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Israel’s Liberman takes on radicalization of religious Zionism

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman may have exaggerated in railing against the country’s religious pre-military academies, but he's correct about the radicalization of the religious Zionist stream.
Israel's former Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman speaks during his Yisrael Beitenu party faction meeting at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem May 27, 2019. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun - RC1696A5A760

Addressing the annual policy conference of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya on July 2, former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, chair of Yisrael Beitenu, launched a harsh broadside at religious radicalization and the religious military preparatory academies headed by rabbis who also serve as their educators and ideologues. Such strident criticism against Israel’s religious Zionism and its military academies appears unprecedented in Israeli history.

“The religious preparatory programs have produced some of the bravest fighters in combat and I hope they will continue to function, but what is happening today is that the preparatory programs are developing into phalanges,” Liberman argued, astounding his listeners. For many Israelis, the term “phalange” conjures up the trauma of the 1982 Lebanon War when Israeli-allied Christian militias known as the Phalange slaughtered hundreds of Palestinian women, children and men in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps that were under Israeli control.

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