Last summer, the IDF top brass convened for a daylong conference in an air force
base in central Israel. The day was supposed to be about the IDF’s multi-year
procurement plan that was in the final stages of approval and to brief the
officers on intelligence assessments for the coming year.
however, was scheduled just a couple of weeks after “Nakba Day” in May when
about 100 Syrians breached the border fence and crossed into Israel. Gantz
decided that the commander of the IDF division in charge of the border,
Brig.-Gen. Tamir Hyman, would present the findings from his investigation into
the failure to stop the crossing to the group. Afterwards, Gantz even
complimented Hyman for conducting such a thorough investigation.
officers recalled this story on Wednesday following Gantz’s decision to dismiss
Lt.-Col. Shalom Eisner from his post as deputy commander of the Jordan
Valley Brigade after he was caught on tape slamming an M-16 rifle in the face of
a Danish pro-Palestinian protester in the West Bank.
But one could be
excused for asking what the difference was between what Eisner did and Hyman’s
failure to stop 100 Syrians from violating Israel’s sovereignty.
answer is what Gantz has tried to make clear since his first day as chief of
staff some 15 months ago: Operational mistakes will be forgiven as long as the
necessary lessons are learned. Ethical flaws, moral breakdowns and a violation
of the IDF code though, will not be tolerated at all.
was demonstrated two months ago when Gantz dismissed another senior officer for
falsifying a report. That was the case of Lt.-Col. Muli Cohen, commander of
Battalion 74, who accidentally left a soldier behind following an operation in a
Palestinian village in the West Bank.
Senior officers later explained
that had Cohen taken responsibility, told the truth about the mistake and proven
that he had learned the necessary lessons, he likely would have remained in his
post. Instead though, after he tried to cover it up, Gantz decided to fire
This is the basic message that Gantz was trying to transmit
throughout the IDF ranks on Wednesday with his decision to dismiss Eisner:
Ethical mistakes will not be tolerated.
In recent years, the military has
invested in mentally preparing soldiers and officers for deployments in the West
Bank where they face not only routine counter-terror operations but also daily
friction with a hostile population and foreign activists.
While the IDF
stressed this week that Eisner’s actions were part of an isolated incident, it
would do well to study the video of him slamming an M-16 in the Danish
activist’s face and try to understand what brought a senior officer to lose
control the way Eisner did.