A few weeks ago I wrote about the Chief of General Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, Gadi Eizenkot. Following his comments about how his soldiers should behave in the face of the current wave of terror, I wrote: “It is refreshing, especially in this day and age, to hear a senior Israeli leader (and a military one at that) voicing such clear moral statements.”
Today, Eizenkot reinforced my opinion of him. In light of the current tempestuous debate raging in Israel about the shooting of a wounded terrorist in Hebron last week, Eizenkot issued a missive to all IDF soldiers:
Eizenkot quotes David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister: “the fate of Israel is dependent on two things: its might and its righteousness”. He stresses the fundamental values of human rights and proper military ethics. He responds (albeit indirectly) to the accusations that the army leadership has abandoned the soldier by allowing him to be arrested and investigated. He stresses that a soldier who has made a mistake in the heat of battle will receive full support. But, at the same time, a soldier who violates the basic moral values of the army will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. This, he concludes, is essential if we are to preserve the IDF as the “army of the people” in a Jewish democratic state.
We cannot expect soldiers to perform their duty while constantly looking behind their backs to check if they have the proper support for their actions. That would be a disaster. No army can operate this way. Our soldiers need to be allowed to make mistakes, so long as their intent is in line with the spirit of the IDF and the values of the country they serve. Eizenkot made it very clear that if the soldier acted in error – out of fear, or because of a wrong assessment of the situation – he will be forgiven. And rightly so. Yet Eizenkot made it equally clear that soldiers who perform an action over which the “black flag of illegality” is flying, they will not go unpunished. Given the overwhelming public opinion in Israel today, such a statement is not a trivial thing.
I feel encouraged and honoured to have Eizenkot lead the army in which my son is currently serving. He is indeed a commander who is up to the task.