PM Lapid at ceremony
PM Lapid at ceremonyKobi Gideon / GPO

Prime Minister Yair Lapid rejected the calls from the US government that the IDF reexamine and possibly change its rules of engagement in light of the death of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh.

Speaking at the Naval Graduation Ceremony Wednesday, Lapid told the graduates: "We count on you. We trust you with the most important thing there is: the safety and security of nine and a half million people, our national security and that of our children and our grandchildren, who will have you as their commanders."

"As of today, your duty is to protect us. But it also the duty of the country to protect you. I hear the calls to prosecute IDF soldiers following the death of Shireen Abu Aqleh. I hear the calls to change our rules of engagement," he said,

"Israel has expressed sorrow over her death. It was a tragedy that transpired in an incident in which there was heavy enemy fire. The IDF never intentionally shoots at innocent people. We are deeply committed to freedom of the press and to some of the most stringent rules of engagement in the world.

"But to be clear - I will not allow an IDF soldier that was protecting himself from terrorist fire to be prosecuted just to receive applause from abroad. No one will dictate our rules of engagement to us, when we are the ones fighting for our lives. Our soldiers have the full backing of the government of Israel and the people of Israel.

Turning to the threats the graduates will be counted on to defend Israel from, Lapid said: "The ships and soldiers that will be under your command will be sailing against the wind and facing some of the worst threats we know: off the coast of Lebanon, which is controlled by Hezbollah, off the Gaza shore and in the Red Sea, where there is a greater and greater Iranian presence."

"We will not accept this presence. We will not allow Iran and its proxies to become a central player in our maritime arena. They will try to push us to our limits, but that is where you come in, and they know that you are better than they are.

"There will be times when we ask you to sail to distant and dangerous places that will never be made public, in order to thwart risks to our national security before they even get underway. These challenges will not be easy, but we know the people we are sending over there. We are sending the people who will not give up, no matter how hard the challenge," the prime minister said,