Ya’alon scolds political haymaking over Hebron shooting
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Ya’alon scolds political haymaking over Hebron shooting

Defense minister says lawmakers are commenting irresponsibly for political gain; soldier’s mother says son has been betrayed by the military

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon seen in the Knesset, February 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon seen in the Knesset, February 29, 2016. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on Sunday harshly criticized ministers and members of Knesset, accusing them of seeking to achieve personal political gain in the case of the questionable deadly shooting of a Palestinian by an IDF soldier in Hebron.

“In the last few days, irresponsible ministers and members of the Knesset are carrying out an incitement campaign — unprecedented in its severity — against the IDF, the commander of the IDF, and against senior officers,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

“Instead of [showing] national responsibility they are showing unparalleled unruliness, for cynical political reasons, even at the cost of harming the IDF, its soldiers and commanders, and likewise harming Israel’s national fortitude. In the fervor of this campaign, it is not the IDF that is their priority, nor its strength, but populist considerations and [Internet] talkbacks.”

Ya’alon was referring to the furor over the arrest and investigation of a soldier who shot and killed a disarmed Palestinian assailant Thursday. The soldier shot the attacker several minutes after the latter carried out a stabbing attack — along with a second Palestinian — on Israel Defense Forces soldiers in Hebron, wounding one soldier.

An IDF soldier loading his weapon before he appears to shoot a disarmed, prone Palestinian assailant in the head following a stabbing attack in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Screen capture: B'Tselem)
An IDF soldier loading his weapon before he appears to shoot a disarmed, prone Palestinian assailant in the head following a stabbing attack in Hebron on March 24, 2016. (Screen capture: B’Tselem)

The two Palestinians were both shot by soldiers. One assailant was killed on the spot, while the other was wounded. Footage emerged from the incident on Friday that showed the suspected soldier shooting the second Palestinian in the head and killing him several minutes after he had been shot and disarmed. The soldier was arrested, and army prosecutors have said he is suspected of murder.

On Sunday evening the soldier’s mother wrote an open letter to Ya’alon, saying that her son had been “forsaken by the system” and that she had not slept since his arrest. She accused the establishment of betraying her son, who “dreamed of serving the state.”

She asked Ya’alon to remember that he, too, had “confirmed the kill” when the elite Sayeret Matkal unit under his command killed PLO second-in-command Abu Jihad in Tunis in 1988.

“Confirming the kill” is a colloquial term in Hebrew for shooting an enemy to ensure he’s dead. Though Abu Jihad was killed in a firefight with another commando, according to some reports Ya’alon shot Abu Jihad’s body several minutes later to confirm he had been killed.

Ya’alon, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot were quick to condemn the apparent extrajudicial killing — a move that was censured by many right-wing lawmakers, who said Israel’s leaders should not pass judgment before army investigators have properly investigated the incident.

During the weekly cabinet meeting, ministers clashed over the manner in which the shooting should be handled, and in particular the fate of the soldier. Netanyahu angrily defended the army’s investigation into the alleged murder even as he faced fierce criticism from Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home party) over the case.

Bennett has accused “senior politicians” of “dancing to the tune of B’Tselem.” He also termed as “hysterical” the decision of Israel Defense Forces prosecutors to file a murder indictment.

“Eisenkot is leading IDF commanders and soldiers in a determined and uncompromising war on Palestinian terror, and against terror in general,” Ya’alon wrote. “I give him and the soldiers of the IDF full backing in [their] complex daily activities. When there is a need to investigate, we do it, and any cynical political intervention in the matter of an operational investigation, probe, or rules of engagement, is damaging to the IDF, and harms, first and foremost, the soldiers and commanders.”

Placards posted near Israeli army headquarters in
Tel Aviv over the weekend attacked Eisenkot for allegedly “forfeiting” Jewish blood and compared him to Persian king Ahasuerus of Purim lore.

Ya’alon also commented on the placards, saying, “Those who inflame the atmosphere, and implicitly encourage breaking the law just to please a minority radical and violent — will lead us into anarchy. The rational elements in Israel, left and right, must unite against this evil spirit and stop it.”

The police were investigating who had printed and hung up the placards, which could be considered incitement against the IDF chief.

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