Former IDF chief criticizes PM's handling of Hebron soldier

Benny Gantz praised Ya'alon and IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot for maintaining the values of the IDF.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
May 2, 2016 21:16
2 minute read.
The father of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who is charged with manslaughter

The father of Israeli soldier Elor Azaria, who is charged with manslaughter after he shot a wounded Palestinian assailant as he lay on the ground in Hebron on March 24, kisses his head in a military court. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not do enough to quell right-wing anger at the treatment of an IDF soldier who killed a neutralized Palestinian terrorist in the head on March 24, former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz said over the weekend.

Gantz is seen by many in the Labor Party as a potential leader who could defeat Netanyahu and return the Center-Left to power. MKs in the party have noted that Labor has only won elections over the past 42 years when led by former IDF chiefs of staff Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak.

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Gantz said an April 19 demonstration supporting 19-year-old Sgt. Elor Azarya in which Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon was mocked was dangerous. He also criticized protests that took place outside the military court that convicted him of manslaughter.

"The behavior of reality shows belongs to entertainment, not to the army," Gantz said in an interview with the right-wing newspaper Makor Rishon. "It is not acceptable to have demonstrations in front of an army courts. The public must understand that this behavior can cause damage. I expect the leaders of the state to say it, and I don't really hear them."

Gantz praised Ya'alon and IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot for maintaining the values of the IDF. Despite his  criticism of Azarya's supporters, he said it was important to not reject him.

"We need to embrace him and love him because he is the flesh of our flesh," Gantz said. "We sent him to a mission. We love him and the army loves him. However, we cannot concede our values. If we do, we will have a problem. Whenever there is a threat, we must neutralize it. But when it is neutralized, we must return to the values of human beings and not animals."

Gantz praised religious Zionist soldiers , of which Azarya was one. He said he did differentiate between different sectors in the IDF.
"I don’t care if they have a kippah, what they are called, or who their father is," he said. "I don’t connect to that and I don’t think it is right."

In the interview, Gantz recalled getting injured on his first jump out of an airplane and learning from it to properly roll on the ground upon landing. He remembered his first assignment in the elite Genereal Reconaissance Unit Sayeret Maktkal guarding visiting Egyptian president Answar Sadat when he came to speak in the Knesset in 1977.

He did not speak about entering politics but he said he was enjoying his privacy now that he is retired from the IDF.

"I am a pensioner," he said. "I go to Kupat Cholim at 10 in the morning. What is nice is I only do things that I want."


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