Israeli Cabinet Minister Weighs Donation for Hebron Shooter's Legal Defense

Transport Minister Yisrael Katz tells an ultra-Orthodox radio station he or his wife 'may do this today.'

Elor Azaria in military court in May, April 9, 2016.
Ilan Assayag

Likud Minister Yisrael Katz, a member of the inner security cabinet, said on Monday that he and his may donate to a fund aiding in the defense of a soldier on trial on manslaughter charges for shooting to death a wounded Palestinian assailant in Hebron.

"I have thought about it since yesterday and in order for him to be able to improve his defense, my wife or I may do this today," Katz, transportation and intelligence minister, told the ultra-Orthodox radio station Kol Barama. "It definitely may happen."

Former far-right lawmaker and journalist Sharon Gal launched an online crowed-funding campaign for the soldier on Sunday, setting a 400,000 shekel ($103,000) target which was met within 12 hours.

The drive for Sgt. Elor Azaria's defense followed an appeal from the soldier's mother on Channel 2 television on Friday, where she said that an account opened on his behalf had a balance of only 5,000 shekels.  

The IDF entitles all soldiers to free legal defense aid.

A month ago Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had considered inviting Azaria's parents to his official residence. But then defense minister Moshe Ya'alon persuaded him that such an invite would hurt Netanyahu politically, political sources said.

The Prime Minister’s Office said at the time that “The issue was not on the agenda. It came up as an idea among the prime minister’s people and was removed from the agenda just as fast.”

But Netanyahu did telephone the soldier's father to try and console him, within a week of the March 24 shooting, and the soldier's subsequent arrest. 

"As a father I understand your distress," Netanyahu said.

"Our soldiers have faced terrorist attacks and murderers who try to kill them with courage and determination," Netanyahu continued during his phone call. "They are required to make decisions in real time, on the ground, under pressure and in a situation of uncertainty.

"This is a not an easy reality and I am sure that the examination will take all these circumstances into account.  I am convinced that it will be professional and fair with your son," Netanyahu said.

"I wanted to tell you heart to heart that all that you have to say,  say so within the framework of the examination – it is real, professional and fair. I ask you to understand this, not to think for a moment that your son will not get the fairest and most objective examination. I ask that you relay this to the whole family."