Former Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon participated in a seminar held at the Sapir Academic College in southern Israel.
Speaking about the conviction of IDF soldier Elor Azariya, Ya'alon said "our battlegrounds in recent years are filled with civilians, and that presents a much greater moral challenge. You need to kill, and you may be killed."
"There are almost no senior government officials and Knesset members who were forced to kill more people than I was. It was clear from the first moment and throughout all the investigations that what happened should never have happened."
Ya'alon also said the IDF must educate its soldiers, especially morally, and not encourage them to give in to their immediate, emotional inclinations.
"Leadership is not about counting 'likes' on Facebook. It's about which things you are willing to pay a price for," he said. "Part of my response in real time to the incident with Elor Azariya stems from the need to protect the army and its values. What leaders say carries much weight. Obviously everyone is tempted to act impetuously, but [our Sages said] 'who is strong? He who overcomes temptations.' (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1) A leader's responsibility is to deal with these kinds of dilemmas, and not to encourage giving in to emotional reactions. That is the test of leadership.
"The IDF must be aware of what is happening among the public. We are a wealthy society, but we cannot forget that we are a society fighting a battle. Every soldier comes to the army with his own background and experience, and the IDF must educate soldiers to fit into our educational and moral framework, while teaching them self-discipline. Between the time when a soldier is drafted and the first time he pulls the trigger, we need to ensure he has received the right education, and that he will make the right decision - operationally and morally - in the field."
IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Naveh said at the seminar that, "When you bring in the civil system, it's in, and you shouldn't be surprised later on at the results. At some point it is overdone. The IDF has not exactly remained statesmanlike here and it is even losing ground in several areas. Not every opinion can be considered. The IDF must now re-create the rules for the connection between political echelons and the army, and it must create boundaries."
Azariya, who was released from the IDF in June after having completed his three-year mandatory service, was convicted of manslaughter in January for the shooting death of an Arab terrorist shortly after a stabbing attack in Hevron in March 2016 which left one soldier wounded.
Liberman had earlier this month expressed support for Azariya’s bid for a presidential pardon, praising Azariya’s service in the army.
Despite the endorsement, however, Rivlin refused to grant the pardon, claiming any further reduction in Azariya’s sentence could “harm the resilience” of the IDF and the State of Israel.