ex-Defense Minister Ya'alon: Politicians Used Azaria to Get Knesset Seats

'The criminal process that the soldier Elor and his family experienced is too hard to bear and should have looked differently, be conducted differently,' said Ya'alon.

Moshe Ya'alon at the annual Herzliya Conference, June 16, 2016.
Moti Milrod

Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said about Elor Azaria's conviction in a video he posted on his Facebook page on Wednesday: "The reason the trial dragged on - because of cynical exploitation by politicians."

Ya'alon said this was a difficult day for Azaria, his family, Israeli society, and for him too. "Today, with the handing down of the decision, it is already possible to say that the IDF and Azaria family were severely harmed by the politicians who abused their positions," he said.

"The criminal process that the soldier Elor and his family experienced is too hard to bear and should have looked differently, be conducted differently," said Ya'alon. The reason it took so long and was so difficult for all those involved  was the cynical exploitation by politicians for their own personal interests, he added.

Ya'alon did not name any names of politicians, but it seems he is relating to his successor as defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, who attended a court session on extending Azaria's detention early in the case.  "I wasn't put on trial as the head of a gang," Ya'alon said at the time, apparently referring to Lieberman.  

He also seemed to be accusing Education Minister Naftali Bennett, who spoke with Azaria's father, Charley, even before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with the father early on.

Ya'alon did not spare Netanyahu of his criticism either. On the day of the shooting, Netanyahu condemned it; but later backtracked and said the soldier's actions must be examined in light of the operational circumstances - and even considered inviting Azaria's parents to the Prime Minister's Residence.  "Instead of leading, they used Elor and his family for a few more [Knesset seats]. They lied to them. I am embarrassed for those politicians," said Ya'alon.