Israel’s military has nominated a new chief rabbi criticised for remarks he made in the past that seemed to condone the rape of non-Jewish women in war.
In an answer to a religious website in 2002, Rabbi Colonel Eyal Karim implied that such an act was permissible.
He clarified in 2012 that his words had been taken out of context and that rape was forbidden “in any situation”.
But his appointment, which requires the defence minister’s approval, was condemned by a top female politician.
Zehava Galon, leader of the Meretz party, described Rabbi Karim as “not suitable to represent Jewish morality in any way whatsoever”.
“His appalling, racist and violent statement makes women fair game,” she added.
The head of the Israeli parliament’s Committee on the Status of Women and Gender Equality, Aida Touma-Sliman of the Joint Arab List, said: “Col Karim’s ruling on permitting raping non-Jewish women is similar to the fatwa of a murderous organisation that’s not so far from Israel’s borders.”
The Israeli military, in which thousands of women serve, issued a statement on Tuesday saying it wanted to clarify that the rabbi’s remarks 14 years ago came in answer to a theoretical question and did not relate to “practical Jewish law”.
“Rabbi Karim has never written, said or even thought that an Israeli soldier is permitted to sexually assault a woman in war, and anyone who interprets his words otherwise is completely mistaken,” it added.
The statement also stressed that Rabbi Karim was not opposed to women being recruited by the military, despite him having previously said that it should be “completely forbidden”, according to Israeli media.