I remember many years ago on Memorial Day a radio host asked the following question to its listeners, “Who are the real heroes? The soldiers of today or the soldiers who fought in previous wars?” There seemed to be an agreement that the soldiers of today were the real heroes. The rational was simple. Back in the day, it was clear to all who the enemy was. He had a country, flag and uniform. You didn’t have to think. Israel was on one side and the enemy on the other. But in the early 1980’s things changed. The enemy didn’t have a uniform, country or flag. Governments like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria trained militant groups to fight their cause. It was cheaper and more effective. Targets moved from military to civilian. Israel also set a precedent by signing the Oslo agreement with a terrorist organization; namely by turning the PLO into a potential partner for peace. In a single moment terrorists became politicians with a legitimate cause. The PLO began inviting NGO’s and film crews to bring the plight of Palestines to the attention of the world. In turn, our soldiers required a new type of advanced training to deal with groups of militants who fought with cameras.
Three weeks ago our soldiers were faced with a far greater threat. Our Prime Minister and Defense Minister called into question the integrity of our soldiers after a video appeared on YOUTUBE by an organization whose activities are under investigation by police showing a soldier shooting a terrorist lying on the ground. Even before an investigation was launched, our Prime Minister was already Facebooking his friends about the video.
My concern is that our soldiers are being tried similar to terrorists. Because our legislation has not evolved, terrorists are even using Israeli law to their advantage by suing soldiers who cause them bodily harm. The danger is obvious and undermines the armies’ ability to fulfill its mandate. Our 18 year old high school graduates are required to act in accordance with standard military rules of engagement. Unfortunately because commanders are under political influence, rules of engagement have become blurred. New inductees now meet regularly with lawyers and advocacy groups that try to encourage soldiers to keep their heads high and that even if the government and army turns on them for carrying out their duties, lawyers will do their best to keep them out of prison. Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Yaalon sweeping support of B’tselem accusations have many soldiers terrified. Maybe B’tselem will finally get a real donation from Hassan Rouhani and not his usual monthly donation of 36 dollars.