35 Israeli soldiers arrested for drug use and trafficking

The IDF amended regulations concerning cannabis use by off-duty soldiers in 2016.

IDF soldiers during a training exercise (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF soldiers during a training exercise
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Several Israeli civilians and 35 soldiers have been detained on suspicion of drug trafficking and use, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit announced on Sunday.
The soldiers were detained following an investigation by the special investigations unit of the Military Police Criminal Investigation Division, which was conducted with the assistance of the Military Advocate General and in cooperation with the Israel Police.
The military said that, while the investigation is still in process, several suspects have already been arrested and will be brought for remand extensions before the military court.
“This activity is only part of a series of steps taken by the IDF to enforce the prohibition against the use of drugs among its soldiers and to exercise the full force of the law against any soldier involved in drug trafficking,” read a statement released by the IDF.
In February, ten soldiers – four females and six males – were arrested after they were found to be in possession of and using drugs. The soldiers, who had all been serving at the officers’ training base in the Negev, were held for questioning after an undercover investigation found that they had been buying, selling and using drugs while on base.
Two years ago, Israel’s military began amending regulations concerning the use of marijuana by off-duty soldiers.
While marijuana will still be prohibited to all IDF service members, soldiers who are found to have the drugs in their system after returning from leave will no longer be automatically court martialed but will face non-criminal and internal disciplinary actions which will be made at the discretion of their commanding officers.
Soldiers will also face a probationary period during which they will have to submit to monthly drug testing. This would avoid criminal proceedings and spare soldiers from having a criminal record while still allowing commanders to penalize their behavior.
“The goal is to allow a second chance,” the IDF Spokesperson was quoted as saying at the time.
According to a recent Epidemiological Survey conducted by the Israel Anti-Drug Authority, 54% of IDF soldiers admitted to having smoked marijuana in the past year.
Despite the increase in the percentage of cannabis use due to the IDF’s new policy, there has been a decrease in the number of drug-related cases opened against soldiers, the report stated, explaining that 745 cases were opened against troops in 2009 when only 11% admitted to smoking cannabis, as compared to 629 indictments in 2014 and 538 in 2017. Most of the indictments were related to marijuana.
While the total number of IDF soldiers imprisoned has declined over the years, some 10,240 soldiers were incarcerated in 2017. Most sentences were not drug related: close to half were imprisoned for desertion and another 20% for going absent without official leave (AWOL), and some even went to jail for crimes such as rape and murder.
Last October, a female IDF soldier who was imprisoned for drug use fell unconscious while being held in a military jail and later died. The 19-year-old soldier, who was arrested in early September for smoking marijuana, was held at Prison 4 in Tzrifin.