A Watershed Moment for the IDF –by Tomer Persico

images-44Prime Minister Netanyahu’s phone call to the father of the Hebron soldier-executioner  who killed a neutralized Palestinian in Hebron last week is indeed a terrible political low blow. His act is blatant interference by the political leadership in military affairs and meddling in the judicial process. His phone call not only disregards appropriate rules of governance, it also undermines the IDF’s ethical code and its moral standards. It is important to remember that this is a case of a soldier who arrived on the scene ten minutes after an attack, and according to witnesses, said that he was going to kill the terrorist because “he deserves to die.” On pictures taken at the time he was seen aiming at the head of the terrorist from a distance of two meters and then shooting even though the person had been on the ground and was not a threat.

We could discuss Netanyahu’s state of panic, the devious way that he has allowed poll ratings to dictate his behavior, the lack of judgment and the lack of immaturity that the prime minister displays. We could and must talk about the breaking of IDF’s ethical standards. But first and foremost we understand the significance that this act holds for the future. Should the soldier, despite the unequivocal evidence of his guilt, be released without punishment, the IDF would be turned into an armed mob. Every soldier would clearly understand that even with fully recorded evidence of him executing an apprehended terrorist, and even if he’s been heard saying that he intends to shoot a helpless man in cold blood, the state will make sure that he will not be held responsible.

And that means that we will have to expect many more cases of shooting apprehended terrorists and probably also shooting anyone suspected of terrorism. And it would include those who are clearly not terrorists, but have somehow annoyed a hotheaded soldier. These kinds of cases will be filmed. And these horrific films will inflame the region and incite revenge attacks. And these pictures will bring the world to loathe Israel more, and bring about a harsher treatment of Israel.  For the IDF it will mean being under increasing pressure, not only because of the escalation in terrorism, but because tempers will flare in Israel, demanding revenge. The IDF will have a hard time functioning because it will cease to be an organized army, its discipline will erode and combat commands would not be followed; the IDF’s ethical code will be trashed. Every person will do as he sees fit. And on it will go.

The Hebron soldier-executer is a watershed moment in the military history of Israel.  So much hangs in the balance, on the way the soldier will be treated and the outcome of his trial.

The article was first posted on the Partners for Progressive Israel Blog and translated from the Hebrew by Maya Haber.