Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister: “We have an obligation to protect our soldiers”

With the country still seething over the Military Tribunal’s conviction of Sgt. Elor Azaria for shooting a terrorist who was perceived to be subdued, Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan has proposed a new bill protecting soldiers from criminal convictions is found in similar situations.

According to the bill, security forces shall not “bear criminal responsibility, nor be interrogated with a warning and will be immune from any legal proceedings due to actions they carried out or refrained from carrying out, and all before, after, and during an operational activity or terrorist attack that was not part of the day-to-day operational activities of the unit in which he/she works or serves.”

The soldier can still lose his or her immunity under the bill by abusing the bill’s mandate. “Any soldier accused of looting, destruction of property, accepting bribes, bullying or sexual offenses would not be immune to criminal prosecution.”

In a statement given to The Jerusalem Post, Ben-Dahan said that “the law sends a clear message to IDF soldiers that just as they protect us, we are protecting them.”

“The law allows IDF soldiers [to] perform their duties in defending the State of Israel fearlessly and with no concern of potential criminal prosecution while providing a stipulation which allows for the removal of the immunity if violations of the rules occur,” Ben-Dahan added. “In recent years we have seen too many soldiers and commanders suffer from a delay of justice, with long trials, and then finally be acquitted just because there are no clear legal or ethical statements that we are protecting them while they carry out their duties. As someone who served as a major in the army I’m sure it will help our soldiers. I have no doubt that MKs will support the law. “

The importance of Ben-Dahan’s proposed bill cannot be understated.  With Azaria being thrown in jail for an action that could easily happen to any combat soldier, the government needs to find a way that young combat soldiers do not lose morale and the ability to defend themselves in dangerous situations out of fear of being prosecuted.