IDF Brig.-Gen. (res.) Ofek Buchris.
(photo credit: ELI DASSA)
Women’s rights groups condemned on Thursday the plea deal offered to Brig.-Gen.
Ofek Buchris, who stands accused of sexual offenses against junior officers, and will likely face no jail time for his actions.
“The emerging plea agreement with Buchris is outrageous.
The strong denials of Buchris have been revealed as nonsense, and here the revered officer admitted to past serious sexual offenses against his junior officers,” said Orit Sulitzeanu, chairwoman of the Association for Rape Crisis Centers in Israel.
“It cannot be that such a senior officer would escape without significant punishment; it is inconceivable that he will not pay for what he committed and that he will not spend time behind bars,” she said.
She added: “It is unclear why the rape charge was removed and why it was decided to devise a plea deal that constitutes a slap in the face to the brave women who dared to complain.”
Buchris on Thursday abandoned his flat denial of any sexual connection to the two complainants, admitting in a plea bargain to consensual but prohibited sexual relations multiple times with complainant “A.” He also admitted to improper conduct in his treatment of complainant “L.”
Buchris, an acclaimed general who was on track to compete to be IDF chief of staff, was indicted in July on three counts of rape and 13 counts of other sex crimes, allegedly committed between July 2012 and January 2013, against a junior soldier and a junior officer under his command.
The deal drops the more serious rape charge and the threat of prison time, sufficing instead with a suspended sentence and a reduction in rank, but it also squelches any claim he could make that there was no sexual connection between him and the complainants.
Under threat from the complainants that they would urge the IDF court to reject the plea bargain if Buchris tried to downplay his admission as a tactical move that he did not agree with but signed to avoid jail time, the former general issued a public statement taking full responsibility.
“After various reports, I would like to clarify that my admission to the indictment is full and I take full responsibility for the actions specified there,” Buchris wrote in the letter. He also wrote that he did not endorse statements made by those claiming to be his victims to the media, but it appeared that the complainants would accept his publicly taking responsibility.
Gila Oshrat, chairwoman of the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO) Israel, also released a statement denouncing the plea deal.
“The plea agreement in question will mean that every senior IDF commander who took advantage of his rank, power and influence and inflicted serious harm on a young female soldier who trusted him, will not be liable for the full extent of his guilt,” she said.
“The Buchris affair creates a precedent contrary to the way in which the IDF system should work, by differentially punishing those who have transgressed,” Oshrat noted.
MK Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin (Zionist Union), who spoke about having been sexually harassed in the past in a TV interview earlier this year, said that some workplaces are a “battlefield” for women.
“Like in a battle, with sexual violence we must fight hard in order to deter future harassers,” she stated. “Forgiving punishments, as in the case of Ofek Buchris, harms the victims and legitimizes the future harassers and assaulters.
The time has come to be less forgiving and demand appropriate punishments for every attacker, regardless of his position or rank. These are our daughters! When did they become the enemy?” Actress and model Gal Gadot, the next Wonder Woman, took to Facebook on Wednesday in an uncharacteristic and heated post against the plea arrangement.
“How can it be!? He was charged with 17 (!) counts of sexual offenses and it doesn’t warrant prison? So long as he retired in time from the IDF so his army pension won’t be affected,” she wrote sarcastically.
“To read and not to believe. A senior commander of the IDF. Where is justice? How should those who were harmed by him feel!? How are other women who have been harmed by others supposed to feel when they see how the justice system functions?!? This is just enraging,” Gadot wrote.