Poll: Nearly half of soldiers say 'purity of arms' harms IDF

Half of Israeli soldiers refrained from taking action in the field because they feared legal consequences, poll shows.

David Rosenberg ,

Nahal haredi soldiers
Nahal haredi soldiers
Flash 90

IDF soldiers are sharply divided on the Israeli military’s ‘purity of arms’ doctrine restricting the use of force, a new poll shows.

According to a survey conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) and released at the Annual Conference of the IDI Center for Security and Democracy on Monday, 44% of Israeli soldiers believe the ‘purity of arms’ doctrine limiting the use of force by IDF soldiers has harmed the IDF’s ability to carry out its mission.

Nearly an equal number, 47% of the 500 soldiers polled, disagreed, saying that the purity of arms doctrine did not impede IDF operations.

Nevertheless, 81% said that protecting themselves and fellow soldiers was more important than the purity of arms doctrine.

The poll also found that a large percentage of soldiers believe that the courts and army prosecutors have excessive influence over IDF operations, with nearly half of soldiers fearing that the IDF will not stand by them if they are accused of making a mistake during an operation in the field.

Forty-five percent of soldiers say they fear that they if they make a mistake during an operation, they will not receive backing from the army, while the same number said that they had refrained from taking action in the past because they feared it could lead to legal problems for them.

A larger percentage (62%) of soldiers said overzealous army prosecutors have harmed the IDF’s ability to function, while 20% largely disagreed with the claim and 12% disagreed completely with the claim.

The respondents were also asked whether they believed that a soldier, like Elor Azariya, who killed a terrorist shortly after a terror attack, should be prosecuted if the terrorist had already been neutralized.

Fifty-two percent said that in such a situation, the soldier should not face charges.

In March 2016, IDF soldier Elor Azariya shot and killed an Arab terrorist shortly after the terrorist was involved in a stabbing attack that left one soldier wounded in Hevron.

Azariya shot the terrorist in the head after the terrorist had been neutralized, claiming that he feared that the terrorist appeared to be reaching for a weapon concealed in his jacket.

Azariya was convicted of manslaughter in January 2017, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison. He was released after nine months in prison.