Meretz-Yahad leader Yossi Beilin said on Thursday that Israeli society is divided over the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

The divide, said Beilin, demonstrates the gravity of the problem of the hesder yeshivas, special army units for soldiers wishing to combine military service with religious studies.

According to Beilin, these special units constitute an army within an army,  and Israeli society is now paying the price for establishing them.

The special units follow rabbinical instructions, not military orders. This is creating a serious problem in the military establishment, as more rabbis call on soldiers to refuse to participate in the evacuation.

‘Recent statements by rabbis and the incredible demand to exempt en-masse religious soldiers from carrying out settlement evacuation requires of the Israel Defense Forces to take an immediate decision and dismantle these autonomous units and allocate religious soldiers to other units,’ Beilin said.

MK Yosef Lapid, chairman of the secular centrist party Shinui, echoed Beilin’s views. ‘If religious soldiers shouldn’t participate in the evacuation of Gush Katif then secular soldiers should not guard religious settlements and if we go down this road we will create an irreparable chasm in our society,’ he said.

Lapid, former Minister of Justice, was responding to an organization called the Jewish Heart, which has asked soldiers to refuse to participate in the evacuation. Lapid called on the Israeli police to arrest those behind the incitement to violate Knesset and government decisions.