On March 24, 2016, the day Sgt. Elior Azaria shot a terrorist who had already been neutralized in Hebron – an event that was recorded by an Arab agent of anti-Israeli NGO B’Tselem, then Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon stated, giving a new meaning to the term Judge, Jury and Executioner: “The event in which an IDF soldier is documented arriving at the attack site in Hebron, shoots the terrorist minutes after he had been neutralized and has been lying on the ground, is extremely serious and absolutely contrary to the IDF values and war ethics. We must not permit, even when our blood is boiling, such befuddlement and loss of control. This episode will be treated with the utmost severity.”
Now, after a military court in Tel Aviv had put its seal of approval on his original verdict, former defense Minister Ya’alon released a video on his Facebook page, suggesting “the reason the trial dragged on was because of the cynical exploitation of the case by various politicians.
“It can be said that the IDF and the Azaria fmily have been seriously harmed by politicians who shirked their responsibility,” Ya’alon stated, obviously oblivious to his own major role in fanning the flames against the ID soldier by focusing broad media attention on his case. His reference to “a cynical expolitation of the event by self-interested politicians for their personal benefit” is tantamount to a cat accusing its owner of placing that bowl of cream in jeopardy.
Ya’alon, in coordination with Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot, ran a campaign against Sgt. Elazar starting hours after the event, practically from the moment the B’Tselem video went public. The fact that the initial response of the two men who sent Sgt. Azaria to battle was to demand his head sans the most preliminary investigation of the facts puts in question their comprehension of the meaning of command. Indeed, one of them, Ya’alon, has already been shown the door, albeit over Prime Minister Netanyahu’s coalition machinations rather than over his failure to grasp the concept of innocent until proven otherwise, especially when it comes to an underling in uniform.
Incidentally, Netanyahu was initially also among the senior politicians who took Azaria to the tool shed before an investigation, undoubtedly because he, too, was scared of the global ramifications of the B’Tselem video, saying, “What happened in Hebron does not represent the values of the IDF,” and declaring that Azaria (although he did not mention him by name) broke with the rules of engagement.
But Netanyahu is a magnificent political beast, and days later, realizing where the winds were blowing, softened his tone and came up with something about how all the IDF soldiers are our children. In the nick of time. Netanyahu also issued a call for a pardon for Azaria on Wednesday, when what was really called for, to correct the damage inflicted by the panel of judges, was a change in the rules of engagement which recognize a terrorist’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
So Netanyahu actually proves the point his former defense minister was making about cynical politicians – but the PM didn’t start this, Ya’alon and Eizenkot did.
It should be noted that one of the sane voices during those first few days following the Hebron shooting, was Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett, himself quite the political beast, who followed Ya’alon’s rebuke of Azaria at the Knesset plenum by lamenting the brutality of the political class against one IDF medic.
“The military police investigation has yet to begin and already everyone from all over is condemning,” Bennett said, looking at the opposition benches. “Even before we got to hear the part of video where they yell, ‘Explosives, explosives,’ everybody is jumping on top of this soldier. And only then do they pass the material to a military police investigator. You tell me, what chance is there for an honest investigation? Afer the entire State of Israel has determined the soldier committed a crime?”
To sum up: cynicism is a common trait among politicians, but cynicism while your own hands are stained with the blood of your victim… that’s special.