Here's a saying that IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi hates to hear: Not only doesn't he have any idea what's going on in the army, he has no idea that he has no idea. He's sure that he knows. Why, he's a career soldier. Who knows the organization from every angle like he does?
In practice, in the ten ranks from private to lieutenant general, there is a reality that doesn't filter upward. Not everything is reported to him, and not every report he receives is correct. And despite the apparent obedience to his orders, he doesn't have the means to really check the activity and atmosphere, and how they influence young people in their hesitancy to respect the army as a just and moral organization and their readiness to remain beyond compulsory service. But if he does, then is a party to the rot, injustice and whitewashing.
The IDF prides itself on service, but is run arbitrarily: At every command headquarters, almost anyone in any position of authority can decide whether to insist on something or to ignore it, to be strict or lenient, without uniform criteria. With the right connections, or if you belong to a certain crowd, rules of jurisdiction and order and discipline are not really important.
Military justice - an expression that suggests a contradiction in terms - is in short supply, meaning vengeful justice to lower ranks and merciful justice to superiors, at least those who enjoy ongoing immunity due to their battlefield prestige. Brig. Gen. Moshe Tamir was one of them, which has long sparked the ire of his colleagues. The mask of lies, as the judges who demoted Tamir termed it, surfaced one time too many.
Despite the attention to the figure of Tamir, the problem that the case presents at the IDF's doorstep is not specific to him. It is systemic. The panel of judges was almost identical to one that convicted Col. Ataf Zaher for indecent acts and his demotion to major. In that case, the panel consisted of retired district judge Brig. Gen. (ret.) Amnon Strashnov, Brig. Gen. Yehudit Grisero and Col. Avi Levi. This case is being presided over by Levi and Grisero with the addition of district judge Brig. Gen. Oded Mudrik. Strashnov may sit on the appeal panel along with court president Maj. Gen. Shai Yaniv, along with a field commander.
The judges on the initial panel expressed their suspicion that Tamir transgressed and that legal authorities also did wrong. The military police investigators acted on "orders from above" (from how far up?) with an obscurity characteristic of lawbreakers. This audacity proves that it is indeed proper to take the army's investigations out of its hands, at least with respect to investigations involving officers of the rank of colonel and above (as well as staff close to them, such as bureau chiefs and drivers).
During the 1980s, the ranking officer in the military police, Brig. Gen. Baruch Arbel, was suspected of corruption. Then-chief of staff Rafael Eitan transferred the investigation from the military police to the Shin Bet security service. This was a proper step, resulting in an indictment and a conviction, but at the same time it engendered criticism of Eitan himself, who acted across the border in Lebanon without the approval of the political echelons.
One cannot count on the chief military prosecutor and the military police to deal with the chief of staff and other high-ranking officers, as the attorney general, state prosecutor and police investigations unit deal ultimately with prime ministers and cabinet ministers. If officers are sometimes only people, and military prosecutors are sometime only officers, it would be no wonder if military prosecutors are sometimes only people, especially since their personal aspirations are dependent on the chief of staff.
The result encourages a culture of lies, exactly as with the police, who were investigated and denounced by the Or and Zeiler commissions. The IDF desperately needs such a commission now, headed by a senior retired judge - provided that its conclusions reach the highest ranks.
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