The two, who allegedly received NIS 900 ($280) are charged with the severe offense of overstepping their authority to the point of endangering national security. Their attorneys claim that they committed the crime as a result of lack of food and sleep.
The indictment presented to the Jaffa Military Court revealed that the soldiers charged NIS 100 ($30) from Palestinians requesting to pass through the checkpoint near the West Bank village of Jabara in the Tulkarem area.
In one of the instances for which the two are accused, a Subaru vehicle arrived at the checkpoint. Four people were in the car but one of them did not have the proper documentation needed to enter Israeli territory. The suspects took NIS 200 ($62) from him and in exchange allowed him to traverse the checkpoint without an inspection.
The soldiers’ defense council tried drawing a different picture. According to them, the two were placed in an especially difficult situation. “Their commanders neglected their basic obligation to care for the soldiers,” claimed attorney Ilan Katz, who is representing one of the accused.
He added that in some of the instances, the soldiers spent 16 consecutive hours at the checkpoint. During their elongated guard duty they did not receive food and were not switched, the attorney said.
Katz, who formerly served as the deputy Military Advocate General, said that the commanders’ behavior must be "properly examined" and that "the soldiers must not be blamed in haste".
Attorney Eyal Nun, who is representing the second soldier, claimed that his client was compelled to remain awake for 80 hours, which made it difficult for him to make logical decisions.
Nun added that his client was being interrogated by Military Police without being allowed to sleep, and for this reason his testimony must not be taken into consideration.
The defense is insinuating that the Shin Bet uncovered the affair by operating a Palestinian as bait in order to catch the soldiers receiving the bribes. “I plan on asking the court to reveal the material presently in Shin Bet possession,” explained Nun.
This week, Attorney Katz submitted a similar request to the courts demanding to attain details on the endangerment to the country’s security, which was supposedly caused due to the entrance of the Palestinians into Israel.
“If damage was indeed caused, it is fitting that we should be aware of what it was,” said Katz, “and if the Shin Bet had information on the soldiers’ activities, why didn’t they arrest them after the first Palestinian crossed?”
The Shin Bet has yet to respond to the claims.