Analysis

IDF Chief Had No Choice but to Extend General's Suspension Over Rape Allegations

The results of polygraph tests over rape allegations against Brig. Gen. Ofek Buchris haven't been released yet, but that doesn't bode well for the officer.

Ofek Buchris.
Gil Eliyahu

The cancelation of Brig. Gen. Ofek Buchris’ planned appointment as head of the Israel Defense Forces’ operations division was inevitable given the progress of the investigation against him.

Over the past few days, Buchris and the two complainants who have accused him of sex crimes have all taken polygraph tests. The Military Police have also gathered other evidence and made preparations for a confrontation between Buchris and his accusers, two female soldiers who served under him in the past. But the investigation is expected to take another few months.

Thus regardless of whether or not Buchris is ultimately indicted, Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot can’t wait until the probe ends – and Buchris understood this quite well from their meeting last week. The operations division is heavily involved in ongoing operational activity, and there’s no way it can function properly without a permanent commander.

The results of the three polygraph tests haven’t yet been disclosed, but Buchris’ attorneys insisted that this silence reveals nothing about what the tests showed. Nevertheless, one can assume with a fair degree of confidence that had the results refuted the story of the principal complainant, who accuses Buchris of raping her repeatedly, that information would somehow have leaked out to the public. Under these circumstances, the chief of staff had no choice but to extend Buchris’ suspension from the army and cancel his appointment.

Over the past two weeks, the media have expounded at length on the warm relationship between Eisenkot and Buchris, who served under him in the Golani Brigade. But the chief of staff is also the commander of the two former soldiers – and back when he headed the IDF’s Northern Command, he even gave the principal complainant a certificate of excellence.

No less important, Eisenkot is the commander of all the female soldiers in the IDF. Had the army under his command not treated the affair with all due seriousness, it would have sent an intolerable message to women in the IDF and their families.

The cancelation of the appointment is a harsh blow for Buchris, who still enjoys the presumption of innocence. On the other hand, Eisenkot’s decision frees him to devote himself completely to the legal battle, which is also a battle over his good name and his professional future. But either way, the moment the first complaint was submitted and the investigation opened, the progression of events was inevitable.

And perhaps the cancelation will also provide an opportunity for reining in a public debate in which a great many people, including ministers, deputy ministers, Knesset members and retired officers, have been offering decided opinions on an issue about which they haven’t a clue. The truth will ultimately come out where it is supposed to come out – in the Military Police and, perhaps, the courts.