There was once an air force brigadier general, a base commander, who got stuck in a traffic jam after an important engagement. He took his car to the shoulder, driving alongside the crawling line of other vehicles, to the disbelief of the civilians watching this military vehicle pass them by.
Upon reaching his office, the officer gave himself a trial. The prosecutor determined that he had committed a traffic violation, one which undermined public trust in the IDF. The operation demanded the action, claimed the defense attorney.
In light of his clean past record, the judge ruled that the defendant would only have to pay a fine to his unit. Justice was served - and the precious time of the three officers not wasted - because one man was able to fill all four roles himself.
It's a shame this fine precedent has been forgotten, and Brig. Gen. Moshe (Chico) Tamir was not given the option of trying himself over the accident that occurred when he let his son use an army-issue ATV.
The hallowed halls of military justice have not achieved a fairer result over two and a half years and two separate court proceedings. In effect, the five appellate judges reprimanded the four officers subordinate to them - the defendant and three judges of the first proceeding - who ruled that Tamir's rank be reduced to colonel.
The superior court judges derided their fellow jurists Oded Mudrik and Avi Levy as well as adjutancy officer Yehudit Grisaro as, respectively, two jobniks - the lowest level of the unofficial military caste - and a woman, whose vengeance was doled out disproportionately to the rugged warrior.
The appeal, by contrast, was handled by three officers of the military advocate general, as well as a fighter pilot and a politician.
IDF justice is in another world. It is bearable when actions taken during battle or training are at issue. It is infuriating when the alleged offenses are civilian in nature.
Unlike his previous military trial (over the electrocution of several soldiers, involving negligence claims and a dispute over who bore responsibility for the tragedy), the allegations against Tamir are of a more mundane nature, that of transportation and court documents.
The trial became complicated by Tamir's lies (only in writing, not verbally, his lawyers point out), and because ultimately official approval was granted for a lying brigadier general to remain a brigadier general, and maybe even in time, rise to the rank of major general.
A better conclusion to the story would have been for Tamir to resign from the army at his current rank, leaving him and his family - which sacrificed years of danger and travails - with compensation much better than that of a colonel.
The U-turn taken in the Tamir case leads to the conclusion that the methods of military justice need to be overturned. Its proceedings are supposed to set ethical norms, as outlined by Military Advocate General Avichai Mendelblit, who once petitioned for Yitzhak Mordechai to be lowered in rank (in response, Mordechai persuaded the authorities not to promote Mendelblit to major general).
Alongside the Justice Ministry's department for investigating police officers, another office needs to be opened - a military investigations department. Before that is done, it's better to erase from the IDF code of conduct - and the army's expectations of its officers - all references to credibility and truth-telling.
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