Hero officer exonerated, says soldiers are afraid to fire

Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan awarded the rank of lieutenant on Thursday to Lt. (res.) Aviv Morag, who has only recently been cleared of wrongdoing in the killing of a terrorist two years ago.

Morag would have received the ranks two years ago, if it were not for the investigation against him.

Morag got out of a jeep in which he and his soldiers were sitting, as it came under attack by an Arab mob in the village of Dura who tried to open the door to the jeep. He fired a shot that killed one of the Arab assailants.

Aviv said at the ceremony that “from what I know, soldiers in the field are really afraid to fire because they know what awaits them in terms of legal proceedings. I don’t know if they will learn from my case but I hope it will have an impact, and that soldiers will be able to defend themselves without fear.”

He thanked Ben Dahan for honoring him by awarding him the ranks, and noted that he was on track to becoming a deputy battalion commander when the incident in Dura occurred. The investigation dragged on and he eventually decided to forego a military career and left the ranks of the professional military (Tzva Keva).

“Despite the unjust legal proceedings and despite having had to retire from the IDF, I do not regret for a moment acting the way I did,” he stressed. “I don’t want to think what would have happened if I hadn’t acted that way. I am willing to pay the price of the unjust proceedings, the delay in the promotion and retirement from the IDF, in order to protect my soldiers and keep them out of harm’s way.”

“I hope that all of the IDF’s officers and soldiers will deal with operational situations without fears, and that they will defend their lives, those of their soldiers and those of the civilians, when they have to,” he added.

Ben Dahan said that soldiers like Aviv are Israel’s heroes. He vowed to stand behind the soldiers and “not to let organizations like Breaking the Silence and B’tselem libel you abroad. We are behind you.”

The new rank insignia ware placed on Aviv’s shoulders by Ben Dahan and by Aviv’s father, Asher Morag. Aviv’s mother, brothers and grandmother were also on hand, as were two of the soldiers who were under his command at the time of the incident and Attorney Eyal Paltek, who represented him in the legal proceedings.