A recording of a phone conversation between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the father of Sgt. Elor Azaria, who shot dead a seriously wounded terrorist in Hebron, was made public on Sunday, months after it took place. In the recording, the prime minister can be heard consoling a weeping Charlie Azaria, telling him he understands his pain and urging him to trust in the military judicial system for a fair and honest trial for his son.
In the recording of the phone call, first broadcast by journalist Sharon Gal, a vocal public supporter of Azaria, Netanyahu is heard telling the weeping Charlie Azaria, “I understand your pain."
At the outset of the conversation, the prime minister expressed his confidence that the investigation into Sgt. Azaria's actions "will be professional and fair."
“I have full faith in the IDF and its chief of staff, and that I think you, too, should have faith in the commanders and examination, just as the people of Israel need to stay united around its army. We only have one army, with many more challenges ahead of us,” Netanyahu added.
Azaria’s father responded, by saying, ”My family only asks that there be a fair trial. They can’t judge the boy without evidence, without anything.”
“I want to ask you to do one thing," Netanyahu answered. "Anything you have to give (the defense), to show, please do so as part of the examination. An examination is supposed to be a real, honest and fair one. I ask that you understand this, and that you not think for one moment that your son won’t get the most objective, professional and decent examination. Please pass my words on to your entire family.”
“I gave my whole life to this country, Mr. Prime Minister,” Charlie Azaria added. “I’ve been a law enforcement man for 30 years. I’ve investigated criminals, I’ve put them in jail and escorted them with handcuffs on. And when I see my son with handcuffs…” At this point Azaria broke down in tears.
Netanyahu came under fire during the weekend after he seemingly drew a comparison between his phone call to Charlie Azaria and the calls he makes to bereaved families of fallen soldiers.
In an interview with Channel 2 aired on Saturday, Netanyahu was asked whether he regretted having the conversation with the elder Azaria. He responded that he does not. “I told him to bet on the IDF, the IDF chief of staff, the commanders, our troops and legal system,” he said.
When asked whether he has called other families of soldiers who did not comply with IDF orders, Netanyahu said, “No, but I have called other suffering parents whose sons had fallen in battle, were missing or both, and this case involves a great suffering for Israel’s citizens.”
Netanyahu elaborated on his last remark. “There are countless parents who see their children, both male and female soldiers, finding themselves in almost impossible situations. On the one hand, they have to protect
themselves, and on the other hand, they face the truly difficult issue of having to be careful not to be too trigger happy. This isn’t easy, and I myself have been in this situation. I’ve been in run-ins or near run-ins with enemy forces, where I had to decide when to shoot and when not to shoot. If an officer in Sayeret Matkal (the elite combat unit in which Netanyahu served) finds this difficult, I feel any soldier would.”
The Prime Minister’s Office issued a clarification on Sunday, in which Netanyahu stated, “I am sorry if my words were misunderstood.” He continued to say that “In no way did I compare the suffering of bereaved families—a suffering I am very familiar with—to that of other parents who are also suffering. There is no comparison and can be no comparison.”