Ya'alon to Bennett: Pleasing an Extreme, Violent Minority Could Lead Israel to Anarchy

Israeli defense minister slams lawmakers who he says are waging a campaign of incitement against the IDF.

Ministers Ya'alon and Bennett at the Knesset, 2014.
Olivier Fitoussi

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon attacked Education Minister Naftali Bennett and other Knesset members on Sunday following their comments on the investigation of the killing of a terrorist in Hebron.

"Whoever encourages the violation of the law to please an extreme and violent minority could lead us to anarchy," said Ya'alon. While he didn’t mention Bennett by name, Ya'alon noted that there are "irresponsible ministers and Knesset members" who were waging a "campaign of incitement against the IDF unprecedented in its severity."

Ya'alon made the comments on his Twitter account in response to statements made by Bennett and other Knesset members following the detention of a soldier from the Kfir infantry brigade who was recorded shooting in the head a terrorist who was wounded and lying on the ground in Hebron. According to Ya'alon, ministers who condemned the detention are "demonstrating unprecedented lawlessness for political and cynical reasons, even at the expense of harming the IDF, its soldiers and its commanders."

The defense minister added that these remarks harm the nation's strength, and called "the sane forces in the State of Israel, from the left and from the right" to unite against such sentiments.

Regarding the investigation of the incident and the detention of the soldier, who is suspected of murder, Ya'alon said: "When there's a need to investigate we do so, and any cynical political involvement in the areas of operational probes, investigation, or rules of engagement is detrimental to the IDF and first and foremost hurts soldiers and commanders."          

Referring to the posters that were distributed over the weekend at the military's headquarters in Tel Aviv and at other locations across the country against the IDF chief Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, the defense minister said that "whoever incites against the chief of staff shouldn’t be surprised to find hateful posters against him." The posters show Eisenkot dressed up as King Achashverosh from the Book of Esther alongside captions calling on Eisenkot to quit and "take along the defense minister and the prime minister with him."

"Eisenkot leads the soldiers and commanders of the IDF in a determined and uncompromising war against Palestinian terrorism and against terrorism in general. I give him and the IDF's soldiers full backing in their complex daily operations."

During Sunday morning's cabinet meeting, Bennett called on the government to intervene in the investigation of the soldier. "They are sealing the fate of a soldier," the minister said.

"The defense establishment is providing information detrimental to the soldier from inside the investigation and that is unfair. They are talking about a murder charge and that is outrageous in this context. The government must have its say and intervene." Netanyahu responded to Bennett, saying, "I have always given support to soldiers and have led more soldiers into battle than you. So don't preach to me on this matter."

Already on Saturday, Bennett wrote on Facebook that "the soldier is not a murderer, have we lost our minds? We are at war. Maybe he made a mistake, maybe he didn't. Maybe he though the terrorist was carrying a bomb and that he could set it off at any moment, and that by shooting he is saving lives and preventing a further attack." According to Bennett, "Everything must be examined at the highest possible standards, as the most moral army in the world does. But this examination isn’t done by sitting in the living room at home and watching a B'Tselem video of the seconds following the attack."

Minister Ofir Akunis also criticized the comments condemning the suspected soldier. "The fact that politicians, senior as they may be, already judged the soldier and convicted him is unacceptable to me," Akunis said before Sunday's cabinet meeting. "Things must be clarified in court. It's better [to have] dead terrorists than dead soldiers."