Court, speaks during the ceremony for opening a new year of justice in Tel Aviv, on August 30, 2016. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

She added that the court wishes Karim “success in fulfilling this important role, for the glory of the IDF and for the glory of the State of Israel.”

In his written statement to the court on Wednesday, Karim apologized last week for the statements and to those who were offended by them.

“I made a mistake when I gave a short answer to a complicated question,” he wrote. “I was wrong because sometimes I was not precise with my words and some people found them offensive. I apologize.”

In response to his apology, the left-wing lawmakers praised Karim for “the clear words that were written and for the important ethical message for the male and female IDF soldiers.”

The rabbi stressed that he never expressed the opinion that the rape of non-Jewish women was permitted under Jewish law. In his view, he wrote, it is completely forbidden for a soldier to carry out such an act.

Karim clarified that this was his view when he answered the original question on an online forum over a decade ago, and this was still his opinion today.

He also said he supported finding a religiously acceptable place for women in the army.

Immediately after Karim issued his apology and clarification, Zandberg responded positively.

“Rabbi Karim presented his declaration to the High Court,” she wrote in Hebrew on Twitter on Wednesday. “It is an honest, emotional statement, admitting to his past mistakes. He completely forbids rape and respects all people and declares equality for LGBTs and others.”

Leader of the left-wing Meretz party Zahava Galon (L) and MK Michal Rozin petition the High Court in Jerusalem to reject the appointment of Rabbi Eyal Karim as the next IDF Chief Rabbi, November 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Leader of the left-wing Meretz party Zahava Galon (L) and MK Michal Rozin petition the High Court in Jerusalem to reject the appointment of Rabbi Eyal Karim as the next IDF Chief Rabbi, November 21, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

“The petitioners hope that the clear ethical statement of the Court will be heard and continue to resonate in the IDF in general and specifically in the military rabbinate,” the three Meretz MKs said in a statement. “The petition has served its purpose.”

Karim was embroiled in controversy in 2012 for his response to a question posed to him (Hebrew link) on the religious website Kipa asking in the light of certain Biblical passages if IDF soldiers, for example, were permitted to commit rape during wartime despite the general understanding that such an act is widely considered repugnant.

In his response, Karim implied that such practices, among several others that were normally prohibited — including the consumption of non-kosher food — were permitted during battle.

“Although intercourse with a female gentile is very grave, it was permitted during wartime (under the conditions that were stipulated) out of consideration for the soldiers’ difficulties,” he wrote. “And since our concern is the success of the collective in the war, the Torah permitted (soldiers) to satisfy the evil urge under the conditions it stipulated for the sake of the collective’s success.”

When the quote surfaced in 2012 and caused a media firestorm, he published a clarification stating that his comments were in no way meant to be applied in the modern era, but rather pertained to a theoretical discussion of the biblical permission granted to a Jewish soldier to kidnap an enemy woman and wed her.

“Obviously, in our times, when the world has advanced to a level of morality in which one does not marry captives, one must not perform this act, which is also entirely against the army’s values and orders,” he wrote.

Karim has also written that women should not serve in the IDF, and that women should not sing at army events, and if they do, religious soldiers should be permitted to leave.

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