IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot addressed the Knesset Foreign Relations and Security Committee on Tuesday, warning that the greatest threat to the Israeli army today is not external, but the potential loss of public trust.
Eisenkot argued that Israel’s political leadership regularly interfered in internal army matters and even openly attack the army establishment, causing long-term damage to the IDF.
The Chief of Staff then listed a number of recent examples of political interference or politicization of the army’s affairs.
Citing the ongoing trial of Elor Azariya, a soldier accused of manslaughter after killing a wounded terrorist in Hevron, said what should have been a straightforward investigation into the soldier’s actions quickly became a heavily politicized media circus.
“Recent statements on ongoing investigations by the command system or army judicial system are inappropriate and do not impact the internal processes within the IDF. Much has been said without factual knowledge to advance agendas unrelated to the IDF. We want an army that follows orders, open-fire regulations, and the spirit and values of the IDF. If someone wants [things to be run by] a gang mentality, let them say so.”
Eisenkot’s committee testimony also touched upon the role of religion in the IDF. The Chief of Staff rejected calls for the creation of a separate branch within the army dedicated to the strengthening of Jewish identity.
The Chief of Staff also responded to questions regarding his support for Rabbi Eyal Karim, who has been nominated to serve as IDF Chief Rabbi, noting that despite his prior objections to women serving in the army, Rabbi Karim has since been praised for his work in integrating servicewomen in the IDF. He added that the decision to reaffirm the nomination came after meeting with Rabbi Karim and a discussion regarding his past statements. Rabbi Karim apologized for his prior comments, Eisenkot noted, and his nomination was reaffirmed.
Regarding Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, founder of the Bnei David pre-army academy in Eli whose controversial comments on gays drew sharp criticism, Eisenkot revealed that he had ordered a halt to all joint operations between the IDF and Rabbi Levinstein.
“The enterprise founded by Rabbi Levinstein prepared many fighters and officers for the IDF, and he has merit in that, but it does not remove the gravity of his comments which must certainly be taken into account.”