High Court rejects petition by bereaved parents

Parents of fallen IDF soldier St.-Sgt. Kobi Smileg lose petition against Major Eli Michelson, who they claim did not do enough to save their son.

By RON FRIEDMAN
June 26, 2011 19:41
2 minute read.
IDF soldiers on patrol

IDF soldiers. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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The High Court rejected on Sunday a petition submitted by the bereaved parents of St.-Sgt. Kobi Smileg, who was killed in the Battle of Bint Jbail during the Second Lebanon War on July 24, 2006.

The petition, submitted by Eliezer and Flora Smileg in July 2009, asked the court to order disciplinary action be taken against Maj. Eli Michelson, who they claim did not do enough to save their son.

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Smileg was killed near the southern Lebanese Hezbollah stronghold of Bint Jbail after the tank he was driving was hit by an anti-tank missile.

Smileg served in the same tank as the battalion commander leading the battle.

The tank had entered the combat zone at the head of a large force that was sent to save wounded soldiers, when it was itself fired upon.

Both Smileg and the battalion commander were injured, and Michelson, who was in another tank, took control of the rescue effort.

Despite Michelson’s efforts, the evacuation, which was conducted under heavy fire, took three hours, and Smileg was announced dead by the battalion doctor.

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The parents based their petition on a report issued by an investigative committee headed by Maj.-Gen.

Gershon Hacohen, who submitted the findings to then- Chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi a month before the parents filed their petition.

The report detailed a list of Michelson’s alleged professional and moral failures, stating that any discussion on Michelson’s promotion must take the report’s findings into account.

However, a later investigation into Michelson’s actions by a special investigatory commission that convened in response to a request by Smileg’s parents, found that “the deputy battalion commander acted according to IDF protocol and did what was expected of him considering the circumstances.”

Nevertheless, the parents filed the petition asking the court to intervene in the chief of staff’s decision not to discipline Michelson.

The state opposed the petition, saying that the decision not to discipline Michelson was reached after extensive investigation that found the accusations to be unjustified, adding that a professional decision was made by the IDF commander, and therefore, the court had no cause to intervene.

Justice Eliezer Rivlin sided with the state, ruling that Ashkenazi’s decision was reached in a reasonable way, after sufficient examination of the incident, and could not justify intervention by the court.

“There is no doubt in our hearts that the petitioners are pained not only by the death of their beloved son, but also by the knowledge of his final hours,” Rivlin wrote. “The heartfelt words of Mr. Smileg in the hearing held before us penetrated our hearts.

“The humane desire is to ease the pain of the petitioners.

However, our power is limited. We have no power to intervene in a decision that doesn’t exceed reasonable bounds,” Rivlin continued. “The battle where their son fell was a courageous one. Nothing will bring back what they lost. The legal front has limits of its own.”

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