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Israel's army is adjusting clauses in military law to allow former minister Yitzhak Mordechai to keep his rank of major general (res.), despite his conviction on charges of sexual harassment and misconduct.

The "Mordechai amendment" to IDF law would prevent his demotion to private, and would also allow the recently sentenced Ofer Nimrodi, the former Ma'ariv publisher, to keep his captain's rank. The IDF defends the "Mordechai amendment" on the grounds that totally stripping an officer of his rank is against Israel's Basic Law on Human Dignity and Freedom.

The move to protect Mordechai's rank gives rise to speculation about politics and pay-backs in the IDF's upper ranks. IDF Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz owes his current position to former defense minister Mordechai.

Despite Mofaz's declared policy of enforcing IDF law against sexual harassment, he failed to criticize Mordechai for the offenses he was convicted of, which included the abuse and attack on an IDF woman officer when Mordechai was head of the Northern Command.

A brief submitted to the ministerial committee for legislation by IDF Advocate-General Dr. Menahem Finkelstein, proposes revising section 533 of the Military Judgment Law (1955). The section empowers the chief of staff, in conjunction with the defense minister, to demote to the rank of private an officer convicted of a serious offense.

Objecting to section 533, the IDF claims "it is the right of a man to keep a military rank which he attained through hard work; the right to the rank is a matter of human dignity - stripping an officer of his rank is a blow to his dignity and rights."

The IDF also claims that the current formulation of section 533 discriminates against persons who are convicted in a civilian court, and offers them no way to appeal a demotion decision reached by the chief of staff.

Up to Mordechai's conviction, the IDF uncritically applied the current formulation of section 533. Now, the "Mordechai amendment" requires a proposed demotion to private to be reviewed and authorized by a retired judge whose military rank is also not lower than that of the person convicted of a serious offense.

The demotion proceedings for Ofer Nimrodi, a captain in the reserves, has been suspended for two years, on the grounds of his involvement in a civilian trial. This week the IDF Advocate General indicated that demotion proceedings in Nimrodi's, and all other cases, are to be held in abeyance while legislation concerning the "Mordechai amendment" is in the works.