The Ministerial Committee on Legislation voted Monday in favor of a proposed law permitting any soldier or citizen to file a civil lawsuit against a person or an entity for defaming the IDF.
The proposed law, if it clears all remaining hurdles, would remove the requirement for special approval from the attorney-general for an individual soldier or even an uninvolved citizen to sue on behalf of the IDF.
The proposed law was formulated in response to the documentary Jenin, Jenin, which was very critical of the IDF.
One of the law’s sponsors, Likud MK Yariv Levin, said the approval was “an important step toward guarding the dignity and honor of IDF soldiers.”
He added that the proposed law “will put an end to the open season on the blood and good names of our fighters, imposing an appropriate price on the creators of false propaganda like the documentary Jenin, Jenin.”
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Health Minister Yael German voted against the proposed law.
A Livni spokeswoman explained her opposition as not only being about “free speech, but also there could be a boomerang effect – instead of strengthening the IDF, the bill could weaken it.”
She added, “We don’t want every citizen to decide when the IDF has been harmed, this is the duty of the IDF and the IDF can defend itself.”
Additionally, there was an implication that the law could mistakenly convince others that the IDF is doing something wrong, whereas if the assumption is that the IDF is doing its job properly, no such law is necessary.
During the hearing, a spectrum of solutions were suggested, from only allowing soldiers from a specific unit to bring a claim on behalf of their unit, to extending the right of any citizen to sue for defamation to include filing on behalf of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and the police.
Im Tirzu (a political activist group) issued a press release praising the vote, saying that the law implemented “the unwritten, but obligatory, contract between the IDF and civilian society and representatives of the public, which dictates that IDF soldiers will be ready to risk their lives so that every Israeli citizen can live and for the State of Israel to continue to exist.”
The statement added that, “as a price for this sacrifice of time, and if necessary, of a soldier’s life” there is a duty to “defend them in the parliamentary, judicial and public arenas.”