Evyatar Yosefi was abandoned to his death twice. The first time when he and his comrades from the reconnaissance battalion of the Paratroops Brigade were sent for a navigation training exercise in the middle of a storm at night, combined with criminal negligence and arrogance.
The second time was when his dead body was floating in the rushing water of the Hilazon Stream, while on the bank his commanders had already begun a campaign of covering up and evading responsibility. It is here that they actually went into action and attacked, and displayed their excellence.
Haaretz podcast: Will Trump's purged Pentagon let Israel attack Iran?
It is impossible to read the investigative report published this week by Yaniv Kubovich in Haaretz in Hebrew and continue on as normal. I don’t understand how sane parents are supposed to send their children off to combat service in an army with such a level of professionalism, safety, attitude toward human life, investigative culture and sense of responsibility – and this is in what is called an “elite unit.”
But this story has spilled over outside the boundaries of the army. It testifies to the deep, disastrous Israeli character. In reality, there are similarities between the drowning in the Hilazon Stream and other infuriating events from the past few years. The one that stands out the most is the Nahal Tsafit drowning incident, in which nine young women and one young man were sent to their deaths on a “team-building trip,” when the arrogant and negligent staff of the pre-military academy Bnei Zion insisted on holding the hike in spite of the warnings of unusually stormy weather.
The truth is, the word “cover-up” has been eroded over time. What has happened since Yosefi drowned is a long chapter in which commanders in the Paratroops Brigade were busy obstructing the investigation, coordinating testimony, lying, exchanging versions, applying pressure and threats to combat soldiers who were witnesses to the failure, and attempts to transfer the blame to ordinary soldiers. No action was spared to save the promising careers of battalion commander Yishai Rosilio and brigade commander Yaki Dolef.
“These are two outstanding officers, who have devoted their lives to the country’s security, and their treatment was businesslike and proper, according to the extent of their responsibility for the incident,” the Israel Defense Forces spokesman said, as expected. “The handling of the incident sent a harsh message to all of the IDF.”
To laugh or to cry? As part of this “businesslike and proper” handling, Rosilio was convicted in a plea bargain deal of “not carrying out obligatory orders in the military.” He was sentenced to probation, removed from the post of battalion commander – and after about a year was promoted to the post of operations officer of the Judea and Samaria Division.
As for Dolef, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi took him under his protective umbrella, which included a three-month delay in summoning him for questioning as a criminal suspect, in opposition to the opinion of Military Police investigators. His punishment was only a reprimand. After a few months he was promoted to brigadier general and quickly appointed military secretary to Defense Minister Benny Gantz – a job that interfaces with the political and civilian levels – and is known as a launching pad to the top.
This seems to be the “harsh message” that was necessary to pass on: To advance in the IDF, and Israel in general, it is essential to develop the ability to cover up, cover your ass and scapegoat others. But this week there are no longer any excuses. The investigative report now lies in front of Gantz. If he doesn’t summon Kochavi and Dolef in its wake for a dramatic talk in his office, he is not only closing ranks with the message, he will become a full partner in the criminal culture, which will cost more victims in the future.