Ofek Buchris, a brigadier general accused of rape and other sexual crimes, officially resigned from the Israel Defense Forces Sunday in order to manage his legal defense as a civilian and not as an IDF officer, the army said.
Buchris was indicted nearly two weeks ago with rape, sodomy, indecent acts and conduct unbecoming of an officer.
The case first came to light earlier this year, and the general has maintained his innocence throughout, including in a letter announcing his resignation ahead of the “war of his life.”
“I am innocent and I will fight for my good name and for my innocence,” Buchris wrote in the letter.
“Today I complete 28 years that I loyally served my nation and homeland,” he wrote. “I believe the expected norm of an officer at my rank who has been served with a serious indictment is to relieve the system of the burden and to stand up to the charges in the only reasonable place — the courtroom. This is what I have chosen to do.”
In March, two 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 constitutes either oral or anal sex when the authority figure exploits “authority in the workplace or in (national) service.”
Buchris, who previously served as the commander of the IDF’s Bashan Division, along with a slew of other high-ranking positions in the military, was set to take over as head of the Operations Division, a position that is often a stepping stone to higher command roles.
IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, who is currently visiting the United States, accepted Buchris’s resignation before leaving the country, but the decision only went into effect on Sunday, an army spokesperson said.
The indictment against Buchris was filed following a lengthy inquiry by chief Military Advocate General prosecutor Sharon Afek. Buchris was also charged with conduct unbecoming an IDF officer.
The IDF said in a statement that while news of the indictment was met with a “heavy heart,” the ongoing investigation into Buchris had “uncovered allegations that the officer in question committed a number of serious sex offenses against a female soldier and junior officer that served under him when he was the commander of the Golani Brigade.”
The attorneys representing one of the alleged victims, a junior officer who only admitted to the assault when questioned by investigators, said in a statement their client hoped the court would deal with Buchris “appropriately.”
“The officer was caught up in this case not by her own choice, and had never initiated a complaint against Gen. Buchris, and she was prepared to move on with her life,” the attorneys’ statement said. “The officer is confident the justice system will handle the case appropriately.”
Reports of the initial allegations in March sent shock waves through the IDF and the rest of the country, as Buchris’s previously glowing reputation was suddenly called into question.
According to reports at the time, the first soldier to make allegations told investigators that she knew of another soldier, a Golani officer, who had been sexually assaulted by Buchris as well. Several days later, the second woman came forward and accused Buchris.
Burchris dismissed the indictment, breaking his silence for the first time since the allegations against him were made.
“I was shocked to hear the indictment was filed,” he told journalists outside his Galilee home. “The allegations are not true, but everything will be made clear in court. Anyone examining the evidence will see the accusations are baseless.” He added that the trial would be “the fight for my life, and I am going to win it.”
The attorneys representing Buchris said the prosecution’s case against the general was “seriously flawed.”
“We regret the fundamentally flawed decision made by the Military Advocate General,” they said in a statement Thursday. “We are confident we will be able to continue fighting and prove the innocence of Gen. Buchris in court and justice will be served.”
In the weeks after the allegations were made, Buchris took at least two lie detector tests, with attorneys challenging their results. In the first, commissioned by Buchris, he was seen as telling the truth. The second test, performed by military prosecutors, had “problematic” results for the general, investigators told the defense attorneys in the case.
Tamar Pileggi contributed to this report.