Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implicitly criticized the IDF soldier who shot and killed a Palestinian assailant shortly following a stabbing attack in Hebron on Thursday, March 24. The remark, made at the weekly cabinet meeting Sunday, March 27, prompted criticism from two senior political figures.
“The subversion of the IDF’s morality is outrageous and unacceptable,” said Netanyahu. “The IDF soldiers, our children, maintain high ethical standards at a time when they are bravely fighting bloodthirsty murderers in severe operational conditions.”
Like Netanyahu, other top officials in Israel’s political echelon, including Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, also condemned the actions of the soldier. However, other elected officials returned the criticism in the direction of Netanyahu and Yaalon.
“We must not rush to judge of the soldier,” said Education Minister and head of the Jewish Home party Naftali Bennett. “It is not right that the defense establishment speaks against him during the investigation and it is baseless to charge him with murder.”
Speaking on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet network, Bennett accused Israel’s political establishment of “dancing to the tune of B’Tselem.”
B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights NGO financed and supported by the European Union, accused the soldier of committing an unjustified and extrajudicial killing. The Palestinian stabber, Abd al-Fatah a-Sharif, was lying on the ground sustaining injuries after IDF soldiers shot and neutralized the two Palestinian assailants.
However, the soldier’s lawyer said earlier this week that a-Sharif was “moving underneath his jacket, where he could have been hiding explosives or weapons” and that the soldier shot him out of concern that a-Sharif was preparing to detonate an explosive.
With some details of the incident still not fully understood, Bennett argued the soldier cannot be prematurely accused of murder and committed to helping him get a fair trial. Bennett also criticized the IDF for sharing details with the media about the investigation of the incident, to the detriment of the soldier.
Opposition MK and Yisrael Beiteinu party, head Avigdor Liberman joined Bennett in condemning the accusations made against the soldier.
“There is a court martial for the soldier, even before the investigation has been completed,” said Liberman. “The prime minister and defense minister have (already) ruled that (the soldier) went against the values of the IDF and are denying him justice.”
“Is it possible that the Justice Ministry will consider publicly passing judgment on a defendant before trial?,” asked Liberman rhetorically. “In the same way, it is forbidden for the prime minister and defense minister to say the things that they said and hurt the chances that the soldier receives a fair investigation and not a media lynching.”
Liberman went on to accuse Netanyahu and Yaalon of being “spokesmodels” for the B’Tselem NGO.
Liberman also criticized the Defense Ministry for rejecting a request on his part with fellow party MK Oded Forer, to visit the detained soldier.
“It should not be that Arab MKs, supporters of terrorism in the Knesset, are allowed to meet in prison with terrorists while we are not allowed to meet with a soldier under arrest,” argued Liberman, implicitly referring to a recent uproar in which Arab MKs Hanin Zoabi, Basel Ghattas and Jamal Zahalka comforted and visited the family members of terrorists.
“There is no doubt that the refusal is motivated by political considerations rather than substance,” added Liberman.
Meanwhile, Netanyahu expressed confidence that the investigation of the incident will be an objective accounting of what happened.
“I am sure that in every case, and in this case, the investigation will take into account all the circumstances,” said Netanyahu.
Jonathan Benedek (TPS)