More than 250 reserve officers and combat soldiers sent a letter to the IDF Chief of Staff in which they demand “an end to this madness and a stop to the wave of criminal investigations by military police against commanders and fighters who served in Protective Edge.” About a month ago, Chief Military Advocate General Danny Efroni to launch a military police investigation over the killing of dozens of civilians in a series of incidents during the summer operations. In recent days, the IDF’s top legal counsel has mulled opening a case against the officers and soldiers who tried to prevent the kidnapping incident in which Major Benaya Sarel, Lt. Hadar Goldin, and Staff Sergeant Liel Gidoni were killed.
Those behind the letter believe that an investigation of the events should be conducted at the command level by senior officers who know the territory and the nature of the operations, and not by jurists.
“The day a soldier is recruited into the army they teach him the importance and value of commanders’ investigation, then – after a complicated military operation – they put the emphasis on the criminal investigation by military police,” said (res.) Maj. Kobi Lior, a deputy commander of a reserve infantry brigade and one of the letter’s initiators – as well as a lawyer in the civilian world. Lt. Col. (res.) Shiri Gal, the commander of a reserve infantry brigade, added: “We do not need to justify ourselves to folk who – with all due respect – were never in the battlefield.” The signatories to the letter warned that the fear of a criminal investigation will damage the ability of combat soldiers and officers to function in the next campaign. “In recent years there is the tendency to drag IDF officers and soldiers into the legal realm,” said Lior. “We think it discourages and weakens the resolve of fighters and officers. I was investigated by military police a few times and – even though I knew I had not deviated from the boundaries – it was an uncomfortable feeling. When I am in a tight spot in combat I should not be thinking about being investigated at a criminal level the day I come back,” he added. Lt. Col. (res.) Uri Shechter, a deputy commander of a Nahal reserve brigade, said that “unlike other operations like Cast Lead or even the Marmara – when the military leadership took on the investigations – this time the upper echelon left the commanders who were on the front to face the military police alone.” The signatories do not oppose military police investigations in principle.”Looting, robbery, and other criminal acts need to be investigated,” said Lt. Col. Shechter. “But there is no reason for a criminal investigation into decisions related to the fighting which were taken by the commanders.
It must be noted that the IDF Chief of Staff does not have the authority to order the chief Military Advocate General to launch a criminal investigation or end such a probe.