Elor Azaria, Bibi Netanyahu, and the Collective Disconnect of Israeli Leaders

In Politics by David Mark

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The case for or against Elor Azaria, a young soldier who shot dead a neutralized Arab attacker on Hebron has opened up a Pandora’s Box both within Israeli society and the IDF.  Azaria is being charged by the army for manslaughter, since in their reasoning he had no need to shoot dead an already neutralized terrorist.  

When news first broke out, condemnation from government officials was swift, after all the far left NGO B’Tzelem took the the film and distributed it, but the condemnation turned from a PR play into a much more insidious move. The IDF Spokesman immediately issued a seemingly kneejerk response: “The chief of staff views this as a serious incident. … This is not the IDF, these are not the values of the IDF and these are not the values of the Jewish people.”

Whoever supports these kinds of acts [the soldier’s] is damaging the values of the Israel Defense Forces.

The public outcry was swift and tremendous. Rallies were held, which seemingly forced the army to reduce the charge from murder to the present manslaughter. Yet, none of the public outcry has had an effect on the top brass of the defense establishment.  “It really worries me. Part of the power [of the IDF], as many have described it — [David] Ben-Gurion, Menachem Begin and others — is our ethical strength. We aren’t Daesh. When there is a need to kill, you kill. When we need to be resolute, we are resolute. But when someone has his hands up, or is already neutralized, that’s when you arrest,” Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in response to the rally in support for Azaria held in Tel Aviv, prior to Passover. “Whoever supports these kinds of acts [the soldier’s] is damaging the values of the Israel Defense Forces.”

The incident has done more to damage the public’s faith in the government and IDF leadership than any security failure could have.  The simple reason is that the young soldiers drafted into the army and put in harm’s way in defense of the Nation of Israel have always been regarded as off limits for public and media scrutiny. The IDF and government maliciously turning against one of their own has essentially confirmed for the public how out of touch the leadership really is with the plight of the common Israeli.  

Whether he was guilty or innocent was beside the point. The point was that his commanders – beginning with the defense minister and the chief of General Staff – were treating him like a criminal instead of a combat soldier on the front lines defending our country from an enemy that seeks our destruction.

“For the public – including the five thousand citizens who came to the support rally for Azaria at Rabin Square on Tuesday – the critical moment was when the film of Azaria being led away from the scene in handcuffs was broadcast on the evening news. That image, of a combat soldier who killed a terrorist being treated like a criminal, was the breaking point for the public,” Caroline Glick wrote in her article about Azaria. “Whether he was guilty or innocent was beside the point. The point was that his commanders – beginning with the defense minister and the chief of General Staff – were treating him like a criminal instead of a combat soldier on the front lines defending our country from an enemy that seeks our destruction.”

Bibi is In Trouble

The last time Bibi lost the premiership, it was not because Ehud Barak was so much better, it was do to the fact that Bibi had cut off his base with the Wye River Accords, which broke his campaign promise to the Right not to hand anymore land to the Palestinian Authority as well as a back track on ending the disastrous Oslo accords. Bibi’s political blunders have never been against a weak Left, but happen when he forgets that his strength comes from the lack of follow up to the verbiage he gives to the Right.

Bibi’s political blunders have never been against a weak Left, but happen when he forgets that his strength comes from the lack of follow up to the verbiage he gives to the Right.

The problem with the Azaria case for Israel’s government is not whether, the soldier did anything wrong or not. In a fluid situation, armies always allow for flexibility in individual soldiers’ reactions.  By making this case more about morality than a simple breaking of IDF rules of engagement, Bibi and his government (save for Bennett and other like minded ministers) have essentially cut off the very base that put them in power to begin with.

Bibi may be faced with a choice very soon to either jettison the left side of Likud, represented by Moshe Yaalon or be taken down by others who have not yet divorced themselves from the Israeli public.


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