Justice Edna Arbel
Justice Edna Arbel Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The High Court of Justice yesterday rejected a petition to block Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh from serving as IDF deputy chief of staff, a position he has held since November. The court also rejected a temporary injunction to keep him from becoming acting chief of staff when current IDF head Gabi Ashkenazi steps down later this month.

However, the court castigated Naveh for a dismissive statement about the High Court’s instructions limiting IDF assassinations of Palestinian activists.

The court rejected the petitions filed by left-wing groups Yesh Gvul, Gush Shalom and other activists against Naveh’s appointment as deputy chief of staff.

The petitioners opposed Naveh’s appointment pending investigation into his conduct in three separate cases of IDF assassinations of Palestinian activists during his term as GOC Central Command. The cases were revealed in a Haaretz expose by Uri Blau in 2008.

The groups claim Naveh operated in violation of international law and a High Court ruling in the matter from 2006.

Justices Edna Arbel, Elyakim Rubinstein and Salim Joubran said in their verdict they were aware that rejecting the petition would lead to Naveh’s appointment as temporary chief of staff.

Arbel said two of the cases reported in the expose occurred before the court ruling on IDF assassinations. Military Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit had examined the three cases and found they did not violate the law or the court’s ruling. Mendelblit’s conclusions had been adopted by the attorney general, Arbel wrote, and the petitioners’ claims did not convince the court that Naveh’s appointment was unreasonable.

However, the court slammed Naveh’s statement regarding the court ruling imposing restrictions on the assassinations.

“Never mind the court’s instruction, I don’t know when the court issued them,” Naveh is quoted saying in Blau’s article.

“The way in which the statements were said conveys a negative and reprehensible message to the entire public about the army’s obligation to uphold court rulings and sets a particularly bad example for IDF soldiers,” Arbel said. “Israeli society is largely made of young people who look up to their commanders. They learn not only the art of fighting but also morality and ethical conduct.”

Joubran said it was regrettable Naveh took the liberty to express sentiments implying contempt for the justice system and the rule of law.

The petition is based on Blau’s report that Naveh and other senior IDF officers allegedly authorized the assassination of Palestinian militants who could have been arrested, despite the likelihood of death or injury to innocent bystanders.