IDF chief expresses little sympathy ahead of verdict in Hebron shooter case

IDF Chief of Staff expresses full confidence in military courts ahead of Wednesday's decision.

January 3, 2017 14:57
3 minute read.
IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot

IDF chief of staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot appears at a hearing of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

A day before the sentencing of Sgt. Elor Azaria, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot expressed his confidence in the military courts and criticized those who have called for leniency in his sentencing because he was a “confused little kid.”

“An 18-year-old man who enlists in the IDF is a soldier, and is not ‘everyone’s son.’ He is a fighter, a soldier and he must give his life to protect us,” Eisenkot said.

“The confusion that has seeped into the discourse, this confusion between an 18-year-old man or 18-year-old woman is everyone’s little kid who got confused is something that is harming the character of the army,” he said. Eisenkot, who was speaking at an event in memory of former IDF chief-of-staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak at the IDC Herzliya, stressed that the army must “ensure that this set of values is sustained in order to preserve the strength and justness of the IDF.”

“An 18 year-old who is drafted into the military puts his hand on the Bible and swears allegiance to the defense of Israel, to obey orders. We demand of our soldiers that they follow the IDF’s set of values; to defend the country with loyalty and love, to treat people with respect, to persevere in the mission. These are not mere slogans, this is a set of values.”

There are legal orders, illegal orders and blatantly illegal orders, Eisenkot said, adding that the army explains the meaning of this to soldiers and that this “explains why we rarely encounter these types of incidents.”
IDF soldier shoots dead subdued Palestinian terrorist in Hebron, part of Elor Azaria case

“We must be stringent if we want to maintain an army which knows how to achieve its objectives. On the one hand, we must be warm and caring toward soldiers, but on the other hand recruits to the IDF are required to perform duties and endanger their lives, to protect civilians and attack our enemies.”

The chief-of-staff stated that despite the public debate and online discourse of the case, he had full confidence in the military courts, stressing that he had no say in the verdict.

“They are not affected by me or public opinion. They are completely independent and seek to serve justice and set the norms and judicial rules.”

In his speech, Eisenkot also touched on regional security matters, stating that the reason why a third intifada didn’t break out was because of the army’s rejection of the call by some cabinet members to close off the West Bank.

“The fact that we haven’t seen the development of a third intifada is because of the focused use of force which distinguishes between terrorists and innocent civilians,” Eisenkot said, adding that the army goes to great lengths not to harm innocent bystanders.

With regard to Gaza, Eisenkot said that it is in Israel’s interest that the people of Gaza, which has an unemployment rate of 47%, have hope, but “Hamas has settled into the hearts and minds of the residents of the Gaza; it is not some dictatorship that’s rejected by the masses.” He added that the Gaza situation is a challenge for Israel which aims to prevent Hamas from growing militarily and threatening Israel’s sovereignty by digging tunnels into the Jewish state.

According to Eisenkot, the role of the IDF is to continue to surprise its enemies while having effective protection on the country’s borders and being prepared for war while at the same time providing a quiet and normal life for the Israeli public.

“The IDF is central to Israeli society,” Eisenkot said, adding that while 2016 was a quiet year, “the state must continue to strengthen the IDF if it wants the army to continue to fulfill its mission of effectively winning wars and protecting the existence of the state.”

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