Colonel’s promotion nixed after documents swiped from his car
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Colonel’s promotion nixed after documents swiped from his car

IDF chief lets Northern Command officer Zaki Yefet return to work, but he’s expected to quit military in 2018

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot attends a State Control committee meeting at the Knesset on August 16, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
IDF chief of staff Gadi Eisenkot attends a State Control committee meeting at the Knesset on August 16, 2016. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot canceled the planned promotion of an army colonel on Thursday, after classified documents and an encrypted cellphone were stolen from his car last month, the army said.

On January 19, Col. Zaki Yefet was suspended from his position as chief engineering officer of the Northern Command, as part of the army’s ongoing efforts to prevent the theft of sensitive documents and technologies.

Yefet was cleared to return to his current position, but after a conversation with Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, head of the Northern Command, Eisenkot decided to halt the appointment of Yefet to chief operations officer of the IDF Northern Corps, a war-time unit, the army said.

Without this promotion, Yefet is now expected to leave the military after he completes his tenure as chief engineering officer in February 2018.

IDF Military Intelligence Director Major General Aviv Kochavi, August 08, 2013. (photo credit: FLASH90)
IDF Military Intelligence Director Major General Aviv Kochavi, August 08, 2013. (Flash90)

The IDF Military Police’s investigation into the incident is ongoing, the military said in a statement. Once completed, the findings will be handed over to the Military Advocate General’s Unit, which will decide whether or not to press charges against Yefet.

Initially, the army would not release the identity of the officer or his position. But the information was cleared for publication with this latest decision.

In his position as chief engineering officer of the Northern Command, Yefet has overseen the extensive work along the Lebanon border, where forces are operating around the clock to shore up Israel’s defenses.

The model of the stolen cellphone — known in the army by its codename “Mountain Rose” — is encrypted, and used by officers and soldiers with sensitive positions to speak without concern for electronic eavesdropping.

Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski, head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, speaks at an Israeli Democracy Institute conference marking 30 years since navigator Ron Arad went missing over Lebanon, on November 29, 2016. (Courtesy Israeli Democracy Institute)
Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski, head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, speaks at an Israeli Democracy Institute conference marking 30 years since navigator Ron Arad went missing over Lebanon, on November 29, 2016. (Courtesy Israeli Democracy Institute)

It was the latest in a series of incidents that saw senior officers being disciplined for having sensitive documents and electronics stolen.

To prevent leaks of classified information, the IDF forbids officers from leaving army laptops and computers unprotected, requiring them to be kept in a safe when taken off-base. The army metes out serious punishments to officers who allow military computers or other sensitive equipment to be stolen on their watch.

Last month, the head of the army’s Manpower Directorate Maj. Gen. (res.) Hagai Topolanski announced he would step down from his post, a day after a laptop containing classified information was stolen from his home in southern Israel.

Last year, Col. Ilan Levy was summarily dismissed from his position after classified documents were stolen from his car, where he had accidentally left them. The stolen documents were smuggled into the West Bank, where they were later recovered by the Shin Bet.

In October, a lieutenant colonel in the air force was suspended for two weeks after an army computer was stolen from his house.

And earlier this year, the head of Israel’s missile defense program, Yair Ramati, was dismissed from his post amid allegations that he had also improperly maintained state secrets.

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