Analysis: Ethical breaches and accidents are eroding public's faith in the IDF

The army is in the midst of a moral and ethical crisis.

Eli Marom 248 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eli Marom 248 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
There is no question that the IDF is in the midst of a crisis. Not a security one - this summer has so far been one of the quietest in recent years - but a moral and ethical crisis revolving around several incidents of misconduct by senior officers that is slowly eating away at the public's faith in its military. The crisis can be traced back to March when Adm. Eliezer Marom, commander of the Israel Navy, was discovered to be a frequent visitor to a Tel Aviv strip club. In June came the demotion to colonel of former Gaza Division commander Brig.-Gen. Moshe Tamir, who allowed his underage son to drive a military ATV and then claimed to have been the driver in a subsequent accident report. Then came the appointment of Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the military attaché in Washington DC, as the next deputy chief of staff, an appointment reported to have been forced upon Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. As a result, relations between Ashkenazi and one of the other candidates for the job - OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Yoav Galant - have hit an all-time low. Last month was the Armored Corps turn, when Brigade 188 came under scrutiny after reports and images revealed violent hazing rituals in one of the battalions, during which new recruits were beaten and humiliated. Pictures and footage showed the troops blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs. The bodies of some of the soldiers showed signs of severe physical abuse. Earlier this month, two soldiers were killed in accidents. One was a tank commander whose tank overturned as it crossed a temporary bridge during a training exercise in the Golan Heights. The other, a Golani soldier, was killed in his tent after he was shot in the back by a fellow soldier who was allegedly playing with his gun in an adjacent tent. Last week we had more incidents of vehicle misuse. Two officers, Brig.-Gen. Imad Faris, who coincidentally was completing his term as commander of the Galilee Division, and deputy commander of the Edom Division, Col. Yisrael Danieli, got into trouble for allowing their spouses to drive their military-issue cars against regulations. Faris probably committed the more severe infraction, since he lied to his direct commander - Maj.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot - by claiming that he was in the car when his wife was driving and was involved in a car accident. After confessing his lie, Faris - who was seen as likely to become the next Druse general to make it to the General Staff - resigned from military service. Last, but not least, was the story that broke on Thursday about a soldier who served as a security guard at the Kirya Military Headquarters in Tel Aviv, and succeeded in gaining access to one of the most-secured offices and stealing the credit card number of a top IDF general. The soldier, who apparently had a criminal record prior to his service, was also behind the theft of three weapons and their sale to Israeli Arab criminals. While these incidents are not directly linked to one another, there does seem to be a pattern of senior officers who think they are above adhering to military regulations, and who are willing to lie to their superiors. As a military based on a mandatory draft that is already facing dwindling numbers, the IDF cannot afford more damage to its image. On the one hand, the army has done right by bringing these incidents to the public's attention, but it also must figure out how to prevent the next general from lying or the next junior commander from abusing recruits. This has primarily to do with education, but also with ensuring that the IDF remembers its place in society. Several decades ago many of these cases would never have made headlines, but society has changed and military service can no longer be taken for granted. As Ashkenazi said last week at the graduation ceremony at the IDF's Staff and Command College, "From my familiarity with IDF commanders I have no doubt that the fate of our children is being deposited in worthy hands. But this is something that we have to prove every morning anew - that we really are worthy to bear the responsibility that lays on our shoulders. "This is the only way that we can safeguard the IDF's special place in the hearts of Israel's citizens; only this way can we safeguard the trust that the public has put in its military and only this way can we fulfill out destiny - to protect the State of Israel," he concluded. Hopefully, IDF commanders were listening.