The Givati Brigade completed a training exercise to prepare the soldiers for combat
The Givati Brigade completed a training exercise to prepare the soldiers for combat in the northern region. (photo credit:IDF SPOKESPERSON’S UNIT)


Most Israelis did not notice when the army decided to have incoming Military Advocate-General Sharon Afek remain a brigadier-general rather be promoted to major-general, as part of a wider policy of rank reductions to reduce spending.

Has the IDF shot itself in the foot in its battle for legitimacy before the International Criminal Court as it and the Palestinians proceed toward a legal showdown over alleged IDF war crimes during the 2014 Gaza war? The question can only be answered by answering another: Is a rank just a rank? In other workplaces, the answer is arguably “yes.” In armies, however, ranks are extremely important – as was argued last week by two former heads of the military’s international law division.

Add to their arguments the conclusion of the 2013 Turkel Commission that the MAG’s rank should be permanently set (and at the time the rank was major-general) and the IDF’s assurances in 2011 of the MAG’s independence, and the IDF finds itself having to defend itself against allegations that it is dropping reforms and commitments to the law in an unprincipled manner because it believes the war crimes pressure is off.

There is another side.

The Jerusalem Post has learned that the IDF would likely argue that, regardless of rank, Afek will be as effective, if not more effective, than his predecessors, because he spent a decade in the international law department and is universally respected in both the IDF and the legal community.

The army could argue that when legal rivals like the ICC and the UNHRC – or allies like the US – hear Afek talk with the full support of the IDF chief of staff and see him make independent decisions disregarding Israeli societal criticism that often accompanies decisions to prosecute IDF soldiers for war crimes, they will not care what is on his shoulder.

They might also point out that Afek’s predecessor, Danny Efroni, was not promoted to major-general when he successfully pushed Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein to criminally investigate former IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi.

In other words, if a brigadier- general had the guts and independent power to go after the IDF’s chief, there need no worry that major-generals will prevent Afek from investigating even their closest aides and sub-commanders.

The IDF could also argue that one of its most dominant officers, the IDF Spokesman, is a brigadier-general.

Clearly many think the IDF is playing with fire on the issue.

As reported by The Jerusalem Post