Israeli President Defends IDF Chief of Staff, Defense Minister Amid Hebron Shooting Controversy

Reuven Rivlin says he trusts Moshe Ya'alon with his eyes closed, adding that it's good that Gadi Eisenkot is responsible for Israel's security, 'not those challenging him while he is innocent of any crime.'

Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel
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Reuven Rivlin at the Golan Heights, April 21, 2016.
Reuven Rivlin at the Golan Heights, April 21, 2016.Credit: Mark Naiman, GPO
Noa Shpigel
Noa Shpigel

President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday defended Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot from the sharp criticism against them amid the unfolding legal case of Elor Azaria, the Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter for shooting a killing a subdued Palestinians assailant in Hebron.

Rivlin spoke during a visit to the Golan Heights, where he wished IDF soldiers a happy Passover and observed an armored batallion exercise. Rivlin declined to comment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's vow that "the Golan Heights will forever remain under Israeli sovereignty," but called the Golan "a strategic part of the State of Israel."

"We have a defense minister who is one of the best sons of the state of Israel." said Rivlin during a visit to the Golan Heights. "I trust him with my eyes closed."

The president continued, "Anyone who thinks that the IDF and Israel's security will depend on the desires or whims of one individual doesn't know what he's talking about. It's well that the decisions and Israel's security are in the hands of the chief of staff and not in the hands of those challenging him while he is innocent of any crime."

Ya'alon was the target of harsh criticism from supporters of Azaria, after the defense minister said, "this is a case of a soldier who has transgressed, and not a hero. We're not like the other side." Eisenkot joined ranks with the defense minister by issuing a letter to IDF soldiers, stating that "we shal not hesitate to exercise the law with soldiers and commanders who deviate from the operational and ethical criteria according to which we operate."

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