IDF chief to soldiers: We'll back those who err, but not those who violate our ethics

Eisenkot highlighted the importance of the IDF's role in its mission to ensure peace for Israeli citizens, both in the battlefield and on the homefront as well.

Gadi Eisenkot (photo credit: REUTERS)
Gadi Eisenkot
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The military will continue to support every soldier who has made a mistake in the heat of battle, against an enemy that endangers the lives of civilians and soldiers, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said on Wednesday.
At the same time he added, “We will not hesitate to bring to justice soldiers and commanders who have transgressed the operational and moral boundaries in which we operate. Safeguarding the IDF’s values is not a right but a duty, in order to safeguard the IDF as the people’s military, in a Jewish and democratic state,” he said.
Eisenkot made the remark in a letter sent to all commanders and soldiers amid the controversy surrounding the fatal shooting of a downed terrorist by a soldier in Hebron last week.
In the letter, he stressed the need to both act with determination against threats, and maintain the purity of arms.
“The people’s eyes look to you in expectation of security, and to keeping the moral image of the IDF within the center of the national consensus,” Eisenkot wrote.
He said that “in recent months, we have been dealing with severe acts of terrorism against Israeli civilians aimed at undermining the state of Israel’s strength. The IDF’s mission is to ensure the safety of the citizens and residents of the country, on the battlefield and on the home front. The IDF is prepared to act with determination and dedication in any arena, and does so with absolute freedom of operation, using all required means to meet our missions.”
Eisenkot expressed pride in the soldiers, whom he said he sees “on my tours on the ground, striving to engage, and ready to sacrifice yourselves to protect the homeland.”
The fate of Israel depends on its power and its righteousness, Eisenkot said, quoting the first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. The values of purity of arms and respecting human dignity have been central to the IDF since its founding, he said, adding that they are based on the ancient Jewish tradition of a “life-seeking nation.”
“In every mission and in every situation we must act in an professional manner, while activating focused, measured and reasonable force, to meet our missions and stay loyal to our values,” the chief of staff said.
On Tuesday, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon fired back against attacks from right-wing ministers and politicians who accused him and senior IDF commanders of abandoning soldiers.
During a visit to military’s Central Command, Ya’alon told commanders that it is their duty to “prevent dark winds from the outside influencing us,” adding, “There is a struggle here over the character and image of the State of Israel and Israeli society in a way that influences the IDF. It is important that the IDF remains as a stable anchor, and that it continues to safeguard norms and values.”
He also condemned an “ugly wave” which he said “is being caused by an extreme minority” as well as “political elements.”