Law Enforcement During Times of War
From left to right: Rachel Tevet-Wiesel (WSL ’15), Ram Shmueli, WIF Alum (Class 11), Noam Tibon, WIF Alum (Class 13) and Sharon Avraham-Weiss, WIF Alum (Class 23).
Israel’s Wexner Leadership Forum provides an excellent opportunity for connecting with colleagues from the various Wexner programs, including American alumni living in or visiting Israel. We meet twice yearly — in the spring and fall — to discuss public policy and leadership issues in Israel, offering a broad range of voices and viewpoints presented by members of our community of Wexner alumni.
As usual, our meeting last week elicited much, often heated discussion, focusing as it did on a current, broadly discussed public issue — law enforcement during times of war. This is a subject that makes headlines in Israel as well as the foreign press. Just recently an Israeli soldier, Elor Azariah, shot a terrorist who had already been shot and apparently disabled. What guidelines apply to the use of force and weapons, how do we govern and maintain law in times of war, how do we deal with incidents which may be interpreted as violations of this law and challenge those moral issues so important to Israel?
On the one hand, we hear voices calling for the strict adherence to law and regulations in every case in which there is a possible violation of law during battle. On the other hand we hear powerful, convincing voices calling for restraint and moderation in the prosecution of soldiers who are suspected of violating military code in combat situations. Such prosecution is being viewed by some as harmful — weakening and even undermining actions of military forces which are comprised of our own children.
Our panel, moderated by Brigadier General Rachel Tevet-Wiesel (WSL ’15), former consultant to Israel’s Chief of General Staff on issues of gender, included: Brigadier General Sharon Afek (WSL ’15), Chief Military Advocate General; Advocate Sharon Avraham-Weiss, WIF Alum (Class 23) and Director, The Association for Civil Rights in Israel; Brigadier General (Reserve) Ram Shmueli, WIF Alum (Class 11) and Head of Israeli Air Force Intelligence; and Major-General (Reserve) Noam Tibon, WIF Alum (Class 13) and Commander of Judea and Samaria Divisions and the Northern Corps.
During the first part of the panel, Sharon Afek outlined the basic laws and regulations governing military behavior in the I.D.F. Sharon Avraham-Weiss spoke of the importance of democracy and adherence to international laws and conventions related to war which have been signed and adopted by Israel. Ram Shmueli outlined the moral dilemmas faced by military commanders and soldiers during times of battle, bringing, as an example, a disturbing military wartime incident during which he was required to make a difficult decision whether to attack and bomb a suspicious group of Arabs in a situation of heart wrenching uncertainty and whether he could identify them as terrorists or children. Ram emphasized that military courts are well-versed and experienced in dealing with violations of military law.
During the second part of the discussion the panel related primarily to the military, legal and moral aspects of the Elor Azariah incident.
Sharon Afek emphasized that the decision to indict the soldier was made only after the military was convinced that the shot was fired after the terrorist was neutralized and lying on the ground and did not constitute a danger.
Sharon Avraham-Weiss raised several fundamental, structural issues — criticizing the fact that the military Advocate General is responsible for both advising the army units as well as conducting subsequent legal procedures. Ram Shmueli was of the opinion that Elor Azaria was not adequately protected from the political “maelstrom” that erupted, a situation to which no 19-year-old boy should be subjected.
In general, there was a sense that the incident had become a public, political issue which should and could have been dealt with effectively by the military legal apparatus.
Noam Tibon summarized by emphasizing the importance of educating and preparing soldiers, not only about the value of life but also with regard to protecting property, such as preventing the destruction of olive trees, citing unfortunate incidents of such destruction he had witnessed. He emphasized the fact that even Azaria’s commanders, regardless of their political or religious background, condemned his behavior. He called for public protection of the IDF as an army built on values of human life, which also has been commended for its criticism of inappropriate behavior when compared to other armies.
All members of the panel agreed on the importance of avoiding political intervention in military decisions.
Brenda Morginstin, WIF Alum (Class 4), is a private consultant for social service development and management, especially for the elderly and disabled. She earned her BA in English Literature from Brooklyn College, her MSW from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Masters in Public Administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Previously, she was Director of the Division for Service Development at Israel’s National Insurance Institute, where she also previously directed the Division of Research and Planning in Long Term Benefits. In her previous position she was responsible for developing programs for promoting social integration, employment and rehabilitation services aimed at expanding opportunities for populations at risk, such as children and adults with disabilities and the elderly.