Ben-Gvir: Chief of Staff should 'think twice' about punishing Givati soldier

A Givati Brigade soldier has been sentenced to 10 days in prison for his role in the attack of left-wing activists in Hebron.

 Israeli soldiers stand guard during a Palestinian protest near the Jewish settlement of Elon Moreh,east of Nablus, in the West Bank, November 25, 2022.  (photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)
Israeli soldiers stand guard during a Palestinian protest near the Jewish settlement of Elon Moreh,east of Nablus, in the West Bank, November 25, 2022.
(photo credit: NASSER ISHTAYEH/FLASH90)

An IDF soldier from the Givati infantry brigade has been sentenced to 10 days in jail for cursing at a left-wing activist in Hebron, Israeli media reported on Tuesday morning.

The soldier is one of the five IDF soldiers that had been suspended after videos emerged of them beating and verbally abusing left-wing activists in Hebron over the weekend.

Videos from the scene showed one of the left-wing activists being grabbed in a chokehold by an IDF soldier he had walked away from moments before. The soldier then threw him to the ground and punched him in the face.

An additional video showed the now-sentenced soldier telling a separate group of activists that “[Otzma Yehudit head Itamar] Ben-Gvir will create order here. You’ve lost it. All you do here is finished, the whole brothel you make here.”

When the activist asked if he was doing anything against the law, the soldier responded “you do everything against the law. I decide what the law is and you are acting against the law.”

 HEAD OF THE Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives at the scene of Wednesday’s bombing at the exit to Jerusalem (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) HEAD OF THE Otzma Yehudit party MK Itamar Ben-Gvir arrives at the scene of Wednesday’s bombing at the exit to Jerusalem (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

In response to the news of the soldier's suspension, national security minister-designate Ben-Gvir said that the punishment "weakens the hands of the soldiers and does not strengthen them in the fight against terrorism," adding that he finds it "very unfortunate that a soldier who suffered harassment was sent to prison, just for mentioning my name."

Later on Tuesday morning, Ben-Gvir published a video alongside the father of the sentenced soldier, saying he had paid a visit to the family in order to show his support for them and their son.

"I demand that the chief of staff and the entire command think twice about this punishment," the Otzma Yehudit leader says in his recorded statement. "It can't be that anarchists come along and curse, spit and attack our heroic soldiers."

He continued, saying that the soldiers could be taken aside and told to react more proportionally to the unfolding situation but that sending them to prison for 10 days is not the appropriate punishment.

"It's not reasonable, it's disproportionate, it's not right, it's inappropriate," he said of the sentencing. 

"Our job is to support our fighters to support our soldiers, and I demand that the army think twice about this punishment. It's a very bad message."

Otzma Yehudit leader MK Itamar Ben-Gvir with the father of the Givati Brigade soldier who was sentenced to 10 days of prison for violence against left-wing activists, Nov. 29, 2022. (OTZMA YEHUDIT)

Eli Levy, the father of the jailed soldier, stressed his support for his son's actions, saying: "I sent my son to fight, to be a fighter, for the sake of the people of Israel. We saw how, for a whole year, day and night, the boy gave himself up for this role. To our great regret, his anarchist brothers came and cursed him, humiliated him, spat on him, led him to make political statements."

Criticism of Ben-Gvir's comments

Outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid took to Twitter shortly after Ben-Gvir's statement, criticizing the Otzma Yehudit leader and his support of the Givati soldier.

"The incoming government presents: Itamar Ben-Gvir - the National Security Minister who is convicted of supporting terrorism, a target of the Shin Bet, and now begins his role by fighting against the IDF and slandering his commanders," he wrote.

Shas MK Moshe Arbel also criticized Ben-Gvir's statement, urging him to "leave the IDF out of political discourse."

Addressing the Otzma Yehudit leader as "my friend" Arbel said that "in no way should an IDF soldier in uniform be allowed to speak out in favor of any one party" in the way that the Givati soldier did.

"The beloved soldiers and fighters of the IDF who are guarding our country must at least be one level above the political businessmen," he added.

Former IDF chief of staff and no. 3 on the National Unity Party list MK Gadi Eisenkot commented on the incident during an interview at the Israel Democracy Institute conference, saying that "the behavior of the future coalition undermines the authority of command in the IDF, harms public trust and may lead to the disbanding of the army."