JERUSALEM (JTA) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the father of the soldier charged with manslaughter in the killing of a Palestinian assailant in Hebron to trust the Israeli military.
The conversation on Thursday evening came at the request of the soldier’s family, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Netanyahu told the father of the soldier, who has not been named due to a gag order on the case, that he is certain the military tribunal’s investigation of the incident will be “professional and fair.”
“As the father of a soldier, I understand your distress. In recent months our soldiers have bravely and resolutely stood up in the face of terrorist attacks and murderers who set out to kill them. The soldiers are forced to make decisions in the field, in real time, under stress and conditions of uncertainty. This is not a simple reality and I’m sure that the investigation is taking the entirety of these circumstances into account,” Netanyahu said, according to the statement.
Netanyahu expressed his trust in the Israel Defense Forces and its chief of staff, as well as in the investigation.
“The people of Israel must remain united around the army because we have just one army and we have many great challenges ahead of us,” he asserted.
On Thursday, the military tribunal decided that the soldier caught on video shooting a downed Palestinian terrorist in the head will face charges of manslaughter, not murder. The soldier was held on murder charges on March 25 for shooting the Palestinian, who was wounded after stabbing an Israeli soldier in Hebron one day earlier.
The soldier’s arrest has set off a national debate in Israel that has enveloped the country’s leaders. On March 24, the day of the incident, Netanyahu said in a statement that the soldier’s conduct “does not represent the values of the IDF.”
The soldier’s parents and politicians to Netanyahu’s right, including Education Minister Naftali Bennett, defended the soldier and criticized Netanyahu for insufficiently defending Israel’s troops during a wave of terror attacks.