Israel Defense Forces commanders and they alone will determine the norms and values of the military, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi declared on Wednesday amid the controversy surrounding last week’s altercation between two soldiers and far-left provocateurs in Hebron.
“We will not allow any politician, not from the right or the left, to intervene in commanders’ decisions and to exploit the military to promote a political agenda,” said Kochavi.
During the incident, a soldier was filmed praising Otzma Yehudit head Itamar Ben-Gvir, saying the prospective public security minister would “sort things out around here,” and that “you guys have lost…the fun is over.”
When one of the activists asked whether what he was doing was illegal, the soldier replied, “Everything you do is illegal. I am the law.”
A second soldier was filmed wrestling another activist to the ground and punching him in the head.
Meanwhile, the two Israelis who were part of the group harassing the troops were placed under five days’ house arrest on Sunday and instructed not to return to Hebron for two weeks after being questioned on suspicion of assault and disturbing the peace.
A third activist was banned from the city for two weeks but was not sentenced to house arrest.
The members of the far-left Breaking the Silence organization have been interviewed by police numerous times since Friday regarding their role in the confrontation.
Kochavi’s comments on Wednesday came after Ben-Gvir criticized the IDF’s decision to suspend the soldiers and sentence one to 10 days in military prison as excessive.
Earlier Wednesday, the IDF published the results of its inquiry into the incident, conducted by the head of the Central Command, Maj. Gen. Yehuda Fuchs.
While the report found that the soldiers’ battalion “has been carrying out operational activities in the Judea Brigade [in charge of Hebron] in recent months in a professional, operational and successful manner,” it noted several mistakes.
“The inquiry points to a number of errors, the first of which is that the soldiers acted out of poor judgment and against what is expected of them, using unnecessary physical and verbal violence. Additionally, the soldier’s decision to detain the civilian without his commander’s approval was an error,” the inquiry concluded.
“Moreover, a dedicated task force should be present in such situations in order to handle them appropriately, such as the Israel Police or the Israel Border Police. Such a force was not present in this incident. According to the findings of the inquiry, the violent behavior towards the civilian was unacceptable. Furthermore, the soldier is not permitted to express himself in an inappropriate manner while expressing a political affiliation,” stated the report.
Commenting on the report, Kochavi said on Wednesday, “The values of the IDF and the orders of its commanders are the only factors that dictate the unit’s missions, its methods of operation, the behavior of its soldiers and its character. The responsibility of maintaining the professional and ethical level of the unit lies exclusively with the commanders of the IDF. IDF soldiers and the soldiers of the Tzabar Battalion conduct their activities under complex circumstances in a manner worthy of appreciation. The incident in question is abnormal and is being resolved by the commanders, and I fully support and trust the commanding officer of the battalion.”
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