Despite the Chief of Staff's statement that civilian organizations will not be integrated into IDF officers' training programs, and two years after the IDF Spokesman's Office announced the agreement with the Mandel Institute would cease, the Lavi organization for good governance in Israel reveals the IDF still allows courses by the same institute.
According to the information that was officially approved by the Defense Ministry, in 2017 IDF educational and youth officers were trained by the Mandel Institute with no tender.
When the information reached Lavi at the end of 2017, the organization sought to verify it with the Defense Ministry, who indeed confirmed the facts and referred Lavi to the IDF Spokesman's Office who would provide the requested information. Organization members indeed contacted the IDF Spokesman to receive the Chief of Staff's full instructions regarding training by civilian institutes, as well as the specific agreement with the Mandel Institute, according to the Freedom of Information Law.
From here began a saga of stonewalling and evasion that lasted about six months. Only after repeatedly insisting on receiving the information did the IDF Spokesman's vague response come to the fore: "The document requested by you is an internal document. In any case, we will clarify that the Chief of Staff instructed at the end of October 2016 that lectures by outside parties in the IDF would be approved by the Education Corps and would deal with issues that are widely agreed upon. Regarding soldiers and officers in compulsory service, it was decided that lectures by outside parties should be curtailed, with the exception of professional lectures to be approved individually by the Chief Education Officer. In addition, the Chief of Staff emphasized, among other things, the necessity to train commanders to fulfill their responsibility in the field of education."
The last vague sentence - "The Chief of Staff emphasized, among other things, the necessity to train commanders to fulfill their responsibility in the field of education" - may allude to continuing a specific agreement with the Mandel Institute despite the general directive published in the media.
Lavi says the IDF Spokesman must provide full information about curricula trainees undergo by external institutes, as well as details of the updated Chief of Staff's directive, because it relates to issues not essentially military and subject to public debate. In addition, the directive's main points were widely published in the media, and the information provided by the IDF Spokesman is partial and may be as misleading as it appears.
In response to the IDF Spokesman's refusal to disclose the required information, Lavi petitioned the Tel Aviv District Court yesterday through its attorney Yitzhak Bam, to reveal the IDF's study programs and agreements with institutes in general and the Mandel Institute in particular, and to reveal all details of the Chief of Staff's directive on the matter. In the body of the petition, Attorney Bam explains why there is no reasonable excuse to leave the relevant documents classified under the Freedom of Information Law, as well as the public interest in the disclosure of such information.
"The issue of ethics education for IDF soldiers by civilian bodies has been discussed extensively on various public levels and is a matter of intense public controversy. There are moral, political, military, and economic aspects of ethics education for soldiers and officers. Since the IDF on the one hand has life-and-death authority over its soldiers and its function depends on the lives and deaths of civilians, the public has a great interest in the functioning of the army and the education and training of its soldiers and officers," Attorney Bam wrote in the petition.
Lavi said: "The education of IDF officers by external institutes touches on controversial issues and the raw nerves of Israeli society. We will struggle with all our might for the sake of Zionist education and values for IDF officers and for proper procedure in all matters relating to selecting educational institutions."