Sunday, 4 July 2010

Hebron Brigade commander cancels UK study trip for fear of arrest

Yossi Yehoshua, Yediot, July 2 2010
Didi Remez
The IDF was forced to cancel the departure of the outgoing Hebron Brigade commander, Col. Udi Ben-Moha, to study in the UK. Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that the army feared that Ben Moha would be arrested upon landing due to suspicion of involvement in war crimes in the territories.

Col. Ben Moha began his military service in the Naval Commando. After doing the officers’ course, he went to the Golani Brigade, then he was the deputy commander of the Egoz unit, after that he commanded the Netzarim sector in Gush Katif as the Shimshon Battalion commander, after which he served as the commander of a reservist brigade and formed the Sagi Brigade that operates on the Israel-Egypt border.

Recently Ben-Moha concluded his latest position as the commander of one of the most sensitive sectors in Judea and Samaria: the city of Hebron, where the level of friction between the Palestinians and the settlers is the highest.

As early as a year ago Ben-Moha worked out with his commanders that after leaving the brigade, he would study overseas. At this time the outgoing brigade commander is in the final stages of preparing for his move to London, along with his family.

But in the course of a consultation held recently in the State Attorney’s Office and among top IDF officers, concern was raised that British left wing activists or Palestinian activists were liable to ask the British authorities to issue an arrest warrant against the Israeli officer. It was therefore decided last week not to take the risk and to cancel Ben-Moha’s study trip.

Israel has discerned in recent years a worsening in the attitude to IDF officers in Europe in general, and in the UK in particular. The UK has become very problematic for officers wishing to visit, since British law makes it possible for civilians to submit a criminal complaint against people suspected of war crimes. That is why the IDF considered forbidding officers from stopping in London, even for a short stopover, on their way to another destination.

Yedioth Ahronoth has learned that last week IDF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu went on a trip to London for PR purposes. Before his trip, the IDF held a situation assessment meeting during which concern was raised that Benayahu might encounter displays of violence during his stay in the British capital. This is because of the fact that the identity of the IDF spokesman, who often interviews because of his job to the foreign media, is known to television viewers world over. After the flotilla affair, it was even decided to place guards at Benayahu’s home, who lives in a kibbutz in the Sharon region.

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