Far from the media and public eye, a judicial farce is underway, a loose end left over from Operation Pillar of Defense. In the Kiryat Gat Magistrate's Court, Judge Robin Lavi is presiding over the trial of one Michael Azoulay. Defense officials, it seems, are convinced that Azoulay is a threat to one of its senior members. Azoulay has been charged with insulting a public servant, in accordance with clause 288 of the penal code.
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The public servant he allegedly insulted is Brig. Gen. Jacob Nagel, the current deputy chief of the National Security Council, and the former deputy chief of the Defense Ministry body for the research and development of weaponry. What was the insult? A blog post Azoulay wrote four years ago in which he penned a letter to Nagel that appeared on the Hebrew website "Scoop."
Nagel, it may be recalled, headed a committee to examine alternative defense systems for communities near the Gaza Strip. The committee eventually recommended Iron Dome.
On his blog, Azoulay wrote that Nagel recommended the anti-missile defense system despite the fact that he allegedly knew it would not be able to protect Sderot and the communities near Gaza due to the short range of Qassam rockets. Azoulay wrote that Nagel was the “main obstacle to any attempt to bring in the Nautilus, a laser cannon, to protect the communities around Gaza.”
Azoulay’s language was harsh. But what prompted Nagel to sue Azoulay was one particular passage: “You brought our soldiers into the Strip to clear out the terrorists’ nests and all our losses there are on your hands. I hope your soul never finds rest because of everything you and people like you have done to us.”
At the end of the blog, Azoulay invited Nagel: “You are certainly invited to sue me for libel.”
Nagel did not accept Azoulay’s invitation. Instead, Azoulay was charged with “insulting a public servant.” Perhaps this was because a libel suit would have turned out to be a double-edged sword. An individual who is sued for libel can testify he was telling the truth, and Azoulay might have proven he was indeed telling the truth about Nagel and Iron Dome. That is the barb in the current case.
After all, Azoulay’s key claim was that Iron Dome could not protect the communities around the Gaza Strip. And he blamed Nagel, whom he said was aware of this, for recommending Iron Dome regardless.
How can we find out if Azoulay is correct? Simple, ask Nagel on the witness stand.
The reserve brigadier general’s response was nothing short of incredible. “As for your question that Iron Dome cannot protect the communities around the Gaza Strip, I respond: I cannot answer. I know. But I cannot answer.”
Nagel could have simply said, “Yes, Iron Dome can protect the communities around Gaza.” He would not have been revealing some military secret. The results of Operation Pillar of Defense were widely publicized, and Iron Dome became the hero of the operation.
But because Nagel was testifying under oath, he couldn't lie. If he had responded that Iron Dome could not protect the communities around the Gaza Strip, he would have confirmed Azoulay’s claims. What’s to be done? Give a ludicrous answer which in fact reveals the truth.
Yes, of all places, it is a Kiryat Gat courtroom where the truth, which the defense establishment is trying to hide, has come out. Iron Dome cannot protect Sderot and the communities around the Gaza Strip. Everyone should know it, not only the nine people sitting in Judge Lavi’s courtroom.