Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Wednesday urged the Israeli public to “accept and respect” a military court’s conviction of IDF soldier Elor Azaria for manslaughter in the killing of a disarmed Palestinian stabber in Hebron, but also said that he didn’t like the verdict and that the defense establishment would help Azaria and his family “in any way it can.”
Liberman, when still an opposition MK last March, argued against Azaria being charged and predicted that he would be acquitted.
Speaking at the court minutes after Azaria was convicted in a unanimous decision in which the judges determined that the shooting last March was unjustified and that Azaria had opened fire on the prone assailant because he believed that “terrorists deserve to die,” Liberman declared, “A verdict has been delivered. Even those, like myself, who like the verdict less, must accept and respect it.”
He called the conviction “very difficult,” but said there was a need to read the judges’ lengthy verdict carefully, and “count to three,” before expressing further opinions.
Liberman said the criticisms of IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, and of the army in general, “have to stop” and that “the army must emerge strengthened from this” and must retain the widest possible consensual support.
Eisenkot on Tuesday rejected claims by Azaria’s supporters that he should be seen as a child whom the nation is committed to protecting. “An 18-year-old man serving in the army is not ‘everyone’s child,’” Eisenkot said. “He is a fighter, a soldier, who must dedicate his life to carry out the tasks we give him. We cannot be confused about this.”