(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Subcommittee on Lawfare chairwoman Tzipi Livni called to defend IDF soldiers and commanders facing legal challenges abroad Wednesday, while distancing herself from critics of Breaking the Silence.
The subcommittee meeting, held behind closed doors, dealt with the claims made by people abroad when they petition for arrest warrants against IDF commanders, what the IDF does with the warrants, and how Israel can prevent soldiers being put on trial or defend them better.
Livni (Zionist Union) invited IDF officers to the meeting who spoke out against Breaking the Silence, an NGO that collects testimony from former IDF soldiers.
Many of the Breaking the Silence testimonies include claims that Israel committed war crimes. The group has long been controversial for its questionable methodology, frequently unsubstantiated and unverifiable allegations, and its practice of airing its claims abroad instead of bringing them to the Israeli legal system.
In recent weeks, since President Reuven Rivlin spoke at a conference in which a Breaking the Silence representative participated in a separate panel, politicians, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have vocally criticized the organization.
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Education Minister Naftali Bennett banned the IDF and schools, respectively, from cooperating with Breaking the Silence. A petition against Breaking the Silence initiated by Yesh Atid garnered signatures from 60 MKs and more than 600 IDF officers and combat soldiers.
Right-wing NGO Im Tirtzu launched a controversial campaign against organizations that it called “plants” of foreign governments in Israel, including Breaking the Silence.
“I invited to the beginning of the meeting officers and soldiers who complained that materials from Israel are being funneled to hostile elements,” Livni said, “but this committee will not turn into an arena for tussling or a tool for bashing one another.”
Livni spoke out against the “difficult public atmosphere in recent weeks against certain Israeli organizations,” saying the goal of the committee meeting is “to have a professional discussion as to how all of us can better defend IDF soldiers and commanders.”
“The committee is meant to defend all soldiers and not to be a platform for struggles between soldiers with different [political] stances,” she added.