PM defends IDF chief from right-wing criticism

PM rejects criticism of IDF Chief of Staff over controversial comments on IDF's open-fire policy, looks to force end of public debate.

David Rosenberg ,

Binyamin Netanyahu
Binyamin Netanyahu
Emil Salman/Haaretz/Flash 90

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu looked to turn the page on Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot’s controversial comments last week regarding the IDF’s open-fire policies.

Netanyahu, who was on a state visit to Germany last week when the controversy erupted, weighed in today at the beginning of the cabinet meeting on Sunday. He brushed off criticisms leveled by members of the Likud and Jewish Home against Eizenkot, and called for the coalition to put the whole mess behind it.

“Last week there was some controversy surrounding the Chief of Staff’s comments. It was a futile discussion. The Chief of Staff merely stated the obvious; and regardless, this is how the army and security forces function.”

Eizenkot’s comments during a question and answer session with high school students in Bat Yam last week drew the ire of members of the Likud and Jewish Home.  

The Chief of Staff called for proportional responses to threats, deriding the Talmudic injunction of “when someone comes to kill you – kill him first” as irrelevant. Eizenkot went on to say that soldiers must limit their responses to terror threats, that they must not “empty magazines” into "teenagers brandishing scissors." 

Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) slammed the comments, noting that Eizenkot was making a straw man argument. 

“One thing was missing in the story over the Chief of Staff’s comments about not needing to empty a magazine into a 13-year-old female youth with scissors: no one noted that it never happened,” said Erdan.

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz (Likud) and MK Bezalel Smotrich also chastised Eizenkot for his statements, noting that Israeli soldiers were already under heavy pressure not to open fire.

On Friday, opposition MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union) voiced support for Eizenkot, as did Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon (Likud).  Education Minister Naftali Bennett (Jewish Home) also backed Eizenkot in an interview Saturday night, claiming the controversy was simply a big misunderstanding.

“I think he was misunderstood; all he really did was clarify the open-fire orders,” said Bennett.

Netanyahu echoed this sentiment Sunday morning, stating that “everything said in the wake of Eizenkot’s comments are either the result of misunderstandings or a desire to provoke political debate.”

“We need to put this whole thing behind us and move forward.”




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