Investigation into papers stolen from car of officer in line for PM attache job

Investigation into papers stolen from car of officer in line for PM attache job

Security forces said checking classification level of documents stolen while Col. Avi Blot toured West Bank

Col. Avi Blot, head of the IDF Commando Brigade. (Israel Defense Forces)
Col. Avi Blot, head of the IDF Commando Brigade. (Israel Defense Forces)

Security services have opened an investigation into the theft of military documents from the car of a candidate for the role of military attache to the prime minister, the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper reported Sunday.

On Thursday, Col. Avi Blot, currently head of the elite commando brigade, parked his car in a parking lot for the duration of an officers’ tour of the West Bank.

He took his weapon and secure communications device with him but left the papers, reportedly with a low level of classification, in the car. It is forbidden under army regulations to leave classified documents in an unsupervised vehicle.

The theft occurred the day before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summoned Blot for a surprise interview for the job of prime minister’s military attache.

Netanyahu has already interviewed several candidates to replace the current occupant of the job, Brig. Gen. Eliezer Toledano, who is due to take over as chief of the Gaza Division.

Col. Eliezer Toledano speaks with paratroopers on July 24, 2013. (Gal Ashuach/IDF spokesperson/FLASH90)

Investigators from the military police and the Shin Bet intelligence service will be looking closely at the level of classification given to the documents that were stolen, as well as whether Blot followed procedure in the aftermath of the incident.

That will help determine not only Blot’s chances of getting the military attache’s job, but also his future in the army.

Thursday’s incident was the latest in a string of thefts of documents taken from the cars and homes of senior army officers in recent years.

The former Manpower Directorate’s head, Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski, resigned from the army in December 2016 after a laptop containing classified information was stolen from his home.

The year before, Col. Ilan Levy was summarily dismissed from his position after classified documents were stolen from his car, where he had accidentally left them. The documents were later located.

Maj. Gen. Hagai Topolanski, head of the IDF Manpower Directorate, speaks at an Israeli Democracy Institute conference on November 29, 2016. (Courtesy Israeli Democracy Institute)

Blot’s interview with Netanyahu came as a surprise because he is not on the chief of staff’s list of recommended candidates and is only eight months into his job as commander of the 89th Brigade, also known as the Oz Brigade or the “commando brigade,” which undertakes special operations and includes the elite Maglan, Duvdevan and Egoz units.

Before taking up his current appointment, Blot commanded the parachute regiment and was injured during Operation Cast Lead, the 2008-2009 Gaza war.

He went on to command Maglan and the Hebron Brigade.

Blot, from an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, is a graduate of the controversial Mechinat Bnei David pre-military academy in the West Bank’s settlement of Eli.

Eli pre-army academy heads Rabbi Eli Sadan (L) and Rabbi Yigal Levinstein, July 1, 2015. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Bnei David has provided the army with thousands of religiously observant officers.

In July 2016, a co-founder of the academy, Yigal Levinstein, was recorded calling LGBT people “deviant.” Less than eight months later, Levinstein found himself back in national tabloids for telling new IDF recruits that military service drives female soldiers “crazy” and strips them of their Jewishness. And in February of this year, footage resurfaced of an academy teacher, Yosef Kelner, telling students in a lecture that women were “weak-minded” and possessed a reduced capacity for spirituality.

Another graduate of Bnei David who rose up the army’s ranks, Ofer Winter, was passed over for promotion yet again last week.

Then-Givati Brigade commander Col. Ofer Winter, center, August 2, 2014. (Israel Defense Forces)

Winter came under criticism during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, when he served as commander of the Givati Brigade, for a letter to his subordinate officers in which he described the operation as a religious war against a “blasphemous” foe

In media interviews, Winter also described his troops as being protected in battle by “clouds of glory,” raising concerns among religious freedom activists that Winter was theocratizing the military.


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