Rami Dotan, Disgraced Israel Air Force General Who Embezzled Millions in U.S. Aid, Dies

Dotan, an Air Force supply chief, spent 12 years in prison for what was considered the biggest corruption case in Israeli military history

Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet
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Rami Dotan, in 1991
Rami Dotan, in 1991Credit: Reuben Castro / Walla
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Rami Dotan, former head of the Israel Air Force Supply Squadron, died over the weekend at age 75. In 1991, he was convicted in what was considered the biggest corruption case in the history of the Israeli military. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison and was demoted to the rank of private.

Between 1983 and his arrest in 1990, he lived a double life. He was a devoted and highly regarded officer, and simultaneously “a criminal, abusing his position and using [methods of] cheating, fraud and falsehood,” as Judge Mishael Cheshin wrote of him.

In 1989, Aluf Benn, now Haaretz editor-in-chief, broke the corruption affair in which Dotan would be convicted. At its heart was the rigging of air force contracts to benefit his close associates.

Rami Dotan at his tribunal in December 1990.Credit: Tierecke/Wikipedia

It also emerged that Dotan, who became head of the Supply Squadron in 1989, had stolen millions of dollars. He was convicted of embezzling some $10 million from U.S. aid packages by purchasing inferior equipment for the Israel Air Force and then pocketing the difference.

In one case in which he was convicted, for example, Dotan had inflated the cost of a project and set its budget at more than $5.7 million. In fact, only $300,000 were used for the project, while he and others kept the rest for themselves.

After his 1990 arrest, he confessed to bribery, aggravated fraud, breach of trust and other charges. A special military tribunal called his offenses “bribery affairs unprecedented in extent and severity in the legal history of the Israel Defense Forces.”

The court also wrote that Dotan’s crimes “would not shame the giants of international crime – in their extent and variety” and that Dotan had “caused severe harm to the interests of the army and the security establishment and their image, at home and abroad.”

The court also stated that if Dotan still had “fragments of a human conscience – he will have to bear them, for the rest of his life on Earth, behind bars in the name of the State of Israel and the air force.”

In 1999, in a parole hearing, Cheshin wrote: “Dotan’s appetite knew no satisfaction and his greed for money drove him mad. Thus Dotan created – out of nothing – various air force projects … and inflated their budgets; all to siphon off money for himself and his co-conspirators.”

Cheshin added: “The pen would dry up if we continued to count Dotan’s bad deeds. This much we know, that Dotan weaved a complex web of deceipt, fraud and falsehood. He committed crimes in winding and devious ways. In taking the path he blazed for himself, Dotan sinned greatly, and caused his subordinates to sin.” Cheshin added that Dotan’s offenses were “among the worst and ugliest crimes involving greed ever to appear before an Israeli court.”

He was released in 2002.

Dotan, who was born in Romania and moved to Israel with his parents at the age of 5, studied mechanical engineering in the Technion – Israel Instiute of Technology and received his master’s degree in aeronautics in the United States. He joined the IAF in 1968.

He lived in Ra’anana, was married twice, and had three children with his first wife.

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