Education Minister Naftali Bennett came out Tuesday in defense of the Israeli soldiers seen in a video clip cheering after watching a sniper shoot a Palestinian approaching the border fence with the Gaza Strip. The IDF claims the video was filmed several months ago.
“Anyone who was ever on the battlefield knows that to sit in Tel Aviv or [television] studios and judge IDF soldiers according to their comments, when they are busy defending our borders, is not something serious,” said Bennett in an interview with Army Radio.
Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan also defended the soldiers. “We have reached a level of insanity and delusion,” he said during an interview on Israeli radio. “Was it so boring in this country over the last day that this video needs to receive such exposure? To take a situation from the battlefield, when soldiers are under stress and explosive devices are being thrown at them and attempts are being made to infiltrate [the border], and to take their human response and judge them from the armchairs in Tel Aviv?” said Erdan.
“No country in the world does such a thing. It would have been better if the [soldiers'] happy reactions were not circulated, but to judge them and conclude something there was wrong, is crazy,” added Erdan.
Ofir Akunis, the science, technology and space minister, told Israeli radio that it is clear that such things should not happen, and it certainly damages Israel’s image. Israel’s public diplomacy work is difficult, almost impossible, he said.
Akunis also added that the video shows a Palestinian from Gaza approaching the border fence as a provocation and no one knew what his motive or target was. “He is not an innocent civilian who is coming to seek peace. I’m sure of that,” he said.
The video has provoked reactions on social media from both left and right wing Israeli lawmakers.
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Jamal Zahalka of the Joint List said the video "indicates to the rule. Israeli snipers killed unarmed Palestinian protesters in cold blood who were participating in a non-violent protest," adding that it's no wonder soldiers act this way when ministers, MKs, the media and the public opinion join the celebration and cheer for the mass killing of Palestinians.
Likud MKs also responded to the video. Yehuda Glick said the video was "very hard to watch," and added that the atmosphere was "troubling and disappointing." Suspended MK Oren Hazan twittted: "What's all the fuss about? it was noted in advance: anyone who approaches the fence, armed or not, is gonna get it. As it should be!"
Hazan added he was proud of the soldiers defending Israel, and that he hopes the video sends "a clearer message to the other side."
It was reported Sunday that the military will launch an inquiry into the conduct of troops in the recent incidents on the Gaza Strip border, in which several protesters were killed by sniper fire. The investigation is to be headed by Brig. Gen. Moti Baruch, head of the General Staff's Doctrine and Training Division. The military has not yet decided how many of the deaths are to be probed, but it appears that the probe will center on incidents in which the casualties were civilians, including the death on Friday of Palestinian photographer Yaser Murtaja.