IDF Chief Stresses Zero Tolerance for Sexual Assault in Wake of Case Involving Commander

Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot says that a commander's military record is 'irrelevant' when charges of sexual assault are raised against him.

Ofek Buchris at court, Tel Aviv, September 29, 2016.
Nir Keidar

Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot said Saturday he would maintain his policy of “zero tolerance regarding every instance of harassment or sexual assault” in the Israel Defense Forces.

Eisenkot was responding to the case of retired  Brig. Gen. Ofek Buchris, who this week confessed to sexual assault charges under a plea deal with military prosecutors.

“We won’t close our eyes, we won’t give up and we won’t hesitate to take severe action,” Eisenkot said in a statement. He said his uncompromising attitude extended to senior commanders, “irrespective of rank. Past activity and successes are of no relevance in cases like this.”

According to Eisenkot, when the suspicions against Buchris first arose, “I took a series of steps including his suspension and the cancellation of his appointment to head the Operations Directorate. Subsequently, he terminated his military service.”

Eisenkot said there was no place in the IDF for the crimes to which Buchris has confessed. Top commanders “are committed to ensuring that IDF soldiers, both female and male, will feel protected during their military service and not be exposed to crimes of inappropriate behavior,” he said.

His comments might mean Buchris will not be accepted into the reserves following his sentencing.

“My confession to the indictment is full and I take full responsibility for the acts detailed in it,” Buchris said in a statement Thursday. The apology was made as part of a plea bargain stipulating that he would admit to having a sexual relationship with a soldier and  be charged with forbidden sexual relations by consent. The rape charges will be erased and he will not be imprisoned.

The attorney representing one of the plaintiffs, an IDF officer, said her client had agreed to the plea deal even though Buchris had not apologized for his actions. “The accused’s letter, although feeble, prevents him from renouncing the plea bargain,” attorney Avital Ben-Noun said.

She also referred to a clause in the indictment that had been altered.“The plaintiff spoke the truth all along and her version was accepted in full, including the fact that she didn’t want what happened,” Ben-Noun said.

“All that was changed was the legal interpretation of the acts described by the plaintiff, an interpretation that didn’t come from us but from the military advocate general and the military prosecution.”