No Action to Be Taken Against Ya'alon for Meeting Lawmakers

Former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon violated army regulations by meeting recently with Benjamin Netanyahu and other politicians, but Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz do not intend to take any action against him, official army sources said yesterday.

This decision, as well as Judge Advocate General Avihai Mandelblit's decision to overlook Ya'alon's offense, however, was criticized by former military prosecutors.

Ya'alon, who finished his term as chief of staff on June 1, is currently on "retirement leave" prior to officially retiring from the army. This means that technically, he is still a serving officer, subject to all army regulations - including the one forbidding officers to meet with ministers and Knesset members without permission from both the chief of staff and the defense minister. Both Mofaz's office and Halutz's office said yesterday that Ya'alon never asked their permission for his recent meetings.

Supreme Justice Mishael Cheshin confirmed in December 2002 that officers on retirement leave are still viewed as serving officers when he barred Mofaz from running for Knesset in the 2003 elections: Because Mofaz was still a serving officer during his leave, Cheshin ruled, the mandatory cooling-off period between leaving the army and running for Knesset began only after it ended, and therefore, would not end in time for the 2003 elections.

The IDF Spokesman's Office also confirmed last night that the ban against meeting politicians without permission applied to officers also on retirement leave. Regarding Mandelblit's decision, which was made with Halutz's knowledge, the office said: "Nevertheless, it is understood that with regard to someone whose connection with the army is not close, who occupies no position, and therefore is not acting on behalf or in the name of the army, the barrier to such meetings, which require approval, is lower."

Former military prosecutors responded angrily to this policy, saying it discriminates between officers. The rule on meetings with politicians has no connection to the officer's position, the closeness of his ties with the army, or whether or not he is purporting to act on the army's behalf, so none of these factors justifies a failure to enforce it, they argued.