Mofaz puts end to polygraph testing of IDF officers
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Monday intervened for the first time in the affair involving the leaking of confidential information to the media by Brigadier General Shmuel Zakai, the commander of Israel Defense Forces troops in the Gaza Strip.
Mofaz met this morning with IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon and put an immediate end to the use of unrestricted polygraph testing in the questioning of officers.
Mofaz said a special mechanism will be established for deciding on each individual request for the use of polygraph testing. The tests would have to be recommended by the judge advocate general and by the chief of staff and would require final approval by the defense minister himself.
Ya'alon met on Monday with Zakai and told him he had to retire immediately from the IDF.
The meeting marked the second time the two have met since Zakai announced on Thursday that he intended to step down after he was accused of leaking confidential information to the media.
Ya'alon had criticized Zakai, saying the Gaza division commander's many contacts with journalists were inappropriate and unauthorized.
Zakai's decision to resign came Wednesday, as a result of the developments of an affair published in Haaretz on October 11: In the course of Operation Days of Penitence in the northern Gaza Strip, reports came out of disagreements between the IDF senior command and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
The army had allegedly supported pulling out of the Jabalya refugee camp, while Sharon objected, ultimately imposing his will on the IDF.
Ya'alon decided that Zakai should not remain in the IDF after leaving his position, and demanded that he retire.
The IDF chief of staff argued that Zakai's behavior indicates his lack of reliability towards both commanders and subordinates, because he decided to leave his division in the midst of battle.
The publication in Haaretz angered Sharon's bureau and irked Major General Dan Harel, of the Southern Command. Harel responded by marching his officers off to a polygraph test.
Around two weeks ago, in questioning Zakai about his role in the leakings, the polygraph test ostensibly showed he had not spoken the truth. The affair only added fuel to the already strained relations in the upper ranks of the Southern Command.
In their seven months of working together, it has been difficult for Zakai, the division commander, a Golani graduate of the Lebanon war, to accept the authority of Harel, an Artillery Corps man by training. The two clashed frequently over personal and professional issues.
Around two weeks ago, tension mounted between Zakai and Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon following the affair of a Givati company commander suspected of "confirming the kill" of a 13-year-old girl from Rafah.
Ya'alon's initial response in support of the company commander, inspired by Zakai's consistent line of backing soldiers in combat situations, backfired when it earned Ya'alon a media barrage when Military Police arrested the commander in question.
As a result, the relationship between the three senior commanders responsible for implementing the disengagement plan have soured.