Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon appointed Col. Sharon Afek to be the new military advocate general for the Israel Defense Forces on Monday.
Afek will take over for the current chief attorney, Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni, who has served in the position since 2011.
For nearly 25 years, Afek has served in some legal capacity in the IDF, amassing experience in various aspects of military law that will allow him to serve as the army’s top attorney, Ya’alon said in his announcement.
“Afek brings with him to the position the utmost in professionalism, straightforwardness, a moral backbone and a wide legal and military vision,” Ya’alon said.
“[These are] the most important characteristics to have against the meaningful challenges that stand before the military advocate general, both those that are internal and external,” he added, alluding to possible lawsuits against the IDF in the International Criminal Court.
The Palestinian Authority has already accused the IDF of war crimes in last summer’s conflict in Gaza to the International Criminal Court. And just this month, Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki also reported to the court on the deadly Duma firebombing attack, which killed an 18-month-old infant and his father and was allegedly carried out by Jewish settlers.
To that challenge, Afek ought to be prepared, as he began his IDF career in the international law department of the MAG unit, rising to the level of second-in-command. He then served as legal counsel to the Israeli Air Force and to the West Bank’s division, before reaching the position of deputy military advocate general in 2009.
In 2011, when the previous MAG Maj. Gen. Avichai Mandelblit was leaving the position, many thought Afek would take over the unit.
In the end, however, Afek was passed over in favor of Efroni. Some believe that this has more to do with personal squabbles within the IDF high command than a testament to Afek’s abilities.
The MAG serves as one of the army’s legal authorities, alongside Maj. Gen. Shai Yaniv, president of the IDF’s Court of Appeals.
“The legal-military front has attained in recent years the highest importance,” Ya’alon said, “and it is complicated, loaded with challenges and demands a deep understanding of international law.”
Afek, the defense minister said, “understands the system and the distinguished people serving in it, who serve day and night in order to legally defend the fighters and commanders of the IDF.”
With this appointment Afek will rise to the rank of brigadier general, a rank below that of his predecessor — major general.
This decision, which was also made for the incoming Military Secretary to the Prime Minster Eliezer Toledano, was part of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot’s recently announced plan to scale back the number of major generals by approximately 20 percent.
Ya’alon, who as defense minister ultimately approves the appointments of the IDF’s general staff, made his decision based on the recommendation of Eisenkot and State’s Attorney Yehuda Weinstein.