Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman accused Israeli journalists of preventing IDF soldiers from carrying out their missions by instilling in them the fear that they will be judged harshly in the media.
“I would expect the Israeli press to work hard to strengthen the Israeli deterrent capability against our enemies — not to deter Israeli soldiers from fighting terrorists and fighting terror,” Liberman said during a press conference on Monday, following a tour of Bedouin communities in southern Israel.
“I want a free press, not a press that deters IDF soldiers,” he added.
Liberman’s comments came amid two developing cases in which soldiers are suspected of killing Palestinians unlawfully.
In the second case, a soldier from the Kfir Brigade’s ultra-Orthodox Netzah Yehuda Battalion on Friday shot and killed a Palestinian man who allegedly approached an army outpost in a threatening manner near the West Bank settlement of Ofra.
Following his tour in southern Israel, the defense minister told reporters: “Remember that in Israel, as in every democratic country, only the court of law convicts — not the press, but the court. So long as the person hasn’t been convicted, they are innocent, and that includes Elor Azaria and the soldier from Netzah Yehuda.”
Though he has not been formally charged, the as-yet unnamed Netzah Yehuda soldier has been questioned by Military Police “in connection with the death,” an army official told The Times of Israel on Monday.
The investigation will continue and possible manslaughter charges may be filed in the near future.
Liberman also stressed that cases like those involving Azaria and the Netzah Yehuda soldier are inevitable as soldiers cannot stop and seek legal advice from an attorney before they carry out a mission.
“Another thing, I want to remind you that people are fighting terror on a daily basis, fighting terrorists. They can’t go out to a mission with a lawyer at their side, and therefore sometimes [their] thought process will be correct and sometimes it won’t,” Liberman said.
Prior to becoming defense minister in May, Liberman was more explicit in his support for Azaria, speaking publicly on his behalf. Upon taking over for Moshe Ya’alon, Liberman promised to not intervene in the military court’s decision.
Liberman toured the Negev’s Bedouin communities with Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel in order to “consider the government’s actions toward regulating the settlement of Bedouins,” his office said in a statement.