Military Advocate General isn't dangerous, Bennett is
Op-ed: Education Minister Bennett's attempt to link the difficulties in handling the situation in Gaza with the combat soldiers' so-called fear of the Military Prosecution is exactly the opposite of true leadership; the legal advice provided by MAG Corps is not a sign of weakness, but rather an essential component of the army's strength and capabilities.
Handling the situation in Gaza is not a simple task. It is a multifaceted endeavor that has security, economic, humanitarian and political implications. Declaring that there is a simple solution—"eradicating Hamas" on one hand or "lifting the siege" on the other— is nothing but smoke and mirrors.
An intelligent analysis of the circumstances that led to the recent flare-up of violence in the Gaza Strip, the examination of various alternative solutions, as many as possible, and the formulation of a visionary strategy are precisely what is required of our leadership.
Of course, courage is also needed for implementing a strategy and taking ownership of it, even when confronted with populist rhetoric.
"Our soldiers are more afraid of the Military Advocate General than of (Hamas leader) Yahya Sinwar," said the Bayit Yehudi chairman at a press conference on Monday.
Bennett's attempt to link the difficulties in dealing with the situation in Gaza with the combat soldiers' so-called fear of the Military Prosecution is exactly the opposite of true leadership.
The Military Advocate General's Corps (MAG Corps) does not determine the policy in Gaza. It assists the army in its missions, in accordance with the Israeli and the international law. We can fight terrorism—even successfully— within legal boundaries.
Moreover, in the 21st century there is no safer recipe for military and political failure than ignoring the limitations imposed by the international law on the methods and means of warfare.
If Israel was to be regarded as a pariah state of war criminals, no tactical and military achievement could have been translated into long-term political success.
Therefore, the legal advice provided by the MAG Corps to the IDF is not an obstacle or a sign of weakness, but rather, as IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot noted, an essential component of the army's strength and capabilities.
Fear is often the result of uncertainty and insecurity. In this context too, leadership has an important role: soldiers should be given legal and clear orders only by their commanders.
The army is under the government's authority. However, when the political echelon seeks to exercise its power, it must do so by making formal decisions and accepting responsibility for them.
All too often politicians, Security Cabinet members as well as ministers prefer to make careless public statements while pretending to guide our soldiers (for example, what to do when confronted with terrorists).
By doing so, they jeopardize the certainty of military commands, which is essential for proper military functioning.
The soldiers need to know that they have the army's full backup, even when they make mistakes, as long as they act in good faith and stick to the orders they are given.
As a former chief military advocate general, I can testify that the majority of cases involving wounded civilians end without trial due to the following guiding principle: you don't judge, with the wisdom of hindsight, actions done under time pressure and in a life-threatening situation.
We acted according to this principle when presented with cases in which soldiers shot Palestinians before realizing they were unarmed.
On the other hand, soldiers, who abused bound detainees, were brought before the military court on various charges.
An unequivocal message must be conveyed to IDF soldiers: if you deliberately violate orders, you will be held accountable. Politicians' tweets will not help our soldiers; backup—yes, deception—no.
Adv. Col. (res.) Liron Libman, former chief military advocate general, is a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute.