Minister Matan Vilnai gave the government's comment on an IDF drill simulating clashes with West Bank settlers.
"Soldiers are trained to fire at those firing at them," he said. "Knives have been pulled out before, and not just once or twice, to be used on car tires. I am not sure it will not go further then tires."
Vilnai was answering a question put to the government by MK Uri Orbach (Habayit Hayehudi), who complained about a drill in which reserve soldiers had to defend themselves against a settler holding a knife to their throats by shooting him to death.
The Knesset was in an uproar over the query, during which Orbach intimated that the drill constituted incitement against the settlers.
"There was no scenario of a gang of leftists pulling out knives or firing at soldiers in Bil'in. There was only a settler with a knife. This makes a political statement," the MK explained.
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin added that "what is being said here, Mr. Minister, is that scenarios have an effect on public trends of thought".
MK Arieh Eldad (National Union) also intervened in support of the settlers. "Do you know of any past case in which a settler threatened a soldier with a knife or weapon? Must we drill every type of imaginary scenario?" he asked.
But MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) took the government's side. "We shouldn't play innocent. Rabbi Dov Wolpo suggested recently that his supporters fire at soldiers. This is not a scenario, it is a terrible deterioration," he said.
Vilnai stood his ground. "I was trained to, whenever someone threatens me with a weapon, do everything in my power to escape. I have been threatened eight or nine times, and the fact is that I am standing here while those who threatened me are not," he said.
"The IDF trains for scenarios that may happen. It is our duty to prepare soldiers for complex, non-routine situations." Vilnai added that he found nothing political or ideological about the drill.
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