(photo credit: CHANNEL 2)
Former Givati Brigade battalion commander Lt.-Col. Liran Hajbi pleaded to the Tel Aviv Military Court on Thursday to keep his rank despite a conviction for inappropriate sexual misconduct with a much lower ranking female soldier, including kissing her against her will.
“I know that I did not act appropriately, that I crossed a line,” Hajbi told the court, which will soon decide his sentence including whether to demote him. At the same time, he argued his recent expulsion from the IDF was a harsh enough punishment, saying, “Enough, others have also crossed the line.”
He refused to apologize to May Fatal, toward whom he was convicted of acting sexually inappropriately, saying “I am not afraid to apologize,” but that he would not do so to Fatal because she overly sensationalized what he had done.
Fatal has loudly condemned the IDF for giving Hajbi a plea bargain in March that was too lenient, whereas it should be more concerned about setting an example for powerful commanders in how they relate to young female soldiers.
The final conviction was framed around inappropriate conduct of a sexual character instead of harsher charges such as indecent sexual misconduct, sexual harassment or sexual assault.
The charges reflected a negotiation that would allow the IDF and Hajbi to avoid a drawnout and embarrassing trial, in which his initial claims of consent would have been put to the test.
In December 2014, Hajbi’s superior officer, Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter, was questioned in a probe over whether he helped cover up sexual-harassment allegations in his unit against Hajbi.
Then-IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz promised to spare no effort in rooting out any wrongdoing, but Winter was eventually let off with a rebuke and a slap on the wrist.
Hajbi was forced out of the military.
He was accused of indecent acts against two female soldiers, with his family and lawyer defending his conduct on and off the battlefield, and a rape victims association condemning his alleged problematic behavior.