Netanyahu: Argument Over IDF Chief Comments Is 'Pointless'

Israel's army chief faced implicit criticism from the right after he said he doesn’t 'want a soldier to empty a magazine on a girl with scissors.'

Netanyahu and IDF chief Eisenkot touring Israel's eastern border, February 9, 2015.
Kobi Gideon / GPO

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that the argument surrounding comments made by the Israel Defense Forces' chief of staff regarding the army's rules of engagement is "pointless."

According to Netanyahu, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot stated the obvious when he said he "doesn’t want a soldier to empty a magazine on a girl with scissors," adding the Israeli army already acts in such a way.

"Everything said after [Eisenkot's statement] stems from ignorance or an attempt at political bashing," Netanyahu said. "Both are unacceptable. We need to put this aside and move on."

Eisenkot is scheduled to brief ministers Sunday morning on the security situation in the region. Ahead of the meeting, a number of ministers put themselves in front of the cameras to voice support for the IDF chief.

Gila Gamliel, minister for gender equality, minorities and young people, said that Eisenkot clarified that the IDF is the most moral army. "His remarks are correct and I back him," she said.

Construction Minister Yoav Galant joined in: "It's the chief of staff's duty to set the rules of engagement and explain them, and I'm happy that he did so," he said. "In the fight against terror, it's mandatory to use the minimum required power and not the possible maximum, and the chief of staff clarified what the policy should be, and I think that's good."

Interior Minister Arye Dery noted that Eisenkot is a moral and decent person who runs the army with a firm hand. "I say to him, 'Don't worry, we're giving you full support,'" Dery said.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan claimed that he has no criticism of the chief of staff's comments, and blamed the media for blowing his statements out of proportion and placing them out of context. "The chief of staff has the full backing of all the government members," he said.

Last week Eisenkot made his remarks after a student asked the IDF chief to comment on the military's rules of engagement, which the student said put soldiers at risk. Eisenkot asserted that the rules were satisfactory and correct, saying the "IDF cannot speak in slogans, such as 'if someone comes to kill you, arise to kill them first,' or 'everyone who carries scissors should be killed.'" Troops can act only if there is threat to life, Eisenkot said.