Ya'alon to right wing activists: 'We must adhere to the rule of law'

 Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said Friday that he will not "bend to extremist elements" in Israel and continue to fight for the "rule of law"  in response to withering public criticism following comments he made regarding a soldier's conduct in a recent shooting incident.
In a social media post uploaded to Facebook, Ya'alon said that "extremist fringe elements in Israel" have sought to paint me as a hater of Israel, and now have resorted to "inciting against me."
"I am not going to bend or fold in order to fit their [extremist] image of the State of Israel or Israeli society." Ya'alon added. "We must adhere to the rule of law and respect the sanctity of life and struggle against violence and racism."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked in a statement distributed by his office Friday that the attacks against the Defense Minister "crosses a red line," adding "public debate must be conducted in a respectful manner." 
Ya'alon has been the target of scathing public attacks in recent days after harshly criticizing a soldier who shot and killed a "neutralized" Palestinian assailant in Hebron over two weeks ago. 
“Those who back the soldier don’t back our laws and values,” Ya’alon said during a speech on April 6 with high school students from the Jordan valley settlement of Ma’aleh Ephraim.
“It’s important for us to both win and remain humane,” Ya’alon added. “If we lose our morality we will lose our way.”
In recent days, members of the Likud party and right-wing activists have  denounced Ya'alon as a leftist, disinvited him from pre-Passover toasts for party activists, and even sent messages in Likud WhatsApp groups depicting him with a red target atop the headline “Politically assassinated!”
The messages warned that in the next Likud primary, they would ensure he will not make it into the Knesset.
Gil Hoffman and Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this article.