eliezer Shkedy, air forc.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Eighteen soldiers and two civilians have admitted to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl on an air force base, IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday.
The committee was told that 153 soldiers have been questioned regarding the affair, and at least 62 are suspected of having sexual relations with the teen, who lived with her family on the air force base for nearly two years. Fifty-two of the suspects are soldiers in compulsory service, five are non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and five are civilians who were recently released from the army.
A group of five female MKs, led by Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), requested that the committee meet and hear testimony regarding the rape cases. Those MKs were disappointed, however, when a number of prominent male committee members failed to attend the committee meeting.
"When the defense minister or intelligence chief appears they are all here but when it comes to the rape of a young woman they are suddenly too busy," said Gal-On. "It is a poor reflection on our MKs."
Of the 18 members of the committee, eight MKs attended.
Labor MK Shelly Yacimovich, who helped Gal-On organize the meeting, said that she was also surprised that so many MKs were missing from the session.
"There's no doubt that if we were discussing a security sweep, many of the male members of the committee would have taken the trouble to come," she said. "What worries me about this rape is that it was such a large group of people who thought that their behavior was normal. It reflects that so many can't tell difference between good and bad."
Shkedy said that the air force was dealing with the matter with "great severity." The girl's sexual activities, he said, had begun before she came to the air force base. "This troubles me not just as the head of the IAF, but also just as a man," he added.
The whole affair had been uncovered, Shkedy explained, during a routine investigation of illegal drugs on the base. The girl's name was brought up during the course of the investigation, prompting the base commander, Colonel Erez to contact her family. Although the family assured the commander that their daughter was not involved in illegal activity Erez continued to probe the matter and eventually uncovered the statutory rape cases. Last month, Erez resigned from the base in light of the public outcry over the incident.
Committee Chairman MK Tzahi Hanegbi (Kadima) said that it was a good thing that the behavior was caught within the IAF. "Any other institution couldn't have dealt with it as thoroughly and as competently," said Hanegbi.