As the Israeli military continues to grapple with cases of sexual assault, data shown to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee revealed that despite thousands of complaints. only 31 indictments were filed in 2020.
The IDF released figures of sexual assault for 2020 in February of last year. A total of 1,542 complaints were made, including 26 cases of rape, 391 obscene acts, and 92 cases of distributing photos and videos.
In comparison, there were 1,239 complaints filed in 2019, and 514 complaints filed in 2012.
About 50% of the offenders were conscript soldiers, 29% were career officers and NCOs, and the rest were civilian employees of the IDF, reservists or contractors.
According to the report, 50% of the complainants requested that the military not prosecute the offender, 22 of the cases were closed, and 51 offenders were prosecuted disciplinarily, compared to 31 in 2016.
“We’ve recently been exposed to the phenomenon of serious sexual harassment in the IDF, and it is our duty to make sure that this serious and dangerous phenomenon is eradicated,” said committee chairman MK Ram Ben Barak (Yesh Atid).
During the discussion on Tuesday, Labor MK Emillie Moatti highlighted the ongoing failures in the IDF’s handling of sexual assault within its ranks, including with harassers returning to work even though legal proceedings were not yet over.
“There were more than 1,500 complaints a year about sexual harassment in the IDF, and these are just a few that dare to complain,” she said.
Brig.-Gen. Ella Shad-Shechtman, the chief of staff’s adviser on gender affairs, told the committee that the increase in the reports is due to an increase in awareness and the confidence of female soldiers in the military.
“There is no case that comes to our door, from a verbal remark to the most difficult cases, that we do not handle properly,” she said. “The IDF takes every case of harassment seriously, and the establishment of a Mahut Center is part of it and provides a response, accompanies victims, and is an address for emotional and physical treatment as well as legal advice.”
The Mahut Center supports victims of family violence, abusive relationships, sexual violence or pregnant soldiers. It also handles cases that took place before a soldier enlists, if requested by a complainant.
“We are an organization that learns; we are constantly improving and examining ourselves. Along with the many steps that have been taken, there are other programs that we are promoting in order to implement the chief of staff’s policy on the subject,” she added.
A report released by the military last February noted that the numbers represented an “exceptional increase in scope, since in the last decade there has been an average annual increase of 11% in reports, whereas 2020 saw double that, 24%. A similar rise was seen in 2018, which was attributed to the #MeToo social media campaign.”
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi has said that any sexual assault in the military, “in speech or in deed, is an attack on human dignity and constitutes a severe breach [of army protocol],” and vowed to eradicate the issue.
But despite Kohavi’s comments, complaints regarding sexual assault continue to come forth, including against a former officer who was recently indicted for secretly filming female soldiers in intimate situations over the course of several years and on different bases where he served.
Dan Sharoni, who led the IDF’s driving academy, was removed from his position after it was discovered he filmed female soldiers in their barracks and other private areas using hidden cameras. He is also suspected of illegally copying intimate photos of female soldiers under his command to his own cellphone.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit did not respond by press time.