Defense Minister Ya'alon: Israeli Forces Must Not Have 'Itchy Trigger Fingers'

Defense Minister backs IDF chief's comments regarding IDF's rules of engagement, says Israel can defeat terror while maintaining its humanity.

Defense Minister Ya'alon speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference, February 14, 2016.
Ariel Hermoni / Defense Ministry

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on Thursday backed IDF chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot's remarks from a day earlier, defending the military's rules of engagement.

"I give my full backing to Eisenkot's remarks vis-à-vis the rules of engagement," Ya'alon said, speaking to soldiers and students. "We can't allow ourselves to become desensitized or to have itchy trigger fingers."

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 told high school students on Wednesday. "I don't want a soldier to empty a magazine on a girl with scissors," he added.

Ya'alon said that Israel faces a challenging reality. "We are dealing with the current terror wave with an iron fist against terrorists, and when someone puts us in danger, we need to hurt him," he said, adding that the decision should be taken by whoever's is in the field.

"We have to know how to win while maintaining our humanity," he said. "Just like we won previous wars, we will defeat this wave of terror," but there is no quick solution, he added.

Meretz Knesset whip Ilan Gilon on Thursday described Eisenkot's statement as "a breath of morality and decency at a time when everyone does what they want."

The chief of staff, he added, did well to "clarify open-fire regulations and set much-needed ethical limits in these mad times."

Gilon described Eisenkot's words as being "as necessary as air to breath at a time when the ethical dilemmas facing many soldiers and policemen leave room for destructive interpretations.

"Not every girl with a pair of scissors is a terrorist and a burst of bullets is not the automatic and ultimate response. When the government and police loosen the reins and encourage itchy trigger fingers, the chief of staff's words provide hope that there are still responsible and considered decision makers."