After Ynet's report of female soldiers' testimonies of abuse of Palestinians, former Israel Defense Forces senior officials stress that despite the gravity of the incidents, they are few and far between. "Cases in which IDF soldiers abuse civilian population do exist but they are rare, and cannot be called a phenomenon," former IDF chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak said.
Former Central Command chief Yair Nave admits that the incidents described by the female soldiers do in fact occur. According to Nave, the reality of a soldier facing a civilian is a "forceful" one and stated that the army would find itself in a problem if it doesn't put an emphasis on the disciplinary and normative aspects.
"Power blinds the eyes of the righteous and puts man in an inhumane sphere, it exists in every society," Nave told Ynet. Nevertheless, he wished to stress that not all soldiers should be tarnished. "We were blessed with good soldiers and a moral code, it's not our point of view, but there are unusual cases and they must be handled immediately, and not a year or two after the event."
Nave criticized the Breaking the Sillence organization and claimed that the incidents put forward by it are exceptions and are not always fully based on reality. Nevertheless, he stressed that during his term as central command chief, complaints were inquired as they were submitted. He was fully confident that the IDF still operates according to the highest of standards.
Nave also noted that such exceptions could be avoided. "One cannot say this will always be the way, and that it's human nature. The phenomenon must be eradicated," he stressed.
According to Nave, for this purpose the IDF is employing various measures, such as assigning the best combat units to the field, stationing an officer or senior commander in the checkpoints on a regular basis, providing soldiers and Palestinians with various complaint mechanisms and employing the services of the women of Machsom Watch.
Palestinians at Hawara checkpoint (Photo: AP)
Lipkin-Shahak has a different point of view. He says that such cases as described in the Breaking the Silence report are hard to avoid. However, he calls on soldiers to complain in the future within the army itself.
"The soldiers must face the commanders, there are ways of reporting and one can do it anonymously too. In the IDF, once you investigate there is no bond of silence."
'Education is solution'
Former Chief Education Officer Ilan Harari also believes the problem cannot be fully eradicated.
"We have a fair and moral army, and the IDF handles and educates on any issue but one must bear in mind that nothing can be fully prevented just as traffic accidents cannot be prevented."
Harari believes the way to deal with the problem is through education and enforcing discipline.
Lipkin-Shahak resonated Harari's statements and asserted that the root of the problem does not lie with the army. He stressed that such irregular manifestations exist in every sector of society.
"Look at Israeli society; kids attacking and stabbing each other. I don't know whether it reflects on the army, but there's irregular behavior everywhere. Only clear statements and strict enforcement will send the right message."