Abuse, neglect complaints by lone soldiers against commanders on the rise

“The commissioner will continue to serve as a protector of soldiers’ rights and for this purpose it will strengthen the necessary interconnections with the IDF,” stated the report.

August 14, 2019 03:47
2 minute read.
President Rivlin celebrating Pesach Seder with lone soldiers,April 19, 2019.

President Rivlin celebrating Pesach Seder with lone soldiers,April 19, 2019.. (photo credit: TZALAMIM BE'KLIK)

There was an increase in the number of complaints of abuse filed by haredim (ultra-Orthodox) and lone soldiers against commanding officers in 2018, according to the 47th annual report by the Commissioner of Soldiers’ Complaints.

The complaints included physical and verbal abuse, and inappropriate commands and discussions, including those on WhatsApp.

Of the complaints, around 61% were found to be justified, according to the report, which was presented to Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Avi Dichter, on Monday.

In one specific case, a lone soldier complained about bureaucracy and the inordinate amount of time that it took to receive the benefits he deserved as a soldier without parents in the country. In this case and others, the commissioner warned that if they are not dealt with speedily and effectively, it could lead to impaired motivation and a lack of confidence in the military.

The report also found that an increased number of complaints dealt with decisions made by commanders outside of their authority about a soldier’s medical condition, with some of the incidents leading to risks to their health. The complaints included reports of commanders preventing soldiers from accessing military medical centers, failures to implement medical guidelines, exemptions granted to soldiers that were never honored and more.

Of the complaints received, many notable incidents were reported where commanders delayed a soldier’s referral to a mental health officer because of their mistaken belief that they must first write a commander’s referral for their subordinates to go.

In many of these cases, the commanders argued that the burden they were under prevented them from writing these referrals in a timely manner, which led to a delay in soldiers getting to mental health officers. The complaints showed that although a written referral is desirable, commanders are not aware that this is not required.

The commissioner stressed that the commander has the duty and responsibility to ensure that his soldiers receive their rights in accordance with army orders.

In the last 12 months, four lone soldiers have committed suicide while on active duty.
The report stressed that the IDF should study the central issues where soldiers and commanders have difficulties in exercising their rights and the necessary conditions of service. The commission stressed that “This is not luxury, but basic infrastructure, and it is the foundation of a significant and honorable military service that gives IDF soldiers the recognition of the importance and appreciation they need to fulfill their mission and their role in the military.”

Valuable commanders are defined as those whose subordinates see their actions as a personal example of “from me you will see and such will you do,” according to the report. Their actions and decisions would be accepted by the soldiers because they are considered to be logical, reasonable and insightful.

A valuable commander’s commitment to care for the individual “does not fall short of their commitment to success on the battlefield.”

“In this way, the commander harnesses the soldier to act for the military, while strengthening his spirit and sense of commitment,” added the report. “The commissioner will continue to serve as a protector of soldiers’ rights, and for this purpose, it will strengthen the necessary interconnections with the IDF.”

Anna Ahronheim contributed to this report.

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