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Education Minister Bennett
Photo: Reuters
Bennett clashes with Netanyahu over Hebron incident
Education minister slams politicians who were quick to condemn the soldier who shot dead a neutralized terrorist, while the prime minister retorts: 'Don't preach me about morality.'
The political controversy over the IDF soldier who shot dead a neutralized soldier continued on Sunday as Education Minister Naftali Bennett clashed with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other ministers during a cabinet meeting.

 

 

At the beginning of the weekly meeting, Netanyahu addressed the issue for the third time, after at first harshly condemning the incident and then offering a softer statement two days later.

 

On Sunday, he continued along the new line he took on Saturday evening.

 

"Any challenge to the morality of the IDF is outrageous and unacceptable," Netanyahu told the media. "The soldiers of the IDF, our children, maintain high ethical values while courageously fighting against bloodthirsty murderers under difficult operational conditions. I am certain that in all cases, as in the current one, the inquiry takes into account all conditions. We must all support the IDF Chief-of-Staff, the IDF and our soldiers, who safeguard our security."

 

Bennett and Netanyahu (Photo: EPA) (Photo: EPA)
Bennett and Netanyahu (Photo: EPA)
 

Later in the meeting, while the cabinet discussed a bill proposal by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked to toughen punishment to stone-throwing minors, Bennett used the platform to bring the conversation back to the Hebron incident.

 

"I welcome the bill, but it is not enough. We're in a war against murderous Palestinian terrorism," Bennett said. "At the forefront there's the soldier, and we're being tested. Why did you need to jump to condemn the soldier on Thursday, while the GOC Central Command's investigation was only conducted on Friday?"

 

The Bayit Yehudi leader pressed on, asking "Why is he being led (to court) in handcuffs? What kind of message does this send to thousands of soldiers? An indictment for 'murder'? You're confused who are the good guys and who are the bad guys! Why is the entire leadership dancing to the tune of B'Tselem?"

 

The soldier under investigation
The soldier under investigation

 

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan was quick to respond to Bennett, "Who are you talking about, who were quick to condemn the soldier?"

 

"You know very well who," Bennett responded.

 

Shaked backed her party leader, demanding to know why the IDF's press briefings "against the soldiers" haven't stopped.

 

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri chimed in, saying "We all support the soldier. But there's a world outside, an international attack."

 

The prime minister agreed. "We're all backing him. Don't preach me about morality," he told Bennett.

 

"Backing is done in actions, not with words," Bennett insisted. "Why is he being sentenced before the issue is examined?"

 

Erdan demanded Bennett to name those he accused of "sentencing the soldier. You're talking like we're on one side and you're on another side."

 

Lieberman: Impeach the defense minister

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman also attacked Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon for not giving what he deemed to be the proper backing to the soldier.

 

"The prime minister is worthy of being called the ultimate weather vane, he and Ya'alon are the face of the B'Tselem organization," Lieberman told Ynet on Sunday morning.

 

Lieberman at the Ynet studio.
Lieberman at the Ynet studio.

 

"I saw Netanyahu's first statement, and then he saw where the winds were blowing - and flipped his position," Lieberman said.

 

Netanyahu initially determined that "what happened in Hebron does not represent the IDF's values," and then posted a softer message on his official Facebook page on Saturday night in support of the IDF. "The attacks on IDF as an immoral army as expressed over the past weekend are outrageous and the opposite of the truth. The IDF is a moral army that does not execute people. IDF soldiers use their bodies to block murderous terrorist attacks on Israeli soldiers, and they are deserving of all our support. Regarding the latest incident—I trust the IDF to perform a thorough, responsible and fair investigation, as it always does."

 

Lieberman also lamented, "How can a soldier even expect a fair investigation, a fair trial, when all in the proper authorities in the IDF already know what the commander wants?"

 

The former Netanyahu ally called the prime minister "spineless," accusing that "all he's trying to do is please public opinion."

 

Lieberman also called for the impeachment of Defense Minister Ya'alon. "I expect the Likud members to sign the petition demanding to impeach the defense minister immediately."

 

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