Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben Dahan on Saturday announced plans to propose Knesset legislation that would grant IDF soldiers taking part in security operations blanket immunity from criminal prosecution.
Dahan’s planned bill was prompted by the deeply divisive trial of Sgt. Elor Azaria, who was convicted Wednesday of manslaughter for killing an already injured and disarmed Palestinian assailant in the West Bank last year.
The legislation would extend the immunity granted under current law from actions taken by security forces during an operation, to those taken before and after an operation as well.
“The law sends a clear message to IDF soldiers: just as they protect us, we will protect you as well,” Dahan told the Srugim news website on Saturday.
Dahan said his “balanced” law would allow IDF soldiers to “carry out their duty to defend the country without fear of potential criminal prosecution.”
“We’ve seen too many soldiers and commanders suffer from a long legal process, only to be acquitted eventually,” he said. “This is the case because there is no clearly stated legal or ethical assurance that we are protecting them while they carry out their duties.”
Dahan’s law would not grant immunity to soldiers accused of looting, destruction of property, accepting bribes, bullying, or sexual offenses. It would also allow for the wide-ranging legal protection to be repealed in certain cases.
“As someone who served as a major in the IDF, I am sure this will help our soldiers and have no doubt MKs will support this law,” Dahan added.
Azaria was filmed on March 24, 2016, shooting Palestinian assailant Abed al-Fattah Yusri al-Sharif in the head, nearly 15 minutes after al-Sharif had been shot and wounded during an attempt to stab another IDF soldier in Hebron.
On Wednesday, a military tribunal convicted 19-year-old Azaria of manslaughter.
The verdict drew outrage from far-right supporters and some politicians who have accused the IDF of abandoning one of its own.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other senior cabinet ministers swiftly called for Azaria to be pardoned, signaling a growing rift between nationalist politicians and the defense establishment.