The Kahane Affair

 A country needs people who do not always operate strictly 'by the book' or according to the explicit orders," says Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gershon HaCohen, concerning the reports surrounding Brig. Gen. Mordechai Kahane; Syrian president Assad seems to be on solid grounds as the Syrian civil war progresses. Amir Rappaport's weekly column
 

(Photo: IDF)

Only a few days ago, Brigadier-General Mordechai Kahane was still manning one of the dullest positions at the top echelon of IDF. As the IDF's Chief Combat Intelligence Collection Officer, Kahane was not in charge of the actual employment of any operational forces. His responsibilities included the training and doctrine of the IDF Combat Intelligence Collection Corps which is, in fact, the smallest corps in the IDF Ground Arm and in the IDF as a whole. Actually, this corps is the reincarnation of a setup known in the past as "Field Intelligence". The very necessity and independent existence of the Combat Intelligence
.Collection Corps are the subject of an ongoing controversy
 
During peacetime, the daily agenda of the IDF Chief Combat Intelligence Collection Officer consists of visits to the various units, endless staff meetings, and attendance at ceremonies. The highlight of the last
.week for Brigadier-General Kahane was to be the graduation ceremony of yet another class of Combat Intelligence Collection troopers, scheduled for last Thursday at Tel-Hadir, near Rosh Ha'Ayin
 
Brigadier-General Kahane's week turned out to be radically different, however. He spent several long days being interrogated by IDF Military Police investigators, where he was compelled to answer some
highly embarrassing questions. One of the questions presented to him was whether he had taken home military-issue disposable dinnerware for his own personal use. The formal suspicion regarding which
.Brigadier-General Mordechai Kahane was interrogated: illegally keeping military and civil equipment in a freight container. The Commander of the IDF Ground Arm had him suspended for two weeks
 
After the affair was reported by the media, the IDF Chief Advocate, Colonel Ran Cohen, and Lieutenant Ariel Hevron, acting as Kahane's legal counsel, announced that "The officer in question has an illustrious
combat record on the battlefield, serving in a series of major positions in IDF and in leading troops at the various theaters of operations. The officer keeps a freight container that has been transferred with him periodically from one military base to another, in which he keeps his personal gear and other objects issued to IDF personnel. He is an ethical and honest officer, who fully cooperates with the investigators and
".presents his own version. The officer is convinced that the investigation will be concluded without any criminal implications
 
Initially, the affair exploded in the media while Kahane's name was still withheld and his photograph had been blurred. Very soon it became apparent who the "suspected senior officer" was and the blurred 
pixels in the photograph were put back into focus. In comparison, over the course of the last week, investigators from various units were busy investigating far more serious suspicions in a highly sensitive 
.security organ, as well as investigating suspicions at the IDF Navy base in Haifa (other, still undisclosed investigations are also underway)
 
Compared to the range of corruption affairs currently being investigated in the civil sector (including the affairs associated with Netivei Israel – the National Transport Infrastructure Company and the Ariel 
Sharon Park Company, which have also exploded in the last week), the Kahane investigation appears to be rather strange, and more than testifying about Kahane himself, it is an indication of the changing
culture within IDF – for better and possibly for worse. Apparently, this is yet another affair the Chief of Staff would wish had never happened
 
Mordechai Kahane, the nephew of Rabbi Meir Kahane, the leader of the "Kach" movement who was murdered in New York, did not begin his career as a staff officer but rose through the ranks and the
battlefields of the Golani Infantry Brigade. He had commanded the Brigade's reconnaissance unit and the prestigious "Egoz" unit, until his military career came to an apparent conclusion in a position from which no significant promotion can be expected. Kahane was preceded by other brigadier-general officers who had hailed from the Golani Brigade and eventually forced to retire at the peak of their careers, including Erez Zuckerman (pursuant to the failures of the division he commanded during the Second Lebanon War of 2006), Shmuel Zakai (pursuant to a confrontation with the general commanding the
.regional command, who accused him of leaking information to the media), Moshe ("Chicko") Tamir and, naturally – Ofek Buchris, who admitted having committed sexual offenses
 
Like Buchris and Brigadier-General Ofer Winter, who was "accused" of conveying belligerent messages of a religious nature, Kahane is yet another senior IDF officer hailing from a religious-nationalist
background whose career has run into trouble. Disproportionately to the severity of the affair (or the lack thereof), dozens of advocates 
have been involved in petitions filed with the Supreme Court of Justice
.this last week regarding the issue of accessing and searching Brigadier-General Kahane's personal mobile phone and laptop computer
 
The IDF Chief Advocate concluded: "This incident further intensifies the sense of discomfort among the legal defense team of Brigadier-General Kahane on behalf of the Military Advocacy. Without a doubt, a thorough and exhaustive investigation should be conducted. At the same time, however, the interrogations take hours on end, the investigators present the same questions time and time again and dwell on petty issues. The suspect is a senior officer, a warfighter who had led thousands of troopers in the most complex theaters of operations of IDF. His military career means everything for him and even in these difficult times, he accepts the investigation and his temporary suspension with understanding. Brigadier-General Kahane has already announced that he would assume full responsibility if any flaws were found in his conduct. He does not shrink away from anything and if he erred – he would accept his superiors' ruling. The investigation and prosecution elements should treat this affair within the appropriate
.proportions and context
 

"You Cannot Turn Everyone into a Major Criminal"

 
The IDF have already experienced investigations that were even more bizarre than the investigation involving Brigadier-General Kahane. Benny Gantz, for example, was investigated for a suspicion that he took a light bulb from an apartment IDF Northern Command had placed at his disposal. Gantz was not suspended even for a minute. The IDF Chief Advocate at the time, Major-General Avichai Mandelblit
.(currently the Attorney General of the State of Israel), closed the file of which very few people ever heard. Subsequently, Benny Gants was appointed to the position of IDF Chief of Staff
 
Major-General (res.) Gershon HaCohen claimed, in an exclusive interview to the newspaper Makor Rishon, that the investigation of Brigadier-General Kahane is an indication of improper culture within IDF,
.rather than the result of Kahane's conduct – which is still under investigation
 
"A country needs people who do not always operate strictly 'by the book' or according to the explicit orders," says HaCohen. "Without 'bandits' IDF would have never arrived so far. The heroes of the past, like Meir Har-Zion, 'Katcha' or 'Kushi' Rimon, even received such gifts as farms or filling stations in recognition of their activities. Mordechai Kahane is not regarded as a 'bandit'. He is a pedant and a stickler for protocol who always received the highest grades in inspections, but even he is not perfect, apparently. After all, there is no single battalion or reconnaissance unit in IDF where they do not keep some weapons
.and other gear of unknown origins
 
"One should also understand that in the transition between emergency and routine situations, combat gear sometimes remains in your possession. I, for example, returned only as late as 1979 a Kalashnikov
.assault rifle I had picked up on the battlefields of the Yom-Kippur War (1973), and it was fortunate that I returned it, as it was not the norm back then
 
"The prevailing sense within the religious-Zionist public is that someone wants to eliminate their people at the top, as they did to Ofer Winter," Gershon HaCohen raises a sensitive issue. "I assume someone
".wanted to harm Kahane, too, so he informed (the authorities) about that freight container, just as in the past they had 'eliminated' the career of Brigadier-General Imad Fares
 
?How would you handle this affair if you were the Chief of Staff
 
."Apparently, there is no escaping an investigation, but I would have suspended Kahane for a week at most and would have conducted a hearing"
 
?How do you explain the fact that almost all of the embarrassing affairs of those senior officers involve alumni of the Golani Brigade
 
That is a good question. The paratroopers may be covering each other's backs more elegantly. Generally speaking, in the past comrades in arms covered each other's backs to the death. For example, there" was a case when an IDF colonel left his vehicle to his driver when he travelled overseas for two weeks. In his absence, the driver used the military vehicle for drug trafficking. In that case, the general protected
".the colonel. I think the IDF should conduct themselves in a much more balanced manner: you cannot turn everyone into a major criminal
 

Other News

 
Now, to the really important issues: as the civil war in Syria is dying down and President Bashar al-Assad is consolidating his victory, the intensity of Hezbollah's involvement in the fighting for Assad is becoming increasingly clear. Hezbollah lost thousands of fighters during the war in Syria (out of a total complement of a few tens of thousands). Last week, in the context of the never-ending information war,
.Israeli sources provided detailed information about the commander of Hezbollah in southern Syria (including the Golan Heights opposite Israel)
 
The Hezbollah commander treated to this 'outing' is Munir Ali Na'im Shaiti, also known as Haj Hashem. Officially, he is the military commander of Hezbollah's Southern Syria Command. Haj Hashem maintains close working relations with elements in the Syrian Army, and in particular with his counterpart, the commander of the 1st Army Corps of the Syrian Army. In the context of his position, Haj Hashem travels
.frequently between Syria and Lebanon
According to the generous information provided about him, since 2011 Hezbollah intensified its military involvement in the fighting in Syria, while serving the Iranian interests in the region and supporting the
.Assad regime
 
During the war in Syria, Hezbollah decided to establish regional commands in cooperation with elements of the Quds Force, including their Southern Command, whose function was to integrate the combat operations in southern Syria generally and on the Golan Heights in particular. Haj Hashem was appointed to his position in June 2016, in view of his past experience fighting opposite Israel. He is in his fifties,
.married to Hanaa and the father of four children
 
In Lebanon, Haj Hashem had served in a number of key positions, including positions in the Lebanon-Palestine operations unit and as sector commander with the "Nasser" unit. In his last appointment in
.Lebanon, he was operational affairs assistant to the commander of the "Bader" unit
 
Haj Hashem had played a major role in the attack on Kibbutz Matzubah on March 12, 2002, when two Hezbollah terrorists entered Israeli territory from Lebanon. In that attack, five Israeli civilians and an IDF
.officer were killed and a member of Kibbutz Matzubah was wounded. Both terrorists were killed
 
All that is history, and now to the present: as part of the process of consolidating its hold on the Golan Heights, Hezbollah attempts to put Israel's 'Red Lines' to the test. Additionally, Hezbollah cooperates with the Syrian Army in an attempt to promote operations against Israel. In this context, three Syrian Army troopers were killed recently while planting explosive charges, under Hezbollah guidance, along the border
.with Israel
 
The unveiling of the personal information about Haj Hashem is a part of the campaign following the civil war in Syria, which is intended to set forth the new rules in Syria for the coming years, including the rules for the Golan Heights sector. Israel is keenly interested in preventing Hezbollah from remaining in this area, and revealing this information is one step in a process that also takes place through diplomatic
.channels (for example, through the meetings held by the Russian Defense Minister in Israel last week with top Israeli political and defense officials)
 
For the time being, Israel has been unable to obtain a Russian undertaking assuring that Iran, through Hezbollah, remains at least 40 kilometers away from the Israeli border on the Golan Heights, as Israel
.demands