Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot warned Tuesday that the greatest threat facing the Israeli army was loss of public trust, saying that attacks on the IDF by public figures in the wake of the Hebron shooting incident have harmed the military.
"The greatest threat to the IDF isn't what I will detail in my intelligence briefing but the loss of public trust," Eisenkot told lawmakers at the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, according to members of Knesset that attended the meeting.
The MKs, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the chief of staff said that the attacks on the IDF are being carried out by people and organizations with political agendas. "You can google it and find out who they are," Eisenkot said when asked by the MKs who he meant. He also said that there is an attempt to erode the public trust in the IDF by raising allegations that the army isn't fighting terrorists. "It is said that the IDF is weak. That is simply a lie," he said. "If we don't want street gangs, the army must operate with discipline and according to the spirit of the IDF."
The chief of staff stressed that the operational inquiry into the shooting in Hebron was carried out as it should have been and went through the proper channels and up the command chain until reaching him, and then the defense minister.
"The soldier deserves a fair trial and will receive a due process, but statements by a public figure against the army did damage to IDF soldiers and officers," said Eisenkot. "There are clear values in the army, and I am careful about them, and especially open fire rules, and if we aren't vigilant about them, the army will suffer."
Eisenkot condemned Rabbi Yigal Levinstein remarks attacking the LGBT community. He said those statements were improper and that he had ordered a halt to contact with the rabbi. Eisenkot added "To his credit, Rabbi Levinstein contributed to the training of outstanding officers throughout the command chain."
The chief of staff stressed to the MKs that he had consulted with rabbis and with his advisor for gender affairs, a religious woman, regarding the appointment of Rabbi Eyal Karim as the army's chief rabbi. Karim's controversial appointment has been harshly criticized because of his remarks on women, gay people and non-Jews.
"He has an unpartisan outlook," said Eisenkot. "There is a gap between what he said and his deeds, and a man deserving of the job was appointed to the position."
Eisenkot said that he transferred the department responsible for promulgating the military's "Jewish consciousness" to the direct command of the Manpower Directorate commander so that that it will deal with "that which brings us together and unifies us and not with the rifts in Israeli society, which should remain outside the IDF." The chief of staff rejected the criticism levied in religious circles claiming that religious officers weren't being promoted. "Statements to the effect that the promotion of members of certain sectors is being blocked are without foundation," he said.
At the end of the meeting the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee issued a statement calling on everyone to keep the IDF outside of political bickering, allowing the military to effectively deal with its security missions. "The Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee trusts the chief of staff, IDF commanders and soldiers and lends them their backing in dealing with incidents that may erode public trust in the IDF," the statement read.
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