Colonel Sharon Afek, the Military Advocate General, was officially promoted to the rank of Major General Thursday, becoming the first gay general in the history of the IDF. The decision to promote Afek was made by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, on the recommendation of Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot.
Afek has served as Chief Military Attorney for the past three years. The term for his post has been upped to five years with an option for a sixth.
As part of the decision taken in May, it was decided that the Military Advocate General’s office would be for a period of five years, with an option to extend the term by another year.
The ceremony was held with Defense Minister Liberman, Attorney General Mandelblit, Chief of Staff Eizenkot and members of the General Staff Forum on hand.
Minister Liberman said at the ceremony: “The world is changing all the time, and alongside the war front and the home front there is a third, legal front. In the coming years, Major General Afek will have to lead the legal battle against the challenges that are developing in the international arena, as we saw in the Goldstone Committee, the Palmer Committee, and the Schabas Committee. We all wish you success.”
Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit said at the ceremony: “The granting of the rank of Major General to Sharon represents three main meanings for me. On the institutional level, granting the rank reflects the importance of the value of the rule of law in the IDF and the recognition of the independence of the Military Advocate General’s institution.
“On the professional level, this is an expression of personal confidence in an esteemed officer with many achievements in matters of national importance, which in the past three years has proven independence, a backbone of values and professionalism.
“Finally, on the personal level, beyond the high professional abilities that characterize him, he is a person with exceptional qualities, and therefore deserves the rank he received today from the chief of staff and the defense minister.”
Lt. Gen. Eizenkot said: “We are no longer dealing with armies with rules and principles – we are dealing with a much more complex reality in the north, and in the south as well.
“In the past three months, we have faced very serious challenges in trying to fulfill our goals and mission: to defend the state, and to prevent infiltrations into our territory in the face of what appears to be innocent mass demonstrations under whose auspices terrorism is being carried out.
“What characterizes Sharon is not only his esteem by the justice system and by members of the General Staff, but also by the IDF command at all levels. I think this testifies to the tremendous appreciation, the legal and human ability to be attentive to the commanders, and on the other hand to take a position where it is necessary without fear, according to the legal-moral consideration that sees the law, sees the complex reality and sees the good of the army and the state.
“Sharon is doing his job with exceptional skill, with good common sense and with courage, and I wish that all of us uphold his example.”
Major General Afek said, “This is a great mission for me and a great privilege to serve in the IDF and contribute to the defense establishment. The promotion in rank expresses the great responsibility of the Military Advocate General’s Office to act shoulder to shoulder with the commanders in order to ensure that the IDF can fulfill its mission and win without giving up the values of the rule of law.
“I think we can all be proud of the fact that even in its most complex and difficult periods, the IDF took care to continue to follow the path of the law. This commitment of the IDF to the law is a source of strength and not a weakness. It enables us to act as a popular army in a democratic state and to maintain the public’s trust.”
MK Bezalel Samotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) was critical of the fact that Afek referred to Israel only as a “democratic state,” tweeting: “Sharon Afek apparently forgot that the State of Israel is also a Jewish state and that this is the source and the force and the moral foundation on which the IDF relies.”