An IDF general was convicted Sunday of sexual offenses and a prohibited sexual liaison, admitting to the charges as part of plea bargain which dropped a previous indictment of rape.
After 10 months of denying all charges against him, Ofek Buchris admitted for the first time to having engaged in consensual sexual relations with a subordinate female soldier. He read the indictment in the Tel Aviv military court, standing before both his wife and the woman with whom he admitted to having a sexual relationship and who has accused him of rape.
In March, two female soldiers who served in Buchris’s office when he served as head of the Golani Brigade, from 2010 to 2012, accused him of rape, sodomy and sexual assault. Under Israeli law, sodomy in this instance constitutes either oral or anal sex when the authority figure exploits “authority in the workplace or in (national) service.”
Buchris had faced a total 16 charges, including three for rape and six for indecent acts against a lower-ranking female soldier, identified as “A.” He was accused of a further six counts of indecent acts against a second female soldier, known as “L.” Buchris was indicted in July for the alleged crimes that were said to have taken place between 2010 and 2012.
The new indictment, which constituted just two pages as opposed to the original 17-page document, would see all but the charges of “unbecoming conduct” and “inappropriate sexual relations” removed, with Buchris receiving a suspended prison sentence and a demotion to the rank of colonel.
As part of the plea agreement, Buchris admitted in a public letter to certain sexual offenses, in exchange for having the far more serious crimes of rape and sexual assault dropped.
The prosecution last week said the plea deal would be contingent upon his accusers agreeing to it, one of whom insisted that Buchris must take responsibility for his actions and clarify that they were not engaged in a consensual romantic relationship in order for her to consent to the deal.
In his letter, Buchris did not admit to rape or sexual assault, but wrote that he takes “full responsibility” for his actions.
“In the wake of various media reports, I clarify that I fully admit to the charges against me and I take full responsibility for the actions detailed therein,” the former general wrote.
“I would like to add that the media reports related to the plea bargain citing those who claim to be close to me do not represent me,” he added.
His confession cleared the way for the finalization of the plea deal. Buchris has previously said that he would not agree to a deal that involves jail time.
Reports of the initial allegations in March sent shockwaves through the IDF and the rest of the country, as Buchris’s previously glowing reputation was suddenly called into question.
Following Buchris’s initial letter admitting to some of the charges, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot released a statement last week promising “zero tolerance” for such crimes, amid a public outcry by those who believe the accused officer is set to receive an unfairly light sentence.
“I plan to continue to show zero tolerance towards any incident of sexual harassment or assault in the IDF,” Eisenkot wrote in a letter sent to commanders.
“We will not shut our eyes, give up or hesitate to take decisive actions, even in cases where high-ranking officers are involved, regardless of their rank, their actions or their successes — these things are not relevant in such cases.”
Raoul Wootliff contributed to this report.