TEL AVIV (Dec. 27)
The wife of an Israel Defense Force colonel who ordered his troops to break the bones of protesting Palestinians insists that Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin should bear responsibility for those orders and should himself resign.
Col. Yehuda Meir, who was military commander in Nablus when the Palestinian uprising broke out, now faces court-martial for those orders.
His wife, Orna Meir, has organized the wives of several high-ranking IDF officers into an ad hoc group to demand a government inquiry, which would establish the origin of what have since been determined were illegal orders.
Meir is accused of ordering his troops to break the arms and legs of 20 bound-and-gagged Palestinians from the nearby West Bank villages of Beita and Huara in January 1988, a month after the intifada broke out.
Orna Meir says Rabin was the source of those orders. “We point at the defense minister as an element responsible for giving explicit and unequivocal orders,” she told Israel Radio on Tuesday.
Rabin was, in fact, widely quoted at the time as saying soldiers should “break the bones” of intifada activists.
“There is nothing doubtful or unclear” about the orders, according to Orna Meir. “All those who acted in the period of the beatings in January to February 1988 acted on orders. It cannot be that so many soldiers and officers deviated from orders. This was the method,” she said.
She said Rabin and some senior officers later realized that the orders were illegal and sent a letter, signed by the chief of staff, to local commanders in February 1988, ordering a halt to the practice of beatings.
“We demand that a government committee of inquiry be created. It would reveal the truth, so everybody will know who gave the order,” Meir said.
“We ask the defense minister to accept responsibility for what has been and is happening with officers and soldiers. And if he cannot do so, we call on him to resign,” she added.
Col. Meir was reprimanded by Chief of Staff Gen. Dan Shomron, after a hearing by a disciplinary court last year. But at the same time he was promoted and allowed to take unpaid leave until 1992, when he will be eligible for a full pension.
But civil rights groups in Israel appealed to the High Court of Justice. And, in a rare reversal of a decision by the army judge advocate general, the justices ruled Sunday that Col. Meir must face a court-martial.
If found guilty of issuing illegal orders, he could be sentenced to up to 20 years in prison.