Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Chief of Staff: 'Biggest threat to IDF is personal attacks on its commanders'
During closed Foreign Affairs and Security Committee meeting, Gadi Eisenkot warns that witnesses in IDF cases such as Sgt. Elor Azaria affair must be able to testify without fear of political smear campaigns. 'These politicians have agendas.'
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot stated Tuesday that certain statements made by politicians and civil servants against the IDF threatened a loss of public faith in the IDF.
The comments came during a closed meeting on Tuesday night with the Foreign Affairs and Security Committee (FASC) during which he expressed his belief that the ad hominem attacks represented the greatest threat to the military.
“The statements that have been made recently on operational matters which are still being checked by the military command and judicial system are not appropriate and they don’t influence the internal procedures in the IDF,” he said.
The main example which Eisenkot cited was the ongoing case of Sgt. Elor Azaria who shot dead an immobilized terrorist, Abed al Fatah Al-Sharif, in March in Hebron.
“Many things have been said without knowledge of the facts, in order to advance agendas unconnected with the IDF. We want the IDF to operate according to orders, rules of engagement for opening fire and according to the spirit of IDF values. If someone wants a gang ethos, speak now,” he said.
The chief of staff then condemned the attacks levelled by some politicians against the Azaria trial. “All the procedures were undertaken according to orders. The commanders recognized that this was an unusual case before the video even reach the media,” he insisted.
“The process is fair but it can’t be that from the very first moments there is slander and defamation against soldiers and commanders in the army. These people are doing what they do with agendas in mind. There is no basis to the accusations against the judicial procedures,” Eisenkot continued. “There are clear values in the IDF and I am conscious of them especially when it comes to opening fire. If we don’t keep them in mind then the IDF is the one that will be hurt,” he continued.
Eisenkot then said that military judicial proceedings must be allowed to occur without the harassment of key witnesses: “The military proceedings must be able to function according to accepted norms and without external interference. Witnesses called by the prosecution and by the defense must be able to say the truth without fear of worry. Every attempt to exert pressure on those involved in the judicial process deserve to be condemned,” he said.
An MK asked Eisenkot if he could be specific on which politicians were slandering the IDF to which he quipped that he should look on up on Google.
Following the chief of staff’s comments Chairman of the FASC, MK Avi Dichter decided to bring a vote before the committee on whether to issue a statement of support for Eisenkot and IDF commanders and pledge to protect the IDF from political controversies.
Eisenkot then touched on another IDF case involving Brig. Gen. Ofek Buchris who was indicted last week for a series of sexual assault and rape allegations levelled by a female soldier and a female officer under his command. Eisenkot dismissed the accusation voiced since the beginning of the case suggesting that the investigation against Buchris was merely a smear campaign to prevent his progress in the army.
“Statements implying that they are stopping the progression of an officer in a specific sector have no connection with reality,” he said before emphasizing that his obligations to a highly decorated officer such as Buchris were no more or less than those to a soldier or officer that may have been harmed.
Finally, he addressed the comments recently made by his nominee for the position of of IDF chief rabbi, Rabbi Col. Eyal Karim who made controversial statements regarding women, gay people. According to Eisenkot, the matter was checked and he had personally expressed his dissatisfaction directly to Karim for his comments and decided to stick with his nomination after he apologized.
On the disparaging remarks about gay people made by Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, who heads an IDF preparatory yeshiva however, Eisenkot categorically condemned him and stated his intentions to bring a halt to all his activities in the IDF until a final decision was made on how to proceed by the chief of staff of the defense ministry, Maj. Gen. Udi Adam.