A former battalion commander in the Givati Brigade accused of sexual offenses against a subordinate female soldier was demoted on Thursday and given a two-month suspended sentence by a military court.
Liran Hajbi was dropped in rank from a lieutenant colonel to a major, and ordered to pay a fine of NIS 5,000 ($1,300) to complainant May Fatal.
Hajbi accepted the court decision, but blamed “interested parties” for blowing the case “out of proportion.”
“My dear family, wife, and good friends know the truth and stand behind me,” Hajbi said, adding that his wife would go through “fire and water” with him.
Hajbi left the army after entering a plea bargain over charges of “acts which exceed the commander-subordinate relations and had some sexual background,” and was relieved of his post last December.
Zionist Union leader Isaac Herzog hailed the decision, saying “every Jewish mother can now know that the IDF will protect their daughters in the army in the face of harassment and inappropriate behavior.”
Two weeks ago, Hajbi said at a hearing he would not apologize to Fattal for his actions, while conceding that he “crossed the line as an officer.”
“I am not one to be afraid to apologize, and I would not hesitate to apologize if this wasn’t a smear campaign,” he said at the time. “I cannot apologize to her face.”
“I crossed the line as an officer,” he continued. “I am sorry and regret what I did.”
Fatal had accused Hajbi, formerly chief of the Givati Brigade’s Tzabar Battalion and her commanding officer, of sexual harassment.
In April, Fatal broke her silence and identified herself on Facebook for the first time, slamming the military courts for offering Hajbi what she said was a softened indictment and plea bargain.
The original indictment in March accused him of hugging and kissing Fatal and harassing her via text message, and another clause that was not made public. The revised indictment after the plea bargain found Hajbi guilty of “acts which exceed the commander-subordinate relations and had some sexual background,” but made no explicit reference to sexual harassment.
In response, Hajbi’s attorney said at the time that Fatal had approved the arrangement, and had revised her version of the story.
Fatal has denied any romantic entanglement with Hajbi, saying that she had rejected his advances repeatedly and explicitly.
Several senior IDF officers testified on behalf of Hajbi last month. Brig. Gen. Yossi Bachar, formerly the head of the army’s Gaza division, spoke before the military court, praising Hajbi’s character and “impressive” army track record.
“He is an impressive and unique officer, warm and courageous, who proved himself in a long line of events,” Bachar told the military tribunal.
Bachar said Hajbi had been on track for a promotion for his exemplary performance during the 50-day summer conflict in the Gaza Strip.
“On the basis of his achievements during Operation Protective Edge he was on his way to becoming the brigade commander and if it wasn’t for the events for which we are here now, Hajbi would have become the Givati Brigade commander by the summer of 2016.”
According to the Hebrew-language daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Givati Commander Col. Ofer Winter also asked the military court to be lenient with its punishment.
Maj. Gen. Shlomo Turgeman, the head of the Southern Command also offered his support for Hajbi in a letter presented to the court.