Ofer Winter, Moshe Ya'alon
Ofer Winter, Moshe Ya'alonAriel Hermoni

Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon praised the contributions of religious Zionism to the IDF on Monday, even as he criticized Givati Brigade Commander Col. Ofer Winter for religious statements he made in Operation Protective Edge.

Winter was embroiled in a media storm after in a call-up message sent to members of the brigade he wrote that they were going out against "the terrorist Gazan enemy that curses, reviles and insults the God of the campaigns of Israel."

Speaking to Galei Yisrael (Israel Radio), Ya'alon began by saying "the religious Zionist contribution to IDF service in recent years can't be weighed in gold. I know the process because I was in the army during the creation of the process, which I was happy for."

"I was happy that religious Zionism came, enlisted, wants to contribute and is prepared to contribute," added Ya'alon. 

However, Ya'alon changed his tone saying "in any event, we must understand that the Israel Defense Forces is an army with religious and non-religious (Jews), as well as non-Jews."

"There are also Druze, and Bedouin, and Christian Arabs and Muslim Arabs, and therefore when we speak as commanders, we need to speak to all and not just to a particular segment," said Ya'alon. "In that I think commanders should carefully guard the IDF as the Israel Defense Forces and not the Defense Forces of a particular group, and to speak in a way that connects to all."

In light of his statements, Ya'alon was asked whether he would have advised Winter to write his message differently if Winter had asked for his advice.

"Yes," answered Ya'alon. "I would have proposed that he write it differently. ...I understand where it comes from and on his personal level, but in Givati there are also soldiers who are not Jewish for example."

Many have argued that regardless of the identity of individual soldiers, the IDF, as the army of Israel which defines itself as the Jewish state, exists first and foremost to defend the Jewish state and Jewish values.