The IDF will close its investigation into Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter, who has been questioned under caution over allegations that he failed to pass on sexual harassment complaints against a subordinate to the proper authorities.
No criminal charges will be filed against Winter, while the sexual harassment investigation into his subordinate, Tzabar battalion commander Lt. Col. Liran Hajbi, will continue.
Hajbi, who took a 10-day leave when a Military Police investigation into the harassment complaint became public last week, is widely expected to be removed from his position as battalion commander, according to Hebrew media reports.
Hajbi has been the subject of an undercover Military Police investigation for a number of weeks after a female soldier under his command complained he had sexually harassed her.
Last week, after spending several hours with Military Police investigators, Winter was summoned by Maj. Gen. Sami Turgeman, the head of Southern Command, for a “clarifying conversation,” a senior IDF source told Channel 2.
According to unconfirmed media leaks citing officials in the IDF prosecution, investigators do not believe Winter covered up the complaints. But some senior officers are voicing concerns over the command culture in the elite infantry brigade.
“A brigade commander is supposed to know what’s happening in his battalions,” a senior IDF officer told Channel 2.
Even if Winter did not know of the complaint, the officer insisted, he held command responsibility for the situation in the battalion. “There’s a disciplinary issue here.”
Winter “fully cooperated” with the investigation, the army said.
After the harassment complaint against Hajbi became public, soldiers began coming forward with other complaints. Several soldiers under Hajbi’s command have reportedly complained that the battalion commander forged documents to cover up car accidents involving military vehicles as well.
Hajbi has denied the accusations vehemently, but took a leave of absence from his post when the investigation became public “so that the battalion won’t be affected by this,” he reportedly told his associates.
Hajbi’s attorney, IDF chief defense counsel Col. Asher Halperin, said Wednesday that Hajbi maintains innocence and has asked for a lie-detector test and a chance to confront his accuser.