Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday evening visited the site of the terrorist attack in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Armon Hanatziv and were briefed by Jerusalem District Police Commander Yoram Halevy.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said in his statement:
“We in Jerusalem have just experience an unprovoked terrorist attack, a murderous attack that claimed the lives of four young Israelis and wounded others. This is part of the same pattern inspired by Islamic State, by ISIS, that we saw first in France, then in Germany and now in Jerusalem. This is part of the same ongoing battle against this global scourge of the new terrorism. We can only fight it together, but we have to fight it, and we will.”
Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotoveli (Likud) on Wednesday accused the IDF of conducting a show trial against the combat medic Sgt. Elor Azaria who was convicted of manslaughter for killing an already neutralized terrorist.
“The soldier Elor Azaria’s trial was conducted as a show trial with a predetermined end,” Hotoveli said. “In many ways his sentence was decided well in advance of the first court hearing. In such a situation it would be proper to ask the president, for the sake of justice, to pardon the soldier who did not act in a sterile zone but in a terror event.”
MK Shuli Nualem (Habayit Hayehudi) is in the process of collecting MK’s signature on a petition to be submitted to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), asking him to order the IDF chief of staff to pardon Sgt. Azaria, based on Article 55 of the Defense Regulations.
Mualem’s petition argues that since the shooting took place as part of a military operation it should have been investigated within the military – as opposed to the public treatment of the case by the powers that be.
“In similar cases in the past, the army supported its warriors, even if they made mistakes, and also interrogated the chain of command,” goes the petition. “Unfortunately, the process was contaminated by the involvement of outside factors, hence the decision.”
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Liberman said he did not like verdict, but stressed that “all of us are compelled to respect the court’s decision, and we all must restrain ourselves. It is crucial that despite the harsh verdict the security apparatus will aid the soldier and his family whichever way we can, to assist and facilitate.”
It should be noted that, as a member of the opposition, MK Liberman was gung-ho on letting Azaria go and even showed up at a preliminary court hearing to express his view to the press. Later, as Defense Minister, his position became milder.
Within minutes after IDF Sgt. Elor Azaria was pronounced guilty of manslaughter in the death of an injured terrorist who had stabbed a fellow soldier, lawmakers were calling on the public to accept the verdict, but also urged President Reuven Rivlin to grant a presidential pardon.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told reporters after the verdict was announced, “This is a difficult ruling.”
But he said, “We have to accept the court’s ruling on Azaria even if we don’t like it.” Sgt. Azaria is the first Israeli soldier in 12 years to be convicted for actions on duty.
Education Minister and Bayit Yehudi party chairman were the first to call for an immediate pardon for the soldier, as did Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, chairman of the Shas party. “The court has done its job,” Deri tweeted. “I respect its verdict. But now the correct thing to do is pardon him. The process of the trial and the suffering of the soldier and his family justify a pardon.”
Likud MK Oren Hazan also called for amnesty for Sgt. Azaria, as did Zionist Union MK Shelly Yachimovich, who said in a statement to media that the court acted professionally and bravely in its conviction but added the guilty verdict would deeply divide the nation.
“Azaria’s narrow shoulders will not be able to withstand the weight of that divide,” she said. For that reason, she said, President Rivlin should consider exercising his privilege to issue a pardon.
Opposition leader Isaac Herzog also added his voice to the chorus, saying in a statement that although the verdict must be respected, “it cannot be ignored that to some degree, Azaria was a victim of the situation. But the ruling strengthens the IDF, since you cannot ignore the circumstances of the incident, which reflect an impossible reality in a field that is complicated, which IDF soldiers deal with daily, hourly.”
“Immediate clemency for Elor Azaria,” Bennett wrote on his Facebook page.
“We need to say the truth. The trial was corrupted from the outset. The harsh comments by political leaders even before the opening of the army’s investigation, the removal of the soldier, himself from the investigation process, the critical media coverage surrounding the case caused Elor irreparable harm.
“I expect Defense Minister Yvette (Avigdor) Liberman to keep his many promises and secure an immediate pardon for Elor Azaria, so that he does not have to spend a single day in prison.”
Likud Culture Minister Miri Regev also called for a presidential pardon, saying that she too would seek a discussion with President Rivlin to raise the issue on behalf of Elor Azaria. Regev, a former IDF spokesperson, accused the army of abandoning Azaria and attacked the IDF chief of staff – who rejected a public campaign slogan depicting him as “everyone’s child” – specifically for not backing him up. Regev underlined that in fact, Azaria is not only “everyone’s child,” but in fact is also “everyone’s soldier.”
The soldier has been living on his army base under an “open arrest” arrangement.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman came down hard last week on hareidi communities who continue to shame those who choose to enter the military.
In many cases, men in those communities who serve in the IDF are severely harassed for that choice. Sometimes they are threatened and sometimes even physically attacked. Sometimes their families are threatened and hounded as well.
Minister Liberman focused on the issue last Thursday during a Chanukah candle-lighting ceremony in the Kiryah military headquarters in Tel Aviv with hareidi soldiers and rabbis of the Nahal Hareidi Foundation, which provides hareidi religious soldiers with ongoing support during their tour of duty.
In his address, the defense minister attacked the phenomenon of shaming hareidi soldiers, calling it “idolatry,” and expressed hope there will one day be a hareidi chief of staff and pledged to fight “with all his might” against those who attempt to offend hareidi soldiers. The minister kindled the candles together with Rabbi Tzvi Klebanow, president of the Nahal hareidi Foundation.
“The start of every war is a breakthrough,” said Minister Liberman. “Once one person breaks through, everyone enters and follows him. You have truly made a breakthrough. There’s no other way to say it.
“The holiday of Chanukah is a miracle. When I look around this room, a great miracle occurred here, to see these people here as soldiers, perhaps the best soldiers.
Liberman went on to say that until he came to Israel on aliyah, he personally “never knew there was a contradiction between Torah learning and army service.” King David fought, he said, as did Joshua bin Nun. “I think they also had an understanding of Torah and Judaism, no less than Rabbis Deri and Litzman,” he said with some irony.
“You’re combining Judasim, defense of the homeland, and defense of the Jewish nation… Spiritual leaders of Israel always knew… when it was permissible for a Jew not only to learn, but also to fight,” he said.
Liberman added that he understood that for a Jew from the hareidi sector, the decision to serve isn’t a simple decision to make.
“I know how much we, to my regret, confront prejudices and how much we’re forced to fight unacceptable occurrences — all kinds of shaming, condemnations, and attempts to embarrass those serving in the IDF. This is simply unbelievable. Whoever in the name of Torah, attempts to denounce others, shames soldiers — he’s simply involved in idolatry,” he said.
“This is not Judaism. It’s definitely not identification with Jewish values, and it’s something that that we, as an army, will battle with all our might. We will not come to terms with it, and we won’t accept it. It’s not freedom of speech and it’s not just pranks — it’s simply damaging to Judaism and also to the holy of holies of the Jewish nation.”
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said Monday that an Israel-Palestinian peace summit, set to convene on January 15 without the participation of either Israeli or Palestinian Authority representatives, will be little more than a “modern day Dreyfus affair” to conjure up false charges against the entire Jewish people. He added that the current diplomatic offensive against Israel has nothing to do with Israel’s domestic behavior.
“The timing of this farce – 15 January, just four days before President Oabama leaves office, and not to mention the 23rd of April, when it is clear the French government will be voted out of office – makes it absolutely clear that this is not a peace conference. It is a tribunal against Israel meant only to damage Israel’s security and to sully Israel’s good name,” Liberman said.
Speaking to reporters before the weekly meeting of the Yisrael Beteinu Knesset faction, the defense minister said Israel must prepare for the summit by clearly articulating its positions and its relationship to the gathering, and to any declarations that come out of it. He added that the foreign policy establishment in Jerusalem is now focused on looking to the future and coordinating policy and expectations with the incoming Trump administration, particularly on four major policy issues: Iran, the Palestinian Authority, Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and Syria.
Liberman also used the statement for a blistering attack on the French government, and called on French Jews to move to Israel.
“I think that this is transparent, that everybody understands the logic behind holding this conference at this time. People say that I’m exaggerating, but look at all of France’s votes over the past year, in every UN forum imaginable – UNESCO, the Security Council, the General Assembly. Once you consider all that, everything falls into place and the point of all this becomes clear.
“I don’t want to get into a long history Jews in France, but the past few years – from the attack on the Jewish school in Toulouse to Hyper Cacher, to all the anti-Semitism of recent times. Maybe this is the right time to tell French Jews that France is simply not your country. Get out! Come to Israel. If you want to stay Jewish, if you want to protect your children and grandchildren, get out of France and come to Israel,” he said.
The IDF has decided to change the service terms and training of women in the four mixed-sex combat battalions, CarCal, Bardales, Lions of Jordan and a fourth one yet to be named – due to the numerous injuries and falls experienced by combat women, Army Radio reported Wednesday.
One change will be extending women’s boot camp training by two weeks, simply to give them a chance to keep up with the men.
Also, women on combat missions will be carrying only four magazines, compared with the standard issue of six. The reason cited is multiple stress fractures combat women have been suffering.
Army Radio also reported that the mixed battalions will be relocated to their own boot camp base, apart from the rest of the infantry’s training facilities.
Meanwhile, the IDF is losing its rationale for encouraging women to join combat units, cutting men’s compulsory service down from 36 to 32 months, instituted by former Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon (Likud). Ya’alon’s replacement, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beiteinu), on Tuesday announced that the IDF has given up that plan – he wants Israeli men to go back to serving the full three years.
According to the IDF, the shorter service, instituted mostly for economic reasons, made it impossible for the army to both prepare its special forces adequately and take advantage of their active service that follows.
The Defense Ministry will start negotiations soon with the Finance Ministry, according to Liberman, to extend the service back to what it was.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the opening of the Limmud FSU conference in Eilat Thursday that Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is a “butcher” who “should be removed from power.”
Asked about the massacre of more than 500,000 people in the Syrian civil war and the recent siege on Aleppo, Liberman said: “Assad is a butcher, who has slaughtered and murdered hundreds of thousands of people, including by using chemical weapons. In my opinion, he should be removed from power – and we should block Iranian involvement in Syria.”
When asked if Israel should get involved in Syria, Liberman said: “Where is the international community? It’s a shame that instead of focusing on the very unfortunate fact that 500 people are killed in the Middle East every day, the international community would rather criticize Israel for every new balcony built on a settlement.”
Liberman also addressed the peace process, saying: “Any peace agreement should be based on populated-area exchange, which should also include Israeli Arabs who consider themselves to be Palestinian.”
“Territory transfers have worked successfully throughout history, and the principle conforms with international law,” he added.
Limmud FSU (former Soviet Union) marked a decade of educational work with young Russian-speaking Jews at a festival of learning, which opened today in Israel’s southernmost city, Eilat. The ninth Limmud FSU Israel conference is a three-day event featuring hundreds of lectures, workshops, presentations and discussions by leading figures.
“We have made a huge impact in Russian-Jewish communities around the world,” said Limmud FSU Founder Chaim Chesler. “We are so excited to be celebrating our 10th anniversary – with leaders of the Russian-speaking community, such as the minister of defense – at one of the world’s most beautiful resort cities.”
Over the past decade, Limmud FSU has gathered more than 45,000 Russian-speaking Jews, most of whom were aged between 24 and 40, for educational and cultural festivals, conferences and other events in nine countries around the world.
“Year after year, Limmud FSU succeeds in igniting the spark of being Jewish, and this is the ninth time we’ll be doing so in Israel,” said Limmud FSU Co-Founder Sandra F. Cahn.